This Wednesday saw the second in this year's Lakeside 5k series, based at Lakeside 1000 near Hilsea.
I have done a number of these races over the past few years, and have experienced three different courses. The first course I did involved a few loops around a car park, an uninspiring section along main road, then a nice straight sprint to the finish line. Last year the course was changed to incorporate the lake (quite aptly, given the name), but keep the same finish section. One more change for this season has seen the course become two identical laps, preceded by a fast, slightly downhill start. I have to say, despite the new course having a few tight turns and a splattering of bollards to avoid, I much prefer it. The gravel and tarmac path around the lake takes runners on a much more scenic route than the old road course, and it is nice to run without cars whizzing by. Doing two laps doesn't bother me - I always think lapped runs are only mentally challenging if you let them be. But think positive and they can be quite beneficial - you know that once it starts getting tough, all you need to do is start that second lap and you're over half way!
So... as it was such a beautiful day, Wednesday's race preparation for me went as follows: Go to the seaside. Eat ice cream. Remember to drink lots of water. Forget to apply suncream. Get sunburn. Decide not to race. Be informed by the children that I have to race because they still want to go to their Uncle's house (chief babysitter). Drink lucozade. And an espresso. And another one. Plan your departure time based on the 7.30 start time. Realise it's a 7.15 start time. Get a move on!
It was lovely to arrive and see lots of Hedgies already there. Some warming up, most catching up, and all discussing how this beautiful heatwave was just a bit of an inconvenience on a race night.
When you enter your first Lakeside 5k of the year you get issued with your number. You then keep this for each of the races in that season. Having run the first one in April, I already had my number so headed along the lakeside path for a warm up. Lakeside always seems to be a popular hangout for geese, and my warm up including "ahhh-ing" at the baby geese (which probably have a proper name, like geeselings or something). Then it was off to the start.
Lakeside isn't chip timed, so the start can be a bit of an elbow battle near the front. I found a spot near a runner I know who is about the same pace as me. We were having a lovely chat when the horn suddenly went off, and we never did finish our conversation. Maybe next month!
The slightly downhill start at Lakeside makes for a fast first kilometre, which suits me quite well. My plan was to go out fast for the first km, cling on/slow down slightly for the next two km, take km four a bit easier (somehow this helps me psychologically to know I get a bit of a breather!) then pick up again for the last kilometre. I pretty much stuck to the plan, with the help of a few fellow runners who I teamed up with at various points. Running is always easier when you have someone to run alongside! I was pleased to find myself over taking a number of people in the last two kilometres, despite my planned drop in pace. With about a mile to go I overtook a lady who always finishes ahead of me. With a kilometre to go (and with the help of synchronised running with a man from Stubbington Green, which kept us both pushing on) I upped the pace and did my last kilometre in 3.47. I crossed the finish line at 18.59. Not a PB, but faster than the month before so progress! Given that I only like hot weather if I am near a pool or on a beach, I was pleased to finish so strong. Or finish at all. In all honesty I wanted to stop after one lap because it was hard work and I was so hot. What got me through wasn't sheer grit and determination. It wasn't repeating inspiring mantras in my head. Nor was it an intrinsic desire to achieve my best. It was the fact that one of my Year 11 students often helps to give out water at the finish line. No way was I dropping out and risking him seeing me giving up on something, when I constantly harp on about self belief at school.
For me, the best bit about local races is always seeing running friends, and cheering some of them on over the finish line then having a catch up. It was great to hear of some excellent performances and PBs. Notably, three Hedgies came in under 18 minutes - well done Kevin, Will and Peter.
There's no medal after the Lakeside races, just the glow of sweat and the pride of a job well done (and a banana). I am a big fan of race bling, but despite there being no hint of medal/Tshirt/purple hand towel, I still enter Lakeside because of the chance to run a fast and flat course. Whatever pace you run, it is a good chance to push yourself under race conditions to see just what you can achieve. The atmosphere is really good, there are lots of Hedgies to cheer you on, and a Starbucks less than 20 metres from the finish line! There was none of the famous Hedgie cake this time, but I am planning on baking for the next one (requests now being taken).
Well done to everyone who took part, especially when most of us would quite happily have been in the garden with a cold drink.
If you haven't done a Lakeside 5k before then I thoroughly recommend trying the next one on Wednesday June 28th (& getting your cake requests in to me early!)
Entries can be completed online at http://www.athleticevents.co.uk/lakeside%205k%20series.html