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The 2014 Cardiff 10k medal – preferred last year’s…
Read on to find out how Dave, Vince and I got on in the Welsh capital.
A favourite race of mine – it firmly puts me on the home straight towards the end of my season of races.
This was my third partaking of the Cardiff 10k and funnily enough on each occasion, I’ve introduced a different person to the event with the promise of a flat and fast course through Cardiff city centre. This was true until NATO came to town and alternative race arrangements had to be made. The replacement course took in parts to the north of the city, with much of the final few miles of the Cardiff Half Marathon making a guest appearance. With this in mind, I lost some motivation going into this year’s Cardiff 10k. I’ve not been feeling as fit as I did when I ran my 39:53 at the Magor Marsh 10k back in July, where near weekly races helped to keep me sharp. Oh well. If nothing else, this race would serve as a great training run ahead of my sub-90 minute half marathon goal in a few weeks’ time.
The 2014 Cardiff 10k course looks… lumpy…
The day prior to race day, Dave and I recce’d the start area and the first few hundred metres of the course; staking out prime points to begin the final kick. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail and all that. Dave has been in great shape recently and even he only felt he had a 40:20 10k inside him, prompting us to roughly set our sights on a sub-40:30 finish or better.
Race day arrived and with the knowledge that there are never enough toilets at the Cardiff 10k, we used Dave’s hotel room as a base of operations; minimal stress on race morning was the order of the day! We completed our mile warm-up jog on the main pedestrianised high street, followed by a 400m effort at 10k pace of 3:58/km. Whilst we weren’t entirely confident to go sub-40, there was no harm in shooting for the stars and having a crack anyway.
Awkward pre-race photo? Check!
Warm-up done, we made our way into the start pen. The Cardiff 10k start area is notorious for being a free for all and in the previous two years, I’d been held up by people that had clearly over-egged judgement of their own ability, only to hold up other faster runners. Not this time! Dave and I found ourselves in a nearly empty start pen with only a few club runners around us. Before too long, we were joined by several thousand of our new best friends. Vince Nazareth also caught up to us – he had signed up to this event specifically on my promise of a fast and flat course… Despite the NATO Summit being out of my control, I couldn’t help but feel guilty! Espresso shot and some Nectar Fuel down the hatch and I was ready to race.
Right on the dot at 10am, we were allowed to tear off into the 2014 Cardiff 10k…
We had a nice clear run ahead of us from the line. Sure, there were a few slower folks around us but nobody got in our way for a very smooth dispersal; possibly the best yet of any race. I’m hooked at glancing down at my Garmin for pace feedback and it reported I was right on track with a steady 3:58/km. The pace felt manageable but I knew the first of several inclines was rapidly approaching to shake the whole race up.
This early portion of the course was basically the final mile of the Cardiff Half in reverse. The first rise was reportedly a 2% incline and certainly felt as such so early on. I said to Dave that I was “working too hard” and started drifting backwards from him. Vince was still right on my tail and served as good motivation to for me to try and keep the pace up. As ever, I did my best to run the shortest line possible on the course, though this was made tricky at times due to cars that had been left out (were they there when the course was measured?)
There was a fairly large group of runners around us to work with, all clearly targeting a sub-40 finish. What was even more remarkable was how consistent this group remained, with only a few dropping off along the way.
With regular inclines and descents, it was difficult to get a stable rhythm going. I would make progress on the rises only for this to be eroded away on the other side by runners like Dave with longer leg strides.
Each km marker appeared just before my Garmin beeped, which pleased me greatly. I knew I had a very slight buffer for any pacing issues that cropped up later. Speaking of pace, I was slowly falling off the wagon with a 6 second differential from the target.
Whilst Dave was always just ahead by a few metres, this felt like a chasm in the midst of a race. Nothing I did brought him any closer and I sensed the invisible rubber band had reached its limit and wouldn’t snap me back towards him. Vince remained just behind me and asked if Dave was still ahead, thinking he was the guy immediately in front. I could only reply with snatched gasps, “Blue. Vest… Orange. Shoes…” He understood and moved ahead of me to take up some of the pacing duty.
