A slightly strange but ultimately very rewarding day today.
I'm an occasional attendee of the Leeds parkrun. For those who don't know what parkrun is, it's an organisation running weekly, free, fully timed 5km time trials. They're not a race as such, but with barcode timing, signage and marshalling, they're almost certainly the best free event a runner can go for. They're also a great way to benchmark performance. Like I say, I only attend occasionally, but since my first run last year I've stripped over 3 minutes off my PB.
Let's just say, with 200km already in the bank this month, I wasn't expecting miracles. I decided to head down early on a bright but damn cold (-5°C) morning, so I could get a bit more of a warm up, though as they say, the best laid plans etc, so I didn't head out quite as early as expected and didn't quite get as much warm up as I would have liked, but hey. Some warm up is better than none, and then we were lining up for the start of the run and then off. I started the tracker and braced myself for the pain!
The Leeds course does two-and-a-half laps of Hyde Park, a diagonal from the statue of the bloke with the wellies (no idea who he is, but his wellies get painted fairly regularly) across to the Hyde Park pub, then left around the park edge, to start the first full lap behind the Library pub. Two full laps and you're done. The hard part is the back side of the park, which you do on all three turns, as it's a fairly long gradual-but-continuous climb, petering out at the start area and then flat across to the finish area, before you set off downhill again.
I always set off slower than I finish - it takes me a while to settle into pace - and I knew that the orange-vested bloke paced 26 minutes would probably be out of my range, but I concentrated on one runner at a time, reeling them in. That went especially for the climb. I always feel like I can open it up a bit more uphill, and there'll always be some poor sod suffering more than me. Growing up in the Lakes does wonders for your power on the hills, evidently. The frontrunners lapped me, as they generally do, but only a handful, and these are the guys who are running sub-20. My only aim is to finish, and hopefully keep it sub-30. I made it through, with a good push up the last climb, and sighted on the person I wanted to pass before the finish, only to have her put a kick in, presumably with legs a little fresher than mine. While I got close, I never caught her, but she did laugh in the finish funnel when I told her I'd been sighting on her. She'd done the same with a guy in front of her, and he'd kicked too, so there were two of us who had just missed the target.
Anyway, time-wise I was very, very pleasantly surprised. Like I said, no miracles, but only 3 seconds down on my PB after 4 weeks of daily running seems pretty good to me. 26:51 for today, plus two 16min, 2.1 jogs as warm up and cool down either side. Not a bad day at all!