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Chip timing rounded me up to 40:39 – booooo!
This year’s Cardiff 10k was too good to simply chuck into another week of running post, so it gets its own deserved entry.
My first experience of the Cardiff 10k was last year in 2012 when Elsa and I ran it in glorious sunshine. At that point, I had never raced a 10k before and it actually shaped up to be a very enjoyable distance to compete in, with the pros of 5ks and half marathons and none of the cons.
Dom and I signed up for the event a while ago and whilst it’s a tad pricey compared to some other 10k races, you do get a decent technical t-shirt and one of the best medals out there. It’s also virtually pancake flat, so it’s perfect for PB junkies like me.
Unfortunately, there is some woe to this tale – I did actually race with a cold! In almost an identical manner to last year, I went and did a hard, long run only a week before the Cardiff 10k and became a touch overtrained, which opened me up to a sore throat on Friday and became a cold on Saturday.
Breakfast consisted of two slices of toast with honey along with a bottle of Nectar Fuel. I also had two beetroot juice shots at 8:15am to maximise the 2 hour delay and the research suggesting two shots being the optimal quantity.
Lis and I left Tredunnock in dreadful weather conditions with black clouds and rain lashing down. Thankfully, this cleared up en route to Cardiff and posed no problem at all for the race.
Dom and Andy, running to win at the Cardiff 10k
I had arranged to meet up with Dom at the runners’ village and also for some breakfast after the race. I hadn’t seen Dom since the Bath Half Marathon, though he did see me run past during the London Marathon at around mile 23. We quickly found him near the luggage storage tent before he and I went for a 1 mile warm-up run. It was great to see Dom again after so long, and the conversational pace of our breathing kept the warm-up easy. Not wanting to fall prey to the long portaloo queues like I did last year, we opted to pee against a nearby secluded tree…
Making our way to the startline, we entered in via the back of the pen and realised we’d possibly left it too late. We were greeted by a guy in a Sonic the hedgehog costume, so this gives you an idea of what sort of crowd we had to fight through. Several minutes later, we made it to an area towards the right of the start pen that was maybe 10m from the front runners. Due to my cold, I was incredibly thirsty and had neglected to grab one of the many free bottles of water being handed out. I figured I could make it to the halfway water stop at the more relaxed 10k pace before performance would suffer. The countdown to start began and the race actually kicked-off on time, taking us no more than 20 or so seconds to cross the start line from where we were.
Dom and I didn’t have a plan to stay together; if it happened organically then great. We got separated after only a few hundred metres, so I knuckled down into my race pace of 6:40 per mile. I almost slammed right into one lady that had decided to start right up front despite running at what was maybe 10 minutes per mile. As a contrast, there were also plenty of people shooting off far too quickly; I knew I’d see them again sooner rather than later.
I settled into my stride, feeling relaxed and comfortable. It was somewhat mad to think that only a few months ago, 6:40 per mile was my 5k pace and here I was putting myself on the line to run that pace for a 10k race!
Andy Yu at 1k during the Cardiff 10k
The first potential bottle neck corner came and went without any issue. As always, I tried to run as clean a line as possible and I had a good feeling I was early enough in the pack that I wouldn’t have to weave in and out too much (in the end, I only ran 6.23 miles). Despite losing Dom early on in the start line scramble, I noticed he was just 5 – 10m ahead of me and running pretty much at the same pace as I was. I noticed Lis, Yvonne and Morgan to the right of the road and gave them a wave. I did also hear Lis’ uncle Rob on my left which confused me somewhat as to why he wasn’t with everybody else.
I love the Cardiff 10k course because of how flat and fast it is. There are two long stretches of road to really allow runners to build and maintain momentum and not too many twists and turns for slowdown. At 2k, I entered the road leading us out to the River Taff and was still maintaining a 1 – 2 second lead on my target pace with everything feeling smooth and natural. Castle Street presented a great opportunity to simply get your head down and start picking off runners in the distance. I passed plenty of folks that were already blowing hard after only 2 – 3k and knew they’d significantly slow down by the 5k mark having overcooked it so early on.
Andy Yu running through Llandaff Fields, Cardiff 10k
Due to my cold, I had been steadily taking Day Nurse capsules since Friday. They are my cold medication of choice but they do increase your thirst as a side-effect of the mucus drying properties. Thankfully, I’d reached Cathedral Road and the water station was just a few metres away for some instant relief. Cardiff 10k hands out bottles of water which are a god-send, rather than trying to neck water out of a small cup whilst running at speed. Desperate for some water, I started drinking too quickly and started choking when it went down the wrong hole! Regaining my composure, I poured the rest of the water over my head and chucked the bottle away. Just before 6k, I had my Isogel for a sugar hit now that the pace had become tougher to maintain.
