Things have been kind of quiet on the running front for me for the last two or three weeks since I've been resting to shake off a couple of niggling injuries. Last week I was strong and secure enough to go out again, though, for a good couple of 5-10km trips before a great off-road race yesterday.
I didn't have any real worries going into the race, since what running I had done the week before had felt great. It did make me realise, however, how much my fitness had been affected for having a forced break. The race route itself was just over 7.6 miles of real muddy, hilly 'multiple terrain' and at around the 2-mile mark, there was a good steep uphill climb through a field. I'd run the first section pretty strongly up to there without really holding back, so I attacked it how I would have tackled a similar incline previously. Unfortunately, my body was having none of it and that hill pretty much took it out of me - I had to take a moment at the top (I realise this is sounding a bit melodramatic for what was quite a short-distance race) before continuing and it wasn't until around the halfway mark that I had chance to fully find my rhythm again.
The plus sides of the race: I ran (for the most part) more confidently than I have in ages. I found I could tackle some pretty uneven terrain without too much trouble or loss of speed (I've invested in a pair of aggressively-treaded Vibrams, which worked perfectly in the race conditions). I also comfortably explored some of my 'layers of effort' that I dug down to for the last two miles or so.
I'm also feeling fairly strong today - no real aches in my legs or feet, so hopefully I should be able to actually get on and get my fitness back up to scratch quickly (in hindsight, I should have been doing some rowing or something to keep my fitness up while I couldn't run, but it weirdly didn't cross my mind).
In terms of time, I finished in 59:08, 39th out of 128 finishers, which I was very happy with (especially considering the problems I had). I recorded the route as I ran and I discovered that my pace was around a pretty much consistent 12km/h for the whole route - uphills, downhills, on/off-road, the works. Is this good? Bad? Weird? Should I be trying to vary my pace to use the terrain more efficiently, or should I be aiming to keep my pace this constant? Who knows? I'll definitely be trying it out over a few more off-road races soon; getting muddy is fun.