Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Weekend at the Races, Part 2 : Balfron 10k

My weekend at the Races continued with a consolation race of doing the Balfron 10k in place of the Highland Fling.

Sunday Morning : Balfron 10k

What difference a day can make.  Saturday was clear with light winds, Sunday was overcast and windy with showers thrown into the mix.  As a fallback race I wasn't at all psyched up to race, normally I get nervous before a race but picked up my friend and follow Callander runner Andrew Dimmer and was completely relaxed and comfortable and just happy to be out and being part of something big.

The Balfron 10k is the a local 10k that has been running for a number of years is exceptionally well organized and attended.  The field was even bigger than the Flings and all had to assemble in road in front of the Balfron academy campus.  I knew from the previous time I had run at that one had to get near to the start line to avoid being tramped behind hundreds of slower runners.  I squeezed in 10  meters back from the start line and we were off, albeit at walking pace till we crossed the line when the field started opening up enough to start running.

The first half mile I was weaving in and out of slower runners, by the time we descend the first hill out of Balfron the crowds thin out and find myself running alongside a dozen or so runners moving at a similar pace.  The next two miles are undulating but on average downhill and keep place going uphill and overtake runners on the descents.  Checking my HR monitor is a little alarming though - already up in the 178 to 180 range, while I don't feel I'm working hard and my breathing is relaxed I don't feel comfortable - I lack the elasticity and smoothness in my legs that I normally have.

From the 4km marker out turnaround point at half way I keep position but am now having to work harder to maintain the speed.  When I ran my 39:36 PB at the Killin 10k in August last year I saw similar HR readings and the pace out the half way point was actually similar, but this time around I could tell that maintaining the intensity would be much more of a struggle. Shortly before the turn around point the leaders pass us on their return leg, we cheer them on and I take comfort in being over a minute up on my splits for my previous Balfron 10k.

Once around the turnaround point a couple of runners surge past me and as I'm already working plenty hard enough don't take chase, instead work on keeping in touch with the other runners ahead who I've been tailing for the last 1km.  My time at the turn was just under 20 minutes, given my lack of race fitness I'm chuffed to be progressing so near to my PB pace.

Rather quickly reality set in, the turnaround has us heading back into directly into a stiff breeze which takes the speed out of the descents and makes the uphills slower, everything now feels much harder work.  Out the outbound leg we clearly benefited greatly from the tailwind but hardly noticed it so was fooled into false sense of ease of progress.  The return leg wouldn't benefit from any free speed, on average uphill and into wind it was to become a real slog.

I wasn't the only runner suffering, despite all the hills being perfectly runnable several runners ahead were slowly badly and two stopped to walk on one of the longer ascents. I gained a few places and held off others on that had been behind me, but all I felt like doing was stopping myself, sustaining the level of effort was tough.  It was odd, my HR was still way high, up in the 176-182 range, normally this would be above my lactate threshold,  but my relatively calm breathing compared to those around me, and lack of leg burn suggested I wasn't going too anaerobic, but my legs were just unresponsiveness and lacking in any bounce.

The final km marker came and went and shortly after we were heading up the last hill back into Balfron.  Spectators lined the street and cheered us on.  A runner that I had overtaken on an earlier hill was now chasing me hard, but both of us were out of touch of the runners ahead so it was going to be half mile race in between us too.  I keep the intensity up expecting to drop him but still he I could sense him not far behind, with around 100m to go we turn into the drive way of the Balfron Acadmay campus, it's a steady uphill all the way to finish with hundreds of vectors roaring us on.

My chaser began to pull up beside me but I know how much crowds love a sprint finish I can't help but find last reserves of strength and accelerate and pull back ahead.  With 40m to go it looks like I've got it sown up and straight line it to the finish.  I'm aware that my line would be closing off a way through to my competitor who is on my inside, the thought occurs to me the killer instinct would have me close off the gap, but this just isn't sporting so shift myself over to give him a fighting chance and proper crowd pleasing photo finish.  With  5m to rather than being beat he finds a final surge that brings him level and moving faster, there is too little time to respond he just pips me to the finish.

I am astonished that I was able to find the sprint finish - perhaps the best sprint finish of my life, I go across to my challenger to congratulate him on a brilliant finish.  He wasn't having anything of it, rather than sharing respect for a worthy competitor it was the exact opposite, it was like I had done something wrong.  What a contrast to running an Ultra where everyone shows respect for the public, marshals and each other.

Thankfully the marshals are much more friendly, they dutifully remove my timing chip from my foot, give me good bag and T-shirt and a few slices of oranges.  I gingerly walk to join the crowds and cheer the other finishers.  Not long after I finish Andrew comes in, chuffed to bits with how his run went.

After quick change and a cup of tea the heavens open and we head back home.  Just as we area leaving we spot one of the organizers sticking up results on a window - amazingly they were printing out the results as runners came in so we could get our gun time and chip time right away.  This was another example of the really impressive organization behind the race.

My chip time was 41:50, 23 seconds faster than my Callander 10k the previous week, this would be great but Callander 10k is substantially hillier (~550ft vs 300ft), and I raced the Balfron 10k much harder, shown by my average HR of 178 at Balfron being 3 bpm higher.  In hindsight I went out too fast and struggled to maintain the work intensity, but also I think a week off running probably left my body detuned.

I also think my relaxed state prior to the race rather than being a good thing probably meant that I didn't have the elevated Adrenaline levels that make speed so much easier and putting up with discomfort so much more bearable.  Perhaps I was expecting too much to race well off such poor training and the psychological hit of having to pull out the Highland Fling.

Full Balfron 10k race results can be at here.

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