Only 2 from the devil!
For the 2016 race, please click below:
Mid-week evening 10k race, you say? Read on to find out whether this would help or hinder my performance. As ever, jump straight to “The Race” if you’ve no interest in the pre-race jibber-jabber.
I’ve had my eye on the DK10K for a couple of years, but due to the close proximity to the London Marathon, it’s always been a no-go.
But not so this year! This spring and summer are firmly locked in 10k land in a bid to get my PB more in-line with my 5k and half marathon equivalents – McMillan reports I should be much closer to 39:10 or so.
That initial hill is gonna hurt…
I wasn’t expecting the race to be the fastest, based on the elevation profile above. The dodgy weather of late also did little to inspire. However, Saturday’s 18:52 at Cardiff Parkrun did my confidence some good, converting into a 39:11 on a flat course, so sneaking into sub-40 looked possible on paper. My 39:44 10k PB from September 2014 also had the possibility of falling, though seemed incredibly unlikely.
The mid-week, evening element of the race had me scratching my head somewhat in the lead up. In the end, I had a bigger lunch than normal and made my other meals smaller to compensate. I’d also been told by multiple folks that I should be more awake for an evening race, and that’s in spite of me being a morning person.
I opted to park off-site to facilitate a quick getaway after the race. Dumping the car half a mile away also allowed for a warm-up jog into the DK club grounds, finished off by a couple of laps around the grass pitch to bulk up the distance. I felt fresh, even after the heavy week prior.
Wandering into the changing area, I bumped into Darryl Thomas of Bromsgrove Redditch AC who I needed to find anyway! We’d provisionally agreed to stay together for the early portion of the race at a target pace of 3:59/km. We parted ways and agreed to meet up again on the start line, a few rows back from the front as an estimation of our ability versus the rest of the field.
Vacating the changing area, I bumped into Darren Hale, another Bromsgrove Redditch AC member. We had a good, long chat about various races past and yet to happen. Our mutual love of Parkrun was also spoken about at length. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Darren, particularly learning more about his return to running in recent years – his work hard and work consistently approach was all very inspiring ahead of the race.
We made our way to the start line and I threw in a 300m effort at 10k pace as a final warm-up before go-time. The wind was blowing right into us for the out portion of the route, but thankfully the clouds above cleared up to leave a rather pleasant spring evening, all things considered.
Being a chip timed race didn’t stop the usual array of slower runners starting too far forward. I looked over to my left and there were two ladies quietly discussing that they felt they were stood in the wrong place, surrounded by lean and sinewy club runners. Darryl caught up to me again and, nerve-rackingly, he decided to crouch down and adjust his shoe laces with maybe only a minute or so before we were due to start…
On “3, 2, 1 – Go”, we were off.
Can you see me? Photo by Brian Smith
I launched right into my target race pace of 3:59/km, feeling smooth and steady. Darryl was right on my shoulder, following diligently. Very early on, a clear division in terms of grouping occurred, where I found I was leading one pack in pursuit of the bunch ahead. I reminded myself to stay calm and relaxed; it was a 700 odd field stacked with strong club runners, so there would be plenty for me to work with later on and there was no need for heroics within the first stretch.
The wind hit me hard and due to the snaking trail of runners all taking shelter behind each other, I felt it wise to follow and draft behind others, rather than go out on my own to run the shortest line on the course.
After only a mile, the first and only significant hill of the course arrived. In total, it amounted to almost a 100ft climb spread across only 400m, and coupled with the strong headwind, made for an unpleasant couple of minutes. At least it was early on in the race, so runners could recover and recalibrate their goals afterwards. I think Darryl was still with me at this point, but I heeded his advice to focus on my own race and to ignore him if he started drifting backwards.
I floated into contact with two Stourbridge RC members, both of whom were at around my pace. Our positions chopped and changed frequently, particularly on the undulations where I gained the lead on the rises and they covered me on the descents. I really, really need to pay some attention to my lack of downhill technique!
Distance markers were provided in 1km increments, though sadly these were completely out of sync with where they should have been placed; 1km appeared at roughly 800m and was rather off-putting. After 3km, their positioning still hadn’t improved and the fear of a short race crept into my mind.
I was faring well, time-wise. A slightly fast opening section due to the downhill had bought me some buffer for any eventual slow-down in pace. My Garmin’s virtual pacer continually fed back that I was drifting in and off target by no more than a couple of seconds, so all was good in the Black Country-hood.
On the approach to the water station, I sank an energy gel in an attempt to quench my thirst a touch. I wasn’t relying on getting much water from the cups on offer, with most of the one I grabbed spilling everywhere. An elapsed time clock appeared nearby, also doubling up as the 5km marker. I knew it had to be in the wrong place from the displayed time alone of 19:10; there was no way I had covered 5k in what would be a course PB for me over at Cannon Hill Parkrun in the midst of a 10k race!