A guy in black that I had been having mini battles with for the last 2k had caught up to me again and rather than continue to duke it out, I suggested to him that we work together. He duly agreed and we introduced ourselves, expressing that we both wanted something around 41 minutes. We silently ran together and the pace started to speed up, only subtly, but still noticeable in these later stages of the race. Dom was still ahead by exactly the same distance as before and I noticed a guy in white hanging off his shoulder. I was tempted to shout out to him but opted not to disturb his metronomic pacing, achieved without the aid of GPS or even a simple stopwatch. By 7k, the subtle but sudden boost in pace proved too much for me and I told the guy in black to go on ahead; he zoomed off like a thief in the night. I probably could have hung on in there for a bit longer but I still had another 3k to run and it was too soon to begin a kick.
I was now back on Duke Street, leading us back towards Cardiff Castle. A group of cheerleaders looked a bit down as I ran past, so I shouted out “thanks cheerleaders”, which they responded wildly to. I always try and thank marshals and volunteers out on races or Parkruns because they’ve given up their time to help us runners in some way and they probably don’t get much in the way of appreciation.
After Cardiff Castle, I entered Bute Park for the closing stage of the race. This is also the section where there’s arguably the most potential to lose time on due to a number of corners in quick succession to bring the pace down. The guy in black that I ran with for a short while was now walking on the side of the path having overcooked it – I was so glad I decided not to stick with him in the end! The guy that was drafting behind Dom had also dropped off the pace and had been left behind.
With a mile left to go, I finally let Dom know that I was now just behind him. I told him that this was now the time to push it and “give the crowd something to cheer about” and we began our final march towards the finish. I was seriously blowing by this stage, trying to get as much oxygen into my lungs as possible. My Garmin showed we were about 25 seconds ahead of target pace so we were making great progress. I remembered the long straight path in Bute Park taking forever last year and it was no different this time. The turning back towards King Edward VII Avenue finally came and we upped the pace again.
Impressive photography from Lis to capture both Dom and I in the same frame
The finish was just ahead, maybe 500 – 600m away but it seemed like a mirage in the distance that never appeared to get any closer. I was kicking but my legs were saturated with lactic acid and my lungs couldn’t give me much more. I was now simply trying to reel in a few of the runners ahead of me for a boost. Lis and co were on the right of the road so I gave them a quick wave and I mustered up what little resources I had left for one final push. My arms were pumping and my legs pushed as hard as possible, allowing me to overtake two runners with Dom just ahead of me before we finally crossed the finish line.
Fresh as daisies after the Cardiff 10k
I stopped my Garmin but didn’t care for the time, knowing it was a PB of some description and hurled myself over to the right of the finish area away from the runners coming through. I had to get down on all fours to remain steady and felt like throwing up; if this was Cannon Hill Parkrun, I would have collapsed into a fetal position for recovery. Once my breathing steadied out, I got up to find Dom to share the time with him. I’d managed to PB as anticipated but was surprised by how much of a margin it was for a 40:38 finish! My last 10k race PB was 42:28, admittedly on a hilly course and very warm day, so I was confident I could at least break sub-42 minutes. We guesstimated Dom’s finish was 40:33 or so, given the lead he had on me during the final straight but later found out his chip time reading was 40:38 and mine had also been rounded up to 40:39.
The Cardiff 10k 2013 medal, bigger bling than 2012!
The medals that were given out are gorgeous; easily one of the best I’ve ever been given and possibly edges out last year’s.
It’s easy to tell I’ve run hard because the pressure in my ears goes crazy, causing me to go deaf temporarily. We joked that I must have gone supersonic!
After breakfast, we had a wander around St Davids 2 where Dom and I had a good chance to catch-up about all things running related, focusing particularly on the marathon distance before parting ways. We’ll both be back in Cardiff again in a few short weeks for the Cardiff Half Marathon where we get to do it all over again! It was great to see Dom again and it’s incredible how much he’s grown in strength as a runner this year alone. His internal pacing clock is incredible and really has to be seen to be believed – I could have synced my Garmin against him for accuracy! Take a look at his take on the Cardiff 10k here.
The Cardiff 10k is a fantastic race and has firmly cemented itself on my race calendar forever more. It’s a great course that’s conducive to PBs and also perfectly scheduled to serve as a tune-up race before most autumn half marathons. It has that big city race appeal with plenty of fellow runners to pace with but none of the disadvantages, so long as the organisers keep an eye on how many participants they allow in.
Now we get to the fun part for the data junkies (Dave!)… My Garmin data is most interesting where it shows I hit a peak heart rate of 204bpm during the closing stages, with my historical high recorded at 206bpm a few months ago. This translated into a training effect rating of 5.0/5.0, which Garmin highlights as “overreaching”; the highest I’ve previously achieved is 4.3! My pacing was decent with only a blip in mile 5. My cold looks to have not affected me at all with Dave correctly pointing out that my 40:39 10k PB is equivalent to a 19:34 5k, which is pretty much bang on for what I’m capable of right now so I pretty much hit my maximum 10k potential!
I’m going to take it easy this week and give myself 3 good days of just stretching and strength work to recover properly. I can’t remember the last time I took 3 days off from running!