For the 2013 race, please click the following:
This year’s bib, goodie bag and medal from the 2014 Caerphilly 10k
After last week’s balls to the wall performance at Wolverhampton Parkrun, I was hungry again for another PB. I missed out on a 10k PB at last year’s inaugural race by only a number of seconds, which I’m sure I could have recovered had I not have charged off the start line at an alarming pace (sub-6 minute mile pace up a hill!). Wanting a PB was all well and good, but two weeks of racing at the 2 Castles 10k, Wolverhampton Parkrun and a course PB at Newport Parkrun had taken their toll on me. Add to that, my stomach didn’t feel right all weekend. No bellyache or anything – just a feeling of being unsettled and it was something I was very aware of the morning of the race.
Lis and I made our way west along the M4 towards Caerphilly, reaching our destination ahead of schedule. Surprisingly, the free car park we had so easily driven straight into last year was already full to the brim with runners and their families. Oddly, the marshall was all the way at the back directing cars back out – logic would have suggested he’d be of more use at the entrance to tell people the car park was full. We found a space along a residential street shortly afterwards, so crisis averted. This is why runners should always get to races early just in case anything unforeseen happens!
Not sure how I managed to get no. 130, only registering in April
The sun was out in full force for a real contrast to last year’s grey and windy event. A quick visit to the portaloo and I headed out on my warm-up. Everything felt loose and relaxed, but my stomach still didn’t feel like its normal self. 2km later, I returned to Lis to chug down the remainder of my sports drink and to head off to the start area. En route, I bumped into Nigel and Mike from Newport Parkrun. With this unusual bright yellow thing in the sky, I don’t think anybody fancied their chances of a PB.
Last year’s Caerphilly 10k really struck a positive chord with me in terms of organisation – everything was buttery smooth and had its place, making a mockery of some larger and more established races I’ve raced in. This year, however, seemed much more chaotic and I got the feeling that the same number of staff/volunteers were laid on despite much greater attendance numbers. One prime example was the entrance to the start area. It had been taped off all morning and with only 5 minutes before the gun was due to go off, the tape still remained in place! Many runners around me were getting antsy and wanted to get inside the start pens to stake out a good spot; a few actually started climbing the barriers in place with many more following suit. I was half tempted to jump over the tape but didn’t want to be accused of inciting a riot… With 4 minutes to go, they finally cut the tape and I made a beeline for the left of the start area (course curves to the left). To further complicate matters, this year’s Caerphilly 10k was also part of the Welsh county and regional championships and the first few metres of start pen was reserved for this purpose. After a very brief briefing, the countdown began and on the sound of the air horn, we were all released.
I was conscious to keep it under control for the first 1k, not wanting a repeat of last year where I felt drained for the entire race. Despite all the club runners in the championships, I successfully overtook quite a few in the first few hundred metres on the approach to the hill. Once at the top, gravity took over and sent me back down to Earth on the other side. I’m rubbish at charging down hills, so hilly courses are double trouble for me where I lose time going up and down. My ability climbing hills isn’t bad, but I think it’s possibly more the fact that most people struggle on an incline rather than any innate talent on my part.
As always, I tried to keep as clean a line as possible on the course, hugging the apex of each turn. Very few seemed aware of the tactic where just like at the 2 Castles 10k, I often found myself on my lonesome on the opposite side of a road, both in the shade and running the shortest legal path on the course.
Whilst there was no wind, the sun continued its campaign to claim as many runners as possible that had over-egged their starts and increasingly, there were more and more people walking on the sides of the road after only 10 – 15 minutes of running.
