Monday, 2 August 2010

Castle Douglas 5 Mile Road Race

This race provided one of the sternest tests yet in my running career.

Not the actual running of the race – that was pretty straightforward – but actually finding out when and where this Brigadoon of races would take place tested my endurance far more than the average weekend long run.

We’d decided to go camping for a few days in Dumfries & Galloway and while trawling the net for likely things to see and do I saw a fleeting reference to a ‘fun run’ as part of Castle Douglas’s Civic Week. I assumed that meant a one mile jog round a park but a bit more Googling found a second oblique reference that suggested it might actually be a 5 mile road race but there was no mention of time or location. Obvious solution: look on runners World’s events listing. Nothing there. OK, try John Schofield’s site: nothing there either. A bit more Googling and I had a date and a time: well, two times actually. It was almost definitely on the 27th and would start at 6.30pm and/or 7pm and would probably start somewhere in or near ‘Lochside Park’. I tried an appeal for information on Runners World’s forums – all that got was a virtual tumbleweed.

It was mentioned as a club championship event on the Dumfries RC website though so I felt sure it must exist and decided to just check with the local Tourist Information when we arrived in the area. They were pretty good and confirmed the location and that the start time was 7pm (the race at 6.30pm was to be a ‘bogie race’ and that’s not what you might think), but also advised calling in at a tea room down the road where the event Chairman would have all the details. When I got there only the Chairman’s wife was in residence and she couldn’t confirm what day or time the run was taking place let alone whether there were entries on the day and recommended I “...just turn up about seven - I’m sure that’ll be fine”.

After considering her advice I got there just after six and was the 5th person to register (so I got an ‘elite’ number), and headed back to the car to kill time until just before seven – the now confirmed start time. The fee was £4 so there’d be no souvenir t-shit/mug/towel but that wouldn’t have been in keeping for such a hidden event!

By the time I got to the start area a few minutes before seven there was quite a throng of runners chatting or warming up as they preferred. Around half were from Dumfries RC, with the remainder from Dumfries Harriers, Annan & District AC, Galloway Harriers, various other Scottish clubs and a fairly small smattering of unattached runners. And me. In the event the lady in the tea room was right – by 7.10 they’d just about finished registering runners and we got underway about 5 minutes later.

The course was a good one – almost all on road aside from the last section back into the park and gently undulating all the way round in a large almost un-marshalled loop, relying on 4 arrow signs to guide any runners as to which turns to take.

My race was pretty good too. Having spent much of the winter away from the sport nursing a groin injury I’m still feeling my way back and the two races I’ve ran (the club 5k handicap and Washburn relay) were both ones where I ran without a plan, set off too quickly and tired in the closing stages so they didn’t really tell me anything about where I was but did give me a few things to learn (see July's last post). So, this time I knew what mile splits I wanted and did my best to stick to them.

I'd set a target for myself of 7m 20s per mile. That was 1s faster than Washburn but for an event that was a mile longer. It would equate to a 10k of 45m 31s - faster than my PB from last year but not quite down at the sort of time I think I'm capable of this year, so, a decent benchmark of progress.

I set of quickly again, aided by a slight downhill, but this time I noticed it and slowed myself up so that mile one was completed in 7:16. By this stage the field had thinned out a bit and a lady runner seemed to be using me to pace her. Letting gravity do it's thing on a short downhill managed to shake her off and took me past 3 others in mile two which stayed pretty even at 7:18.

Mile three continued to undulate but had a little more up than down. During that mile I was passed by one guy early on but passed him again at the end of a long drag and he faded away. Time for mile three was 7m 30s - not sure if that was just the hills or a lack of concentration - I suspect it was maybe the former as by the end of it I had 4 runners in sight ahead of me whenever there was a long straight stretch, which mile three had a lot of.

I could see throughout the penultimate mile that I seemed to be very slowly gaining on the gang of four. They were quite spread out - a stick like veteran from Annan AC, a twenty something lad from Dumfries Harriers who looked like a thin Kurt Cobain, a guy in a yellow vest and a lady from Dumfries Running Club furthest ahead. Maybe mile four was a little flatter but they seemed to spread more by the end of it with me only a few metres behind the vet, who in turn was only a few metres behind the Harrier, then a fair gap to the chap in yellow and probably the same distance as ever between me and the Dumfries lass. I felt less fatigued strangely, as if I was only just truly finding my rhythm, and ran 7m 12s for mile four.

In the early stages of the last mile it was interesting to watch what was happening ahead of me. The vet drew level with the Harrier but didn't pass him and half a minute later the Harrier had pulled away again. I assumed that meant the vet had gambled on an increased effort he couldn't sustain and had shot his bolt, and took the opportunistic approach of passing him there and then.

I'd read, and subsequently practised, that when you pass someone you should sustain the increased speed for a little longer to put distance between you and mentally break them from any notion of going with you. In doing that I found I wasn't far behind the Harrier so decided to be opportunistic again and pass him in the same move. The increased pace felt sustainable so, knowing I was probably approaching the last half mile I carried on at that pace to the finish - running my quickest mile split by some way at 6:44. That felt good.

What didn’t feel so good was the pain for 48hrs afterwards as I was feeling my groin throughout that time (well someone’s got to and I was the only volunteer...) but hopefully I can get that under control again. It’s certainly not as bad as it was last autumn so fingers crossed.

Overall time was 35:29 and an average of 7m 12s (the course measured slightly short). I was 30s behind the Dumfries lass, only 6 behind yellow vest, 12 ahead of the vet, 18 ahead of Kurt Cobain (who the vet evidently passed again), over a minute ahead of the chap who'd passed me and then been passed back and about a minute and a half ahead of the woman who was using me to pace with in the first mile or two. 34th overall out of 108, which considering it was a very clubby event, was good, and the time is the best relative time I've run to date and equates to 44:45 as a 10k time.

So, what have I learned this time?

1) Pacing did make a positive difference - as expected.
2) Patience is indeed a virtue - stick to the pace and you'll get your rewards but...
3) ...continue to 'read' other runners - are they breathing hard, slowing, looking ragged - if so take advantage and pass them, don't slow with them.
4) I seemed to get stronger (relatively and in terms of pace) later in the race, implying I need to do a bit of warming up (which I've neglected thus far this year) and so hit my straps earlier.
5) There's more in the tank, especially with a few pounds more lost, so dropping the target to 7m 10s at Birchwood could be on the cards, particularly as its flatter.

Mind you, all of that is dependent on the ol' groin. More on that later...


Alison said...

You and your groin..

Great report Rob. I learnt a lot from this. As did you, it seems.

Don't do yourself a mischief though. An injury is most dangerous just after you think it's healed. Go in too hard too soon and it'll flair up again. Softly softly eh..

john said...

Thanks Rob. I enjoyed this post...