I clutched at my griping stomach and wiped what smelled like bacon fat off my face as I busted out my second sub-6:25 mile in a row. The Northern Athletics 4-stage road relays started at 2:05pm and this threw up a tricky conundrum for my ever-rumbling stomach. Do I opt for a late breakfast? Perhaps an early lunch? A club mate advised me via twitter earlier that morning that small snacks would probably be the best bet. I read the tweet 15 minutes too late, having already guzzled down eggs, bacon, tomatoes and beans on toast. Bugger.
I got to the third mile of my four mile leg and prayed that the beans wouldn’t have the effect that they’re famous for. I bet the elites don’t have this problem, do they?……….
British 10,000m championships. (Source)
Over to GB runner Alyson Dixon (who is ranked top ten over seven different events), who ran stage 2 of the relays on Saturday:
“I was pretty much the same as you. I’m used to either morning or evening races so it’s sometimes hard to work out what to eat and when. On Saturday I decided to have my usual breakfast of porridge (with raisins, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and almonds) plus a coffee before I left home at about 8am. As I usually eat no later than 3 hours before I race I then worked it so that we stopped at a services for another coffee around 11am. I also topped up on a mini Soreen loaf and a High5 sports bar at this point.”
I led my team out in the first stage of the relays and right up until the gun went off, I was still unsure of my tactics. (It was a real gun. Yes, I screamed.) As the race distance was a little over 6k I couldn’t decide whether to go out at 5k pace and hold on for dear life or start off slower and wind it up. I opted for the latter and enjoyed a good strong finish. But I probably should have finalised my plan before I got into the starting pen. Surely the professionals don’t do it like this?
“I’m usually a big advocate of even pacing or negative splits but this is often hard in relays as you tend to get a rush of blood to the head as you set off chasing people down. For me, with this being my first proper race after injuring myself at the commonwealths and knowing that I’m nowhere near full fitness I kind of just went for it and found out what happened. This resulted in me doing a fast first mile and a painful last mile! It’s certainly something I wouldn’t do if fully fit. I would pace myself more and hope to come through strong at the end like the way you did.” <—- Pssst. Did you read that? Aly Dixon would hope to do what I did. She probably wasn’t talking about the beans for breakfast bit though.
The start of the relays. (I was at the back!)
After I stumbled through the finish line and sent my team mate on her way, I spent a good couple of hours cheering on all of the other runners. When the race was over, we made our way to our little patch of grass (yep, we forgot our gazebo) to refuel on cakes and doughnuts. When I got home I celebrated the day with a dirty kebab. Undoubtedly the elites do things differently, right?
It’s really all just one long picnic. (Photo credit: Derrick Marsh)
“We were pretty similar. As each of us finished our individual legs we went back out on to the course to cheer on the rest of the runners, not just from our club but friends from other clubs. Once the races were finished we set off back home and all met up at the services again for burger and chips or pizza. When we got back to Sunderland we went into the club house for a beer (or two!). I love relays, they have a special atmosphere and really brings the clubs together.”
Good to see the Sunderland Strollers adopt the Trawden AC attitude then! So it turns out that despite the obvious speed difference, the elites don’t do things all that differently. Sure, they might remember to bring their fancy tents but we all have the same hopes and the same fears. We all just want to run to our full potential and enjoy a day with our pals. Apparently, we all just want to refuel with junk food and alcohol too. I’d say these professionals have got this pretty much sorted.
Team photo. I can’t explain why I’m the only person looking in the wrong direction.
I’d like to thank Aly for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. Despite me not being able to offer any financial compensation, give her a brand new pair of shoes or promise publicity on a grand scale, she did it anyway. Because she’s ace. If you’d like to hear more from Aly, she blogs herself here (her latest post on the Great North Run is well worth a read).