Magor 10k 2018 review

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All aboard the pain train! Photo by Robert Gale

Between this and its sister-race – The Gwent Race for Wildlife – this course is now my most frequented race.

For previous races, please click the following:

Pre-race

I had reasonable confidence of a PB opportunity going into this event. Only in 2017 did I fail to bag a PB, due to focusing my efforts on marathon training and acknowledging I’d lost too much top-end speed from injury earlier in the year.

If there’s one thing runners will remember from 2018, it will be the weather. We’ll all look back in years to come and ask ourselves whether the snow or the sun robbed us! Going into this race, there was yet another elemental foe I was concerned about it for it wasn’t the sun, but rather the wind… Checking the forecast with great interest in the days beforehand, I watched aghast as the wind speed increased from a challenging 12mph to an all-bets-are-off 19mph! Given how flat the course is, facing a stiff headwind for much of the first half of the race would be akin to slotting in a climb or two, nullifying the otherwise perfect profile.

In the days leading up to race day – a Saturday – I felt like I’d picked up the beginnings of something. I felt drained with no get-up-and-go to me, so I took the decision to sharply taper with no running at all for four whole days. The unscheduled break did me a world of good, for I felt pretty reasonable once again come race morning.

Staring outside the window, all I could see were grey skies, swaying trees and rain to literally put a dampener on things. Over breakfast, I mulled over my race approach of pigheadedly going out at PB pace and hoping for the best, or going out conservatively into the windy first half and trying to claw back some of the damage in the second half with tailwind? The decision was yet to be determined and I decided to wait and consult with Darryll Thomas, who I’d cajoled into attending, for his outlook on conditions.

With Lis and my mother-in-law in tow, we headed over to race HQ, which was once again a church and hence the Saturday race. The weather did not improve, for when Darryll and I went for our warm-up, we were almost brought to a standstill at times from the gusts we faced… I reasoned aiming for under 39 minutes would give me enough wriggle room to either ramp things up or dial things back, covering any eventualities.

Assembling for the start, and almost by divine intervention, the poor conditions eased off dramatically for a break in the wind and rain. On the starter’s orders, we were off into the south Wales countryside.

The race

In those crucial few opening seconds, I opted to be pig-headed and went for it, seeing 3:24 per km flash up on my Garmin from time to time! After a few hundred metres, I scaled things back to PB pace and slotted myself into a small group of similarly paced guys. Just a few metres ahead of me was Darryll, doing the same. The effort was undeniably fast, though still felt just about in control, paving the way for an opening split of 3:46.

A few guys from behind crept past me and I was left with just another chap. Thankfully for me, he had just a touch more strength at his disposal, so I was able to take shelter in his slipstream and allowed him to dictate the pace into the wind. The next group ahead included Darryll, though they were just a little too far from reach to reel in quickly without doing damage to ourselves. My companion agreed with me that we should have taken the opportunity to go with them when the gap was much, much smaller.

Being the no-nonsense kind of race that it is, the only real novelty of the course is its flatness. As such, there wasn’t really much of anything to report on for 2km to 4km, other than the splits coming in at 3:50, 3:53 and 3:54.

Reaching the return at Redwick Village, we felt the full force of the wind and boy was it ghastly! It was at least brief with a water station to take the sting out of a tricky km, coming in at 3:51 and halfway clocking in at 19:15. Hallelujah, for I was still in business! Another 19:15 and a modest PB was all mine!

With a tailwind for some assistance – and you never fully receive back what was taken away by a headwind – the pace began escalating once more. Also helping to pull me along was the guy I spent much of the first half with, though he continued to just marginally creep away and eventually ended up with the remnants of Darryll’s small group before it broke apart. Speaking of Darryll, he found solace behind one of the (tall) guys that scooted past me from much earlier in the race. 6km and 7km were almost identical for 3:47 and 3:48.

