27 March, 2011
Springing into action. Thirsk 10-mile Road Race.
By Jason Richards
The first day of spring saw me waking up after losing an hour’s sleep with the clocks moving forward, and springing into action in my first road race of the year.
The last time I raced at Thirsk was during the foot and mouth epidemic and we were required to pass over disinfected mats at the entrance to the car park and at the start and finish line.
This year the race had been rescheduled due to heavy snow on the original day of the race. However, 27 March was blessed with still air and sunshine on this, the first day of spring.
My race day did not have the best start. After moving the clock on my phone forward an hour the previous night, I was woken by the alarm at 5.15am. What I’d not bargained for was my phone also automatically adjusting the time by an hour. So I reset the phone and went back to sleep. However, my alarm failed to reset and I woke up an hour later than planned. A quick breakfast and I was on my way with a cappuccino in a thermal mug, rather than at the breakfast table.
There were only four wheelchairs lining up at the start, Jade, Steve, Ian and myself, 15 minutes ahead of the main running race. However, the four of us were very evenly matched and as the gun went to start the race we sped forward together reaching 16mph and holding the pace over the first mile. We hit the mile marker in just four minutes setting a pace that worried Ian Thompson as his course record looked under threat. However, as the road took us out through the countryside the pace eased as the tarmac undulated between the hedges and fields and the slight breeze was in our faces.
The marshal led the race on his bike as we vied for position and the speed varied up and down the gradual climbs. The group mostly stayed close together with the exception of some minor breaks that split us. The attacks surged forward separating the four of us but by the last climb over the railway bridge we were all closely bunched together.
As the final climb approached I was expecting Jade to attack and use her climbing strength to stretch out an early lead along the final straight. I held my place at the front of the pack, blocking Jade’s potential attack. I was climbing strongly and my gloves and position were working well, allowing me good power transfer and feel on the push rims. I saw Jade’s front wheel in my peripheral vision as we climbed towards the summit of the bridge over the railway track below. As her wheel came into sight I attacked, raising my cadence, and sprinting towards the brow. As I crested the rise some clean air appeared between me and the pack and as the road dropped off down the other side I continued to put the power down and attack as my speed rose on the decline.
The decent had launched my front wheel in the direction of the finish but there was still around three quarters of a mile to go. I had to dig deep as in reality it was too early to lead out the sprint to the finish. I knew I had broken the pack and eked out a gap between us but I couldn’t look back to see if I was continuing to pull away or if they were clawing me back in.
I sucked in lung after lung of air to replace the oxygen debt I had run up during the long climb and attack and my heart pounded in my chest as I tried to hold my speed to the finish.
As I passed the racecourse car park I knew I was close to the final 90-degree bend leading to a very short dash to the tape. I was greeted by the crowd and their cheers rang out as I rounded the final turn. I glanced back down the road as I negotiated the bend at speed and then focused firmly on the finish line. Jade, Steve and Ian were close behind me and the applause lifted me as I found enough energy for a final sprint towards the finish.
I crossed the line and rapidly came to a halt. My lungs were heaving and, rather than joy, a feeling of sickness came over my body. I gasped for air as the marshals tried to locate my timing chip and offered me water. The greenness of my face must have been apparent as they stepped back, allowing me some space to recover as the other athletes flew across the line just seconds behind me. Soon I was sipping water and we were reflecting on the highlights of the race and discussing where we might go for Sunday lunch.
Having not raced since the Great North Run in September 2010 it was an incredible feeling to be back racing amongst my friends and reassuring to know that I still have a competitive edge and a passion for my sport.
As I drove home in my Ford S-MAX, refuelled by a roast Sunday lunch, I was able to reflect on the race and life in general. This event made me realise why I train and race. It’s for selfish reasons, for pride, to stand out, to break away from my disability, for freedom, for respect and because I love to compete and enjoy the company of my close friends and fellow athletes.