Between 3k and 4k, I managed to tuck myself in with a very nicely paced group consisting of two Les Croupier club runners and an Aberdare club runner. There was a sizeable gap between us and the next group ahead, so I thought I’d give my mind a break and a chance to reassess how my body was feeling. I was undoubtedly warm, but everything felt under control. My breathing had steadied, my shoulders were loose and my stride was short and fast. Approaching 5k, I sank my Isogel for a little boost: I also took some water on-board and chucked the remainder of the bottle over me to try and cool me down. Slightly perked up, I decided to go it alone and move on up to the next group. Overtaking the male Les Croupier runner, I noticed he was wearing the same volt Nike Flyknit Racers as me and I complimented him on his choice of footwear. He smiled, did a double take at mine and then turned his smile into a grin and said, “Thanks”. It was at this point that I realised he was Phil Cook, the run director from Cardiff Parkrun and also the man responsible for the current Cardiff Half Marathon course (the only course to have been repeated in the race’s 13+ year history). He’s normally a very fast runner with a 2:4X marathon to his name, so I wondered what could have been up?
Running through 5k, I settled into my new group and declared, “Only a Parkrun left guys” but got no reaction. After a few hundred meters with these guys, I ploughed on again to run on my own towards the dreaded out and back portion of the course. This was a steady incline on the way out, which I’m sure became a slow death march for many later on in the race. I played to my strength of running a clean line, which helped me to overtake a few flagging club runners before swinging myself around the cone for the return to Caerphilly town centre.
Something ignited inside me, going through 7k. The sugar and caffeine from the Isogel had taken effect and the descent had given me a slight recovery boost to attack the remainder of the race hard. Just up ahead, I spotted a club runner in a BRAT vest. This wasn’t the first time I had seen a BRAT runner at a Welsh event; I’ve seen Dave Sansom at Cardiff Parkrun on numerous occasions so the BRAT Club does get around! Anyway, I caught up to the BRAT member and said I was from Brum as well, under snatched breaths. He was close to his limit, too; he said he ran 38 minutes at last year’s event so he was clearly having a rough day where 40:30 looked like a best case scenario for both of us. I charged on and I must have been completely in the zone, thinking I’d left him behind but from various photos online, he was right on my shoulder for most of the closing stages.
With just 2k left, I started to climb one of three remaining hills on the course. I overtook a Lliswerry runner with some speed, prompting a really motivational, “Excellent work! Keep at it!” from him to help drive me up the hill. After a brief bit of flat road, I was firmly back in Caerphilly town centre and steadied my breathing before attacking another steep incline. There was nobody ahead of me for maybe 10 seconds, so all the crowd’s cheers were just for me (and I now realise the BRAT runner, also). This fired me up some more to tackle the final hill of the course. Reaching the peak, I was knackered and short of breath. I did what I could to keep moving forward with the finish line crowds clearly in earshot.
Finishing kick, ACTIVATE!!!
What goes up, must come down and I began my descent towards the finish area. I didn’t have the balls or the co-ordination to go down the hill at full speed, so I forced myself to heel strike to regain some control.
A gurning competition within a 10k race – now that’s value for money
With only a few hundred meters to go, I could see a few runners ahead of me and I began my kick for the line. I could hear the announcer on the PA system remark about my flight towards the finish line. 100m left to go. I focused all my effort and energy on catching up to the girl in front of me and with just a second or so to go, I pipped her to the line for one of my most thrilling finishes in a good while.
I had to grab the barrier in place to steady myself. The BRAT runner (name revealed to be Peter) came over and helped me up from the heap I’d become on the ground. We revealed our finish times as 41:00 (41:01 chip time) for me and 40:32 for Peter, so he must have really started quite far behind to have made up 30 seconds on me.
Lis had caught up to us and a chap from Cardiff Parkrun also came over to say “hello” (I do get about, don’t I?). I collected my goodie bag of swag, along with a few free bananas on offer and had one final chat with Nigel before making a beeline for the exit.
Not a PB for me as I had hoped, but I knew going into the race today that it wasn’t likely to be on the cards. I did feel incredibly strong during the final 2k (my splits support this) and I don’t think yesterday’s course PB at Newport Parkrun did anything to hamper today’s performance – it simply was what it was and that’s a season’s best. Add to that, I’m over 2 minutes faster on the same course compared to last year. On a flatter route and cooler day, I should be able to PB by some margin. By the time of the Cardiff 10k in early September, I’m hoping to really be in fighting form for a sub-40 minute finish.
Here’s the Garmin data for my 2014 Caerphilly 10k.