I could easily identify the effort was right up there to be 9/10. The sun had come out overhead to further add more stress to the mix. Prior to race day, I was going to have my father-in-law kindly be on standby with a few bottles of water at around 7km for Darryll and me. Based on that morning’s forecast, it was to remain wet and windy, so his services were not needed. The guest appearance from the sun was both welcome and unwanted in equal measure. I was kicking myself for turning down the offered assistance, for some water would have most definitely made the remainder of the race more tolerable.

Approaching the out and back section, I saw second and third place exit just as I entered, with first place having already cleared through. I gave Darryll some encouragement to keep pushing, estimating him to be some 15 seconds ahead of me. Rounding the cone, I prayed that it was in the correct place and not overly wrong in either direction. One iteration of the race in its Race for Wildlife guise back in 2015 was short by almost 200m; I left empty handed that day, despite the certainty that I still would have recorded a PB over an accurate distance. Inevitably, the switchback cost me by a few seconds, due to the turning and the direction change back into the wind. I gave Tony Cover, a Strava buddy and a participant I drafted behind for much of the 2017 race, a high-five to break up some of the monotony. 8km and 9km came in at 3:54 and 3:53, so that break in momentum really did cost me some 10 seconds or so.

With just a km remaining, some mental arithmetic reminded me that I was still just in contention of a PB if I could ramp up the pace, and if the distance was not overly long. 2017 clocked in at almost 70m too long, most likely due to the switchback cone being placed too far out.

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Will or won’t I PB? Photo by Robert Gale

Alone, I began reeling in those ahead, including Darryll who had slipped from the pace ever so slightly. Anguish was written all over my face as the effort skyrocketed. I willed the right-hand turn to appear for it meant only some 300m remained. Lis and my mother-in-law appeared for some encouragement, shortly before my Garmin beeped with almost 50m remaining. Acknowledging that my finishing kick isn’t quite what it used to be, I thrusted my arms forward and threw my legs behind me as far as they would go for the finish line. It was nerve-wracking stuff!

Post-race

Upon finishing, I let out a few exasperated cries in a bid to ease the momentary suffering. I shook the hand of the guy I drafted behind, who had finished some 10-15 seconds ahead of me. And my own finishing time? 38:35 for a very modest 5 second PB on the DK10K from early May under far more clement conditions. Were the distance closer to 10km on the nose, I’d have likely had 38:15 to 38:20 to my name; Darryll was just 5 seconds shy of a PB, so I mustn’t complain. What I can complain about is the 38:45 I ran in the 2016 race; without such oppressive heat, who knows what I could have run back then…

A warm-up jog with spectators clapping and cheering both Darryll and me on wrapped up a satisfactory morning. I still greatly dislike the 10k distance, where it’s just too far to go out hard and hang on like it’s a 5k, but not going out hard enough also means you can’t approach it like a half marathon that can be eased into.

Here’s the Strava data for this race.

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This week’s running – 24th to 29th of July 2017

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Home away from home

Week 12 of the 22 week marathon schedule. After never having raced on a Saturday until recently, along came another Saturday race in quick succession!

5k recovery

In spite of running my furthest since my last marathon on the day prior, my legs did not feel shabby at all whilst out on this recovery run.

I even spotted Graham Lawrence of Cannon Hill parkrun fame to make for a novel change on the otherwise monotonous route.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

14 miles from work

A year ago, I took the day off from work to complete this run, such was my belief that it would not do me any favours covering it after a day at the office. No such opportunity this year, so I did whatever I could to prevent it being a disaster. This included eating a giant pizza the night before, along with a hearty lunch several hours before, topped off with the odd cookie throughout. I did not forget to pack my water bottle, either, so well prepared was I.

And do you know what? It was a success without any trauma!

To bulk up the distance, I covered two laps of the Soho Loop and three laps of the lake at The Vale before returning to my normal route to just tip me over into 14 miles. 37 miles in just three days was not bad going!