The course continued to undulate, sapping the limited resources I had available. There was no rhythm to be had and if the course wasn’t undulating, it was windy and vice-versa. I traded blows with a Tipton Harrier girl, eventually gaining the lead on a rise somewhere. A similar scenario occurred between me and a Bromsgrove Redditch AC runner, though he managed to steadily creep away from me when I eased off a little too much on the descents for recovery.
The 7km marker finally aligned with the distance on the course. My shoulders tightened up from the tension, but the rest of my body still performed well. There was no fatigue in my legs, but once again it was my lungs that were letting the team down – some VO2 max efforts should sort that right out as an item to go in the training schedule. I drifted off target by 13 seconds and moved my sights to simply finishing in less than 40 minutes; this alone would have been a strong performance at the beginning of my 10k season to build upon (we’ll ignore the Ronnie Bowker 10k for a moment…)
8km was my slowest split at 4:08/km, though that was due largely to the climb back to the “Mile Flat” (yes, it’s actually called that). I had a bit of a bipolar moment when I suddenly convinced myself that a PB attempt was back on. Looking at my Garmin, I had a little over a mile left to cover and the elapsed time ticked over into 32:00; all it took was for the two remaining splits to clock in at 3:50/km each. Not impossible, especially as I was fully warmed-up.
The long stretch back to the club grounds and the finish took what felt like an age to traverse. I picked up my cadence and began chasing down the guys further ahead. Sporadically, spectators began to show on either side of the course, spurring me on to close the gap. My shoulders had given up on me and in turn, my t-rex arms returned. My core was still going strong and I tried taking deeper breaths to calm myself down – nope, didn’t work, so I welcomed the return of the Choochoo train impression™ in a bid to get as much oxygen into my system as possible.
Awkwardly, the “Mile Flat”, banked towards the right to create the illusion that runners were turning for the finish. Sensing there wasn’t much of the race left, I began my assault to finish strong. Just in the distance, I could see the traffic lights at the end of the “Mile Flat” where runners were turning right for the final few hundred metres. The guys ahead weren’t getting any closer to me and I don’t think there was anybody behind me either, at least I couldn’t hear anybody on my tail.
On board the pain train at DK10K 2015 – photo by Brian Smith
Cheered on by a few more spectators, I turned for the club grounds and the finish, creating a sense of déjà vu akin to my experience from The Magor Marsh 10k and its clones under other guises. There were just 200m left and I kicked hard to try and reclaim a few valuable seconds. 100m left and more and more spectators lined the route back into the grounds and the finish gantry was just in front of me. With 50m left, I accelerated with everything I had left for the line, gaining a place in the process whilst I careered through the finish.
Here’s the Garmin data for the race.
I was in agony and my breathing was all over the shop. I crouched down and crawled to the side of the finish funnel for a breather, giving some of the spectators a good chuckle. Sat down with my back to the barrier, I checked my Garmin and a fist pump into the air signalled I’d done it – a sneaky, cheeky PB by 6 seconds for 39:38! As is so common with runners these days, I was over the moon but quickly started grumbling to myself that I’d have been at least 20 seconds faster on a flatter course and calmer day – never satisfied are we?
I got back up from the ground and moved gingerly through the funnel. My stomach was quite unsettled from the exhaustive effort and also the concentrated beetroot juice shot I had prior to the race.
Shortly after, Darryl came through with a 41:15, citing that he’d lost me during the first couple of km, but always managed to keep me in his sights. We collected our goodie bags (no medal, rather a technical t-shirt instead) and embarked on a magical mystery tour of the club grounds, trying to locate the chip time results. A laptop had been set up with a link to the results feed, so runners could verify their times almost immediately – this was a fantastic arrangement and clearly, the organisers knew their target audience well.
After a chat about race plans and training methodology, we parted ways until the next race (likely to be Wythall Hollywood 10k) and I had a gentle jog back to the car as a warm-down to close off a successful evening of racing.
I had a thoroughly good time at the DK10K. Everything from the organisation, the chip timing, to the facilities for runners was present and accounted for. I did have concerns over the numbers attending with the Great Birmingham 10k only three days prior, but need not have worried – there was plenty of quality in the field that I was never really running on my own. I’ll certainly return again next year when hopefully, the weather will return to its normal plans for the time of year.
In terms of 10k training and racing, I know I definitely have more to give over the distance and people’s estimations that I would have been 20 – 30 seconds faster on a flat course and calm day look accurate. A 39:10 10k translates into 3:55/km pace; a touch faster than what my training focuses on at the moment. I am resisting the itch to increase my training pace to match that, and will instead stick to my guns by increasing the number of 1600m reps I cover to 4x. I want to reach a stage where I can confidently maintain a set pace over the 10k distance, rather than relying on surges late in races to make up any shortfalls that creep in.
Watch this space for the further developments in the upcoming 10k races:
- 17/05/15 – Gwent Race for Wildlife 10k
- 31/05/15 – Bristol 10k
- 14/06/15 – Two Castles Run
- 21/06/15 – Caerphilly 10k
- 12/07/15 – Wythall Hollywood 10k
- 26/07/15 – Magor Marsh 10k