The water station came and marked the perfect moment to sink a caffeinated gel, working a treat for added perkiness.
I was surprised by the low quality of the roads around Roath Park Lake. I could very clearly feel the lumpy road beneath my racing flats, prompting me to jump on to the pavement as others around me did.
A very tall girl with good pace crept past me at around 6k. I decided to draft behind her to take the edge off the random gusts of wind that blew every now and again, but also to take my mind off pacing. This immediately made things feel so much easier and I stuck with her for the remainder of the km until a sharp turn allowed her to sneak away from me.
The approach to 8k put fear in me. The rise was at least a 2% incline that lasted 800m, and during the closing stages of a 10k meant several minutes full of hurt. My breathing was already erratic and I was making strained noises before we’d even started to climb. I dug deep and managed to bring myself back on race pace to drag Dave and Vince through with me (gotta love my short stride). Once at the top, I was shagged and close to distress, only for Dave and Vince to then carry on past me with the incline having no ill effect on them at all.
At approx. 8.5k, Vince told me to keep going and that we were still on target for a sub-40 10k. My Garmin reported I was 8 seconds behind schedule and about 30m short on covered distance; not impossible to make up with a fast final km that was largely downhill…
As I ran through 9k, my Garmin beeped perfectly in sync so my small benefit had indeed been eroded away by the course. The time had just ticked over to 36:00 minutes, so a sub-40 finish was definitely in reach. Having recently finished the Brownlee Brothers’ autobiography, I was inspired to shout out “Come on! Fast final k for a sub-40 finish!” I’d done this before at Parkrun and other races with the hope that it made those around me go faster to drag me along. And if they didn’t, it at least lifted my own pace because I don’t want to look like a dick, barking out orders but not following them through. To my surprise, everybody around me seemed to renew their interest in a sub-40 10k and the pace picked up!
The finish line never seemed to get closer!
With only a few hundred metres of the race left, time seemed to tick by more quickly with the visual distance travelled growing smaller with each step. I had warned Dave the day before of the long home straight taking forever. Surely enough as we turned the final corner, the giant inflatable finish line was an eternity away despite the actual distance being less than 400m. Everybody kicked and began their final campaign towards the finish. No matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t close the gap to Vince and I had already written off the idea of catching up to Dave. It wasn’t until there were maybe 200m left to go when the finish line appeared to get closer. 100m left and I was at my absolute limit and simply maintained my position as best as I could for the line…
After crossing the finish line, I lurched forward and everything around me was a blur. You’ve seen war movies when a grenade goes off near the hero and his vision and hearing’s been shaken? That’s exactly how I felt. I found a quiet spot next to a barrier to sit down for a few minutes to regain some composure. Looking at my Garmin, a 39:44 10k PB was the reward for my hard work. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes – was I hallucinating? I was worried about the replacement course for nothing!
Vince, Dave and I at the 2014 Cardiff 10k – each with a sub-40 finish!
Getting back on to my unsteady feet, I maneuverered my way forward to find Dave and Vince. I didn’t even need to ask them how they’d fared because I knew they’d obviously gone under 40 minutes ahead of me for a fantastic 1-2-3 finish. Dave scored a 39:38 for his first sub-40 finish in 20 years, whilst Vince clocked 39:40 to finally earn that elusive sub-40 10k finish. I was pleased as punch for both of them and their grinning faces quickly dispelled any feelings of guilt about the course change.
NATO permitting, I look forward to the organisers changing things back to the flatter and faster course next year when I shall certainly return. So far, this is the only repeat race I’ve done where it has a 100% PB record for me.
Dave, Vince and I will be in Cardiff again in a few short weeks for the half marathon. Sub-90 finishes, here we come!
Here’s the Garmin data for this race.