I have wondered why the P&D plan decides to build runners up to a mid-week medium-long run of such a distance and then returns to normal distances of 9 to 12 miles. Perhaps it’s a stepping stone to help better prepare runners to take on the 20+ mile runs yet to come?

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5 mile run-commute

Carrying more stuff home than usual, I was thankful the temperature was also a few notches lower than of late to at least make this run less taxing.

Effort was kept incredibly low to best ensure I arrived at the Magor 10k in reasonable shape to make the most of the flat and fast race.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

5k recovery with strides

Running is an incredibly cheap hobby, if you want it to be. To run short distances, you only really need basic kit and it doesn’t even have to be running specific. As we develop, we begin amassing more kit; some necessary, and some less so. One such case in point is shoes – I have 7 pairs of running specific shoes on the go, and two pairs boxed and waiting to be rotated in when the outgoing pairs are beyond their useful lives. This recovery run played host to just that, where I broke out my new pair of Adidas Adios Boost 3s to replace a knackered pair of Adios Boost 2s.

A 5k recovery run with some strides thrown in was the perfect test to break-in the new pair of Adios Boost 3s. The outgoing pair of Adios Boost 2s were a nightmare from day 1, requiring excessive levels of break-in, by which time a third of the shoe’s lifespan had already been used up. The Adios Boost 3s are comfortable straight out of the box and flew when they were subjected to a few bursts of strides.

Specifically, these will be used as tempo shoes, so things like marathon pace runs, casual parkruns, speed work, and so on. Basically, they’re a workhorse shoe to take the stress away from my race-specific shoes, where they’re even more fragile due to being at the cutting edge of performance. There’s a psychological benefit to having shoes you only break out for big performances, and I wish to keep that trick in my arsenal.

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

Magor 10k 2017 review

For the full report, please click here.

10 miles – to Usk and back

With a Saturday race, Sunday presented the option of some top up mileage to round the week off and get it over 40 miles. That was the dream, but the reality was a bit trickier…

On the surface, the Magor 10k seemed to have taken a bit more out of me than originally thought because the first half of the 10 miles did not feel right at all. Even at a modest pace, the effort felt totally off and I was left sweating a lot more than anticipated. I bided my time and began chipping away progressively at each mile by a couple of seconds; giving my brain something achievable to focus on got me to halfway, where everything was right with the world again and I’d perked up.

Negative splits and running progressively. It’s the future!

Here’s the Strava data for this run.

The road to the Yorkshire Marathon II

Using the race as an analogy, I feel like I’m entering that stage where significant progress has been made, but now no-man’s land beckons; too far from the beginning where feeling fresh is now just a distant memory, and still too far from the finish to be able to properly assess what the likely outcome will be.

Reviewing last year’s blog entries reveals similar themes of ebbing and flowing; some weeks felt like a real struggle and other weeks carried great momentum. Without becoming too romantic about it all, the marathon and the training that comes before it are both great literal journeys; there’s no such thing as an easy marathon, and nor is the training supposed to be easy, otherwise the achievement would not be celebrated quite as much as it is, whether you’re a beginner, improver or elite-level.

Things will be just fine. Trust me. I work in marketing!

Magor 10k 2017 review

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Final 200m of the Magor 10k 2017 – photo by Lis Yu

For previous races, please click the following:

Pre-race

Regrettably, this would be the first year where a PB was nowhere near happening. I’ve had several significant runs on the course, including my first ever sub-40 in 2014, so it was a real shame that I wasn’t in the right shape to capitalise on the opportunity. That’s not to say I’m unfit, just that training specificity now counts even more than ever before. What I was determined to do was to get a good threshold session out of the race, with anything in the region of 39:15 to 39:30 being satisfactory

I could not fathom why this race was moved from its traditional Sunday fixture to Saturday, but when I received the communication that the race HQ had also changed from Undy Athletic Football Club to a church, it all made sense. Some positive changes to come with the location move was the much wider start area for a cleaner dispersal and chip timing, though oddly only just for the finish; in essence, it was still a gun-timed race, but finish times were automatically logged.

