Short term memory loss led me to think the course was much flatter…
For the 2015 race, please click below:
Second outing for me on the DK10K course. Read on to find out what happened.
For the second year in a row, the DK10K kicked-off the start of my season of 10k races that normally spans from May through to September. I had an absolute whale of a time last year, so there was no doubt I wouldn’t enter again.
I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and admit to not liking the 10k distance, race-wise. It requires training at around threshold level, which I greatly struggle with. Ask me to thrash out 800m intervals to prepare for a 5k and I’m there, and similarly, ask me to put in lots of long run mileage and I won’t hesitate. Ask me to run a few miles at threshold pace and I’ll suddenly become more reluctant… As such, my 10k performances are historically much weaker than my equivalent 5k or half marathon results. Just setting the scene is all!
I roped Simon Bull from Cannon Hill Parkrun into entering this on the promise that it’s almost half the price of the Great Birmingham 10k, with an elevation profile that’s probably no better or worse. The lure of a technical t-shirt at the end sealed the deal. We both got our excuses in early; he had a head cold and had come straight from work, whilst I was dehydrated and just all-round knackered…
We bumped into a fair few familiar faces from Cannon Hill Parkrun, including Dave Brayne and Barry Fallon. I did expect to see more people I recognised, though given the close proximity to the Great Birmingham 10k only days prior and the 1 hour ball ache of a drive in rush hour traffic to get to the race, I guess I was fortunate enough to see those I did.
Warm-up completed, Simon and I loitered on the Mile Flat waiting for the race to start. Whilst the organisers had closed off one end of the road to traffic, they’d neglected to close off the other end so we occasionally saw cars coming towards us, trying to get through several hundred runners…
Despite chip timing in place, the start line was a mish-mash of different paced runners all trying to get a lead on each other.
Bang on the dot at 19:15, the hooter fired and off we went.
Rose tinted glasses from last year’s PB run on the course suggested magic was possible once more, especially with a string of strong 5k performances of late for confidence. Rose tinted glasses also blocked out how undulating the route actually is!
Running into a 6mph headwind, target pace of 3:55 per km was rather tricky to come by. Loads of people stormed ahead, either completely unaware of the rather lengthy and steep climb coming up after 1km, or trying to get as much time in the bank as possible to offset the damage from said climb. Continuing the trend from last year’s race, the 1km marker was some 250m out from where it should have been. The first km came in at 3:59.
Right at the start of the second km was the steepest and lengthiest climb on the course, equating to some 30m of elevation and over 700m in distance. Runners all around me fell back, though Dave Brayne made contact and did his best to latch on. I lost Dave somewhere on the climb and never did see him again out on the course. 4:01 for the second km, so I was definitely off PB pace but steady and consistent at least.
The third and fourth km were a bit of a blur. I recall feeling uncomfortable with the undulations having taken some out of me. I was also incredibly thirsty due to poor hydration during the day along with the ramped up temperature – it was only a week ago that Simon and I ran 800m intervals in sleet! I tucked into my one Isogel in an attempt to quench my thirst and also shake things up with a hit of caffeine. This section was also marred by several long stretches of running in no-man’s land, with the next group some 30m ahead and nobody from behind willing to join me. The splits came in at 3:57 and 3:58 respectively, so still as steady and consistent as before.
I was gagging for halfway to appear because it also meant a water stop was nearby. “Looking good, young man!” cheered the gentleman that passed me a cup of water. Spectators and volunteers spout all kinds of lies during races, but I took what was being verbally handed out. Slowly, the undulating course claimed more and more victims and sent a few runners back towards me to run with. The first was a swift girl that I drafted behind for a few hundred metres before making a move to join a West Bromwich Harrier. He had slowed as well, forcing me to sidestep him and move on. 5km produced 4:02 for one of the slowest splits of the evening.
Going into 6km, I was wishing for it all to be over. I was unaccustomed to the pace and effort, and the undulations were relentless. I tried focusing on my surroundings to give my mind a break and that’s when I realised somebody was really close behind and on my tail, based on their footsteps and breathing. Glancing to my right, the runner turned out to be Barry Fallon that I’d bumped into earlier beforehand. “Go on, Barry!” was my encouragement, to which he replied with, “We need to stay on this,” or words to that effect. Within just a few strides, Barry managed to put a gap of some 20m in between us and showed no signs of slowing down; I at last had a target to chase for the second half of the race. This split came in at 3:59.
I spent much of the seventh km with my eyes focused on Barry, occasionally shouting out for him to follow the racing line when he ran wide. 4:01 was produced for this split.
For somebody that’s not bad on hills, I was positively quaking in my racing flats because I had the climb back towards the Mile Flat to contend with. We passed the Navigation Inn once more, with many of its clientele straddling the route to cheer weary runners on. The smell of meals being served up was heavenly and did little to put out the fire from the lactic acid pooling in my legs. This was the slowest split of the race for 4:04.
I’d advised Simon to pick it up once he was back on the Mile Flat and looked to do exactly the same. I began by letting my stride lengthen and also increased my arm swing to help things along. I was able to chase down a few runners and made contact once more with Barry. A Halesowen Triathlete and I spurred each other on for a few hundred metres where I would create a gap, only for him to claim it back. 9km came and went to produce 3:59 on the Garmin.
Barry having yet another phenomenal race this spring – photo by Brian Smith
I willed for the race to end once more, but there was no sign on the horizon of the right turn back to the club grounds and the finish line. I consciously upped my cadence and broke away from the triathlete for a few seconds, only for him to come storming past both Barry and me to take the lead. I muttered a few words to Barry to keep at it with the knowledge that this was soon to be a PB run for him. Finally, we made a right for the last remaining stretch of the race. Whilst it didn’t affect my race, it was disappointing to discover 150m of the final 200m was single-file due to the open traffic nature of the finish area. Barry pipped me to the line by less than a second; such was his strength in the second half of the race to maintain the lead.
Post-race and conclusions
I claimed 39:40 on chip time and 36th whilst Barry scored 39:30 and 35th. It was a sizable PB for Barry, outdoing his previous 10k best by almost 90 seconds; it was also his first sub-40 performance on a route not without its challenges. Next in was Dave Brayne for around 41:18 and then Simon for 46:52.
Here’s the Strava data for the race.
So, not the outcome I was looking for and some 2 seconds slower than last year. runbritain has at least had the decency to not rub salt into my wounds by declaring the race condition scoring as 1.5, which converted into -0.3 for my personal handicap, but no change to my overall score.
“Train your weaknesses” said somebody more learned than me. This race highlights my need to focus on my lack of threshold work – the pace that sits around the middle that’s neither too easy nor too difficult (despite my aversion to it). Back on the horse I get!