So two weeks ago (Sunday, March 19th 2017) was my traditional spring marathon practice race the Trimpell 20 up in Lancaster. A 20 mile race on mostly flat traffic free paths, which finishes inside Lancaster castle over what must be one of the hardest finishes to a race going!! With runners expected to climb around 100ft over the final half mile of the race.
Conditions were not as favourable as last year with cool temperatures and head winds and crosswinds adding to the challenge of running a fast 20 miles. Also unlike last year, I arrived at the event HQ in plenty of time, however just like last year there were huge queues for the toilets which wiped out any time for a suitable warm up. Although with the race starting a bit away from the HQ, I was able to jog down to that as part of my warm up.
Due to the amount of training I missed in December and January, I opted to run this race using the same strategy as last year, trying to stick to 6:30 pace for 14 miles and then seeing what I could do over the final six. Last year I latched onto another runner fairly earlier on who was also hitting this pace but this year I had no such luck and I spent most the earlier parts of the race working with just my watch. In the most part, this went ok and I completed the first six miles in 6:31 pace. I then did find another runner, who did seemed to be hitting 6:30 so I ran with him and we occasionally exchanged conversation about the course and I was able to let him know what to expect up ahead and we also used each other at the drinks stations which helped. However after mile 10, he pushed on ahead as he planned to run a hard second 10 miles, a tactic I have used unsuccessfully in the past.
From mile 12-14 the course runs in a mostly downward section and as a result, I picked up the pace earlier than planned, but its always good to use the terrain to your advantage. Finally, reaching mile 14 it was time to genuinely pick up the pace. However, it was from mile 14 onwards that runners were faced with the worse of the head winds and crosswinds making it harder to stay on pace. But I found I managed this fairly well I passed a number of runners over the last six miles, including my one time running companion. As I passed through mile 15 in 6:29 before completing mile 17 in 6:09 which was a bit of a surprise to myself, but this was again assisted by the course terrain elevation profile. The next three miles were a bit of a mixed bag with mile 18 completed in 6:37 and mile 19 in 6:27 before I reached the final and hardest mile of the course, mile 20, which I completed in 6:48.
Ultimately I completed the race in 2:10:56, slightly down from last years time of 2:10:41. However whilst last year I finished 29th, this year I finished 23rd so in that sense this potentially represents an improved performance given the conditions, if not an improved time.
In the whole, I am happy with my time, as I did miss a lot of training sessions early on over the winder. So I am thinking, perhaps I am seeing the difference/benefit that off road running makes as my time wasn’t far off last years result. So I head towards to Brighton with a confidence boost which leaves me feeling less apprehensive about the training I have missed. When I line up on April 9th, I will have completed just 12 full weeks of training, but it would seem that I am in the same condition I was ahead of Boston so maybe, just maybe this is thanks to introducing off road runs to my training.
I do enjoy the Trimpell 20……