Rocking up at the temporary race HQ in good time, there were already plenty of people about with some from as far flung as Chippenham; clearly the reputation of the flat course has spread. We also had Lis’ host family from her time in Spain in tow, showing them how we typically spend many weekends of the year.

Conditions above were overcast for some relief compared to a year ago, but my warm-up did confirm a 10mph headwind would hit during the first half of the course, so my game plan was to approach the opening 5k in just under 20 minutes, and then treat the remainder as a 5k race and take advantage of the hopeful tailwind.

Toeing up at the start, I did notice one chap wearing the new Nike Vaporfly 4% for the race; they already looked like they’d had some training wear on them, so I asked him for his thoughts. “Yeah, they’re really comfy,” was his not so helpful response, but at least we can all be safe in the knowledge we’d be comfortable wearing them in a race!

On the starter’s orders of “3-2-1-Go”, we were off.

The race

Keeping the race casual, I purposely positioned myself a few rows further back than normal to ensure I had plenty of people to deflect the gusts of wind blowing. Sure enough, I was tailing two guys that seemed reasonably reliable at pacing to allow me to make it to halfway feeling fresh. I’m normally conscious to never overstay my welcome when drafting, but I had no qualms on this occasion to simply sit in and let the mules do all the work. So reliable were they that 1km to 3km came out as the following: 4:01, 4:00, 3:57.

Gaps began to form as people tired around the group. I decided to stay put and remain calm in the knowledge that I could handle a faster second half with little issue once out of the wind. Whilst not warm enough to need water, I still took some on-board at the station to further slow the fourth km to 4:03.

Leaving Redwick village and the turning out of the wind, I took a sidestep out from behind my impromptu pacers and set my sails free to take advantage of the tailwind. Of course, tailwinds never return as much as headwinds take, so its effect was very subtle…

Working on my own, I gradually chipped away at the distance between me and the next group to begin reeling them in. 5km to 7km came out as follows: 3:54, 3:52, 3:53.

Nearing 8km and the switchback, I was finally within striking distance of the group I stalked and I planned to use the exit from the turnaround point to pounce. Sure enough, their momentum slowed and I was catapulted forward to gain two positions. Not being ungrateful, I gave some encouragement to one of the guys I’d used as a windbreak as we faced each other; the other chap was nowhere to be seen, so I figured he couldn’t have been far behind me. 8km expectedly slowed a touch to 3:56.

On the approach to 9km, I heard footsteps and heavy breathing coming up quickly behind. Pulling up alongside me was the other guy I’d used as a windbreak! He’d obviously had a similar strategy to me with negative splits, albeit more smoothly spread out throughout the second half of the race. 3:54 for the penultimate split.

Running for the finish, the two of us swallowed up a flagging club runner. Rounding the final corner, the two of them made a breakaway with me in chase. The newly located finish was leagues ahead of the 2016 equivalent that took runners down a narrow alleyway; now wide an unimpeding, I pushed out a minor kick on the new finishing straight to ensure to I made it back in under 39:30, not accounting for the additional 70m or so nearly everybody seemed to acquire en route (likely due to that switchback being too far out).

Post-race

Here’s the Strava data for this race.

39:27 was my finish time to just make it back under target. That additional 70m cost me some 14 seconds, so I was thankful I wasn’t in PB shape, else I’d have been spitting feathers! runbritain has given the race just a 0.8 condition score, and looking at the results, many still PBd despite the additional distance.

I thanked the first of my two windbreaks and congratulated him on a nicely paced run, before moving my attention on to the other windbreak, who bagged a new 10k PB and his first sub-40 by with just a second to spare.

All in, not a bad morning’s work. Whether you go by my Garmin’s splits or the official splits, I achieved a negative split of around either 30 or 45 seconds between the first and second half, neither of which are to be sniffed at.