First up here's pre race photo of the Falls of Dochart at the westerly end of Killin where the race starts, the falls is a big tourist spot so I was lucky to be up before they all arrived!
After registration we assembled at the start and while I was warming up friends and family assembled the Hungry Caterpillar. Ellen (middle of shot) and Gwen (right and front) are seen here holding up the head that had been beautifully created by Julia (wife) and Caitlin (eldest daughter).
I rested up after the Wednesday tempo run but both my Plantar Fascia and calf strain hadn't settle on the Friday so I arranged a visit with Mari Menzies our local physio. Mari didn't think the strain was anything to worry about, and curiously enough for the first time in three days it hadn't started to ease off by the time I sat down in her office. The Plantar Fascia was a different issue though, Mari diagnosed the issue as Plantar Fasciitis so my own guess was on the money. Keeping on running by easing off on distances and pace was also something I had done, save for the tempo run, so again I was doing most of the right things... Except I had a race planned for the next day, and possible marathon a week later!
Mari suggested tapping up my feet to reduce the amount of stretch that the Plantar Fascia would undergo when running to avoid tearing it further and making the injury worse. First up we tried stiff white tape that largely immobilised my arch and I tried a short run up and down on the pavement outside and I was profoundly shocked by how awful it felt.
You take for granted how your foot gracefully deforms on landing as you load it up, you don't realise it just how significant this is until you immobilise it. I ran with just my left foot taped up and my right foot sockless in the shoe and my left foot felt painful and contorted while my right felt relaxed, natural and dare I say it sensual. I loved how my right foot and hated how my foot felt.
It was pretty clear that I just wouldn't enjoy running 100m taped up like this let alone a whole 10km race. I returned to Mari with the decision that I'd rather not run the race than be taped up like that. Mari had a fall back option - Elasticated Blue Kt Tape, the type that was spotted by many Olympic Athlete in London, this wouldn't provide the level of protection that the stiff tape would but it might provide a little support. I tried it out and found that this minimal level of support was comfortable on both feet - I still felt the natural foot motion that has become so ingrained since running in minimal footwear. Below is photo after the race of the tapping on my feet.
Less support means less protection though so it was a case of weighing up the risk of setting back the healing process or worse making the the injury more serious against putting away a good time. After my quick tempo run on Wednesday I knew I was in the shape to set a personal best, and estimated than a sub 40 minute 10k was well within my grasp (my previous PB was 40:32 set last spring at the Trossachs 10k in Aberfoyle). Actually one of the strong motivations for me doing the race was to find out just whether I could predict performance based on training HR and pace, the scientist in me wanted to conduct the experiment. In the end it was the scientific geek in me that was the greater motivation over the ego of setting a PB, it was time to do the experiment of 1.
My plan for the race was run a steady race, enough to set a PB, no getting caught up racing others. A 40minute 10km make the pacing pretty easy - as long as I averaged less than 4 minutes between the 1km markers I was going to make it in sub 40m. I knew I was pushing my luck with my injury so followed Mari's advice of doing a progressive warming - starting with a walk, then slow jog then steadily working up towards race pace. This approach was intended to warm my muscles, tendons and muscle fascia as well as stretch then in prep for the race ahead so I wouldn't sudden stretch the plantar fascia with a quick start.
The race started with me just a few feet behind the start line, I pressed my HR monitor watch right away but after about 10 seconds looked down to see that it hadn't started, oops. A firm press of the start button set it going, but it now meant that I had no absolute time to work from. The first km is gently downhill along Killin high street and the downhill lead to a time on my watch for first km of just 3:25, oops that was a bit fast. My HR monitor reading of 177 already too which was rather alarming, this was higher than my normal lactate threshold HR of 175-176, to hit so quickly was unsettling. My breathing was easy though and my legs and feet felt fine so I just worked on keeping things steady.
By the 2nd km marker the field was now starting to thin out with me in around 11th and was now felt into step with a two other runners who looked to be sticking to a similar pace, still comfortable sub 40min so I was happy. The next few km I tagged along just behind the two other runners but it was clear that were breathing was much more laboured - two breaths for one of mine and loud. I couldn't help but feel that they were pushing too hard and wondered about suggesting that they might do better by easing off a little. I didn't need to though after them setting the pace for 3km we hit a small gradient and they suddenly weren't going at my pace any more and I passed. I hadn't pushed on, my HR was still bobbing up around 177 to 180 so I think it was simply a case of them going to hard and finally succumbing to the pace rather than me pushing on.
By the 5km I over took a couple more runners that had been 50m ahead, again I was keeping my pace steady, despite the more hilly terrain I was still keeping my km times ticking by around the 4min per km pace. My HR was still very high - I've never run a race and seen such a steady high HR, I felt comfortable though. At the around the 5 1/2km mark the route hits it's first proper hill and this even reduced a runner around a 100m ahead to walking. I paced the hill based on my HR, not letting it exceed 180, so I took it relatively comfortably, but now was aware that fatigue was starting to set in and breathing was a little harder. The hill finally ended at the turn around point and I was hoping for a nice quick descent but the route took a left junction stayed high on the north side of the valley. The small road was on average downhill but interrupted by many undulations that it still felt pretty hilly.
At the 7km mark I was slowly closing the gap with the runners ahead and on checking my watch at the km marker was surprised to be asked what pace we were on! I hadn't noticed a runner approaching my from behind and his breathing was no heavier than mine, a stark contrast with all the runners I had past. We chatted for a km but never did I realize that he was in fact my daughter Caitlin's piano teacher, I only found out when he introduced himself at the prize giving later! As quickly as our conversation had started it finished when I slowed on hitting a short uphill trying to keep my effort level constant Robin just kept the pace up and shot off to catch the runners ahead.
I was only competing against the clock and knew that a PB and sub 40min time was within my grasp as long as I didn't screw up, the km's kept ticking by and each time I was still within my goal of 4min/km. The last km came and on entering Killin village allowed my pace to quicken a little with my HR going up above 180.
Robin had caught and passed the two runners ahead and I was steadily catching them too so it looked possible that I'd be able to the same if I went all out. I didn't through caution to the wind though, the spectre of making my Plantar Fascia injury getting worse kept me in check, I had a job to do, no heroics were required, just doing what my current level of fitness was perfectly capable of. By the finishing straight I was just 5m behind the 7th placed runner and even without an all out sprint finish closing fast. I crossed the line with the clock at 39:33.
I was really pleased to do what I had set out to do, and to have completed it in such a controlled, almost clinical fashion - my training had pointed to being in the best shape of my adult life and now I had a PB by a minute to cement it. I was also relieved to be still moving comfortable, my Plantar Fascia had held up well and my calf strain hadn't bothered me at all.
I chilled out at the finish with other runners, friends and my family enjoying the family and having taken off my Trailroc's the lovely cool feeling of walking barefoot on damp grass field. We bundled up the Hungry Catepillar and headed to the prize giving. Turns out that I was 8th placed overall and 2nd male vet, curiously though my time was listed as 39:36 so it looks like either the finish clock was wrong or the time records. Either way I was still comfortably under 40 minutes for the first time ;-)