A 10k race..did I read this right..yes you did.
This is a local race some 30 minutes drive from where I live and is organised by the Billericay Striders running club. When a couple of running friends asked me if I was interested in signing up for this I didn't give it a second thought and sent off my entry with thought that I could set a decent 10k PB to build upon. Something I had failed to do officially since taking up running back in 2008.
Before the day of the race I didn't give it a thought to look at the course profile or read reviews of the race from last year. I had assumed it would be a flat course and that a sub 45 minutes was possible despite my lack of fast sessions recently in training.
I woke up well rested on the morning of the race at 6.30am, had my usual breakfast of porridge, banana and half a bagel with orange juice and a tea before getting my kit together. As always a good tip is to prepare your race kit the night so that you don't have to think about where you left this shirt or socks etc. The race was scheduled for 9.45am so my friends picked me up around 8.30am in order to get there slightly early to avoid car parking issues and have time to warm up. It was very chilly on the day of the race therefore I didn't want to run in a vest so I chose a technical t-shirt I frequently use in training and a thin pair of gloves to keep the hands warm as I always seem to have cold hands.
When we arrived at the venue we quickly found the race HQ (which was inside the Leisure center a few yards from the start) to ensure that we kept warm until a few minutes before the race. There were several hundred people taking part of all abilities, local running clubs and there was a very friendly and vibrant atmosphere. Amid all the organised chaos I dropped my bag in the main hall and headed out 20 minutes before the start for a 10 minute warm up (accelerating towards the end) stretch to ensure the legs were flush with warm blood. It was very cold at this point so I decided the gloves would be staying on for the race.
The race announcer called everyone to the start line to line up in four waves based on your expected finishing time to ensure that the fastest runners lined up at the front and the rest of the field lining up where they feel that can finish. I lined up in the middle of the pack around the 45-50 minute finishers expecting people not to race off in front of me. I was aiming for an average 7:15 minute mile pace to achieve my goal and was determined that I could hold that for most of the race before seeing what was left in the tank for the last 2km.
The race started..FAST! As I pushed off a lot of people surged past me. I didn't want to go off too quickly otherwise I would pay dearly in the last third of the race. However I decided to get away quickish but being mindful of my pace which was around 6:40 minute miles at this point for the first couple of hundred meters before suddenly hitting a hill. I hadn't expected this but powered up it none the less. It took around 30 seconds to get to the top of it before yet another hill . Again I responded and kept my cadence high and reduced my stride to work hard getting to the top of it but I was starting to think there was a pattern here.
My watch beeped after the first mile, I checked my pace and saw 7:34 flash up. I wasn't unhappy with that as the hills took some of the speed out of my legs but I would be playing serious catchup to balance out that slowish first mile. With the downhills I was able to pick up the pace a bit but then would hit another couple of inclines which were slowly rising gradients. In a way I would of preferred very steep gradients so that they wouldn't hit the leg speed as much as it was. Maintaining a consistent pace was tough going.
By the end of Mile 2 (avg 7:21) I was feeling sufficiently warm and the sun was shining gloriously as we went up yet another progressive hill. I actually didn't expect it to be as warm as it was. I took my gloves off as they just weren't needed as my hands were sweaty and I started to regret not running in a vest. As the watch went off again at Mile 3 (7:37) I noticed a sign stating that the drinks station was up ahead so as I ran through it and I grabbed a cup of what looked like water as I did have a dry throat and gulped it down before continuing to run on. As the liquid hit the back of my throat I began to choke really badly and couldn't catch my breath and had to stop immediately. Given that I am asthmatic I always take precautionary measures to ensure my breathing is steady. This completely ruined my rhythm and pace for the run.
I finished in 47:58.
I placed 212 place out of 616 runners which was disappointing however I had survived the battle. Just after I collected my race memento I met my friend at the who had raced off ahead of me to finish in a good time of 41 minutes. As we waited for his wife to finish (she did so in 59 minutes) we talked about future race plans. The first thing to him was "I want some more of this fast stuff, lets find another one". Not that I am retiring from ultras or anything however I really enjoyed the experience and took a lot of food for thought away after the race.
I learned some valuable lessons that day that upon reflection are silly mistakes to make e.g. not checking the weather forecast, hydrating properly pre race, not checking the course profile or comments. Performing well in any event in my opinion comes down to many factors but for me the two most important factors I consider critical for success are
Preparation for the event (appropriate training, gear to wear, hydration etc, review the course)
Knowing exactly what I am going to do on the start line (pace judgement)
Personally I enjoyed the experience and will be looking to take part in other shorter races moving forward. It did inject some much needed variety into my schedule and it is providing me more goals to work on for the future.