Thursday, 13 August 2015

Keeping It Real....

Getting back into training is all very well, but it's easy to hide behind it, and sometimes you just need to get out there and race to see eaxctly what stage you're at. I hadn't run a road race since Comrades and so, no matter how reluctant I felt, I knew I needed to get out there and test myself.

My father is working overseas for a few weeks, and so my mother came over to Dumfries to visit me for a few days - and we decided to take a nice day trip out, combining me running the Haddington Half Marathon with her catching up with some old friends.

A "happy breakfast" to set us up for the day ;-)

We took a scenic route up there through the Borders, stopping for a cafe-break halfway, but the number of tractors and "Sunday drivers" meant that we only arrived just over half an hour before the race started. Less time to stress about actually racing, but just enough time for me to register and change and then make sure that Mama had met her friends.

The pre-race announcement included the usual warnings about "open roads", hence headphones being banned, and also a jokey remark about the finish ("for those that haven't reccied it, remember to turn into the field and run along the edge of it to the finish when you get back to here").....and then we were off. 
The first 100m of the race was along an uneven road with several speed bumps, so I made sure that I was a few rows back and to the side to avoid coming a cropper with any of the fast starters. We then turned a corner to be suddenly faced with a steep hill, which certainly got the pulse rate up...but meant I could weave my way up through the field. As we headed downhill back into town at around the first mile marker, I noticed a guy cutting into the road in front of me (he had cut the corner) with headphones in both ears. The funny thing was that he had to take them out to hear me when I shouted a warning to him, as I thought it would be a shame to run the whole way and then be DQ'd for not obeying the rules!

Everybody seemed to settle into their run in the first few miles and so positions didn't change evry much, but I did notice that I closed up a bit on the guys in front of me (including my club mate Alan) on every uphill we had to contend with....and there were a few!! After about 4 miles we changed direction completely from running towards the east to a more westerly direction......which was unfortunately into a lovely headwind!

A guy from one of the more local clubs (Portobello) tucked in behind me, but after a while I waved him past. This was partly for selfish reasons, as I hated hearing him grunting in my ear with every breath, and partly because I thought that if he could make up the 10m or so to the group of 4 guys ahead, then they'd be able to pull him along at a quicker pace.

Not the flattest race profile!!!

I was surprised to be so close to this group, as it contained Alan and I am used to spotting him much further down the road ahead of me fact, just a few moments later, I was with them and trying to push them on. I felt that I wasn't running as fast as usual, so I thought they must have really drifted off their usual pace. They didn't seem to want to push on at all so I found myself leading the group, with them tucking in behind....not ideal when you've almost 5 miles to run into a headwind!!!

It was lovely to get a cheer from my mum and her friend at the 7 mile water station as I hadn't expected them to be out on the course at all, though I don't think they expected me to be leading a gaggle of men either.
I was hoping that everyone would take a share of pacemaking/windbreaking duties as I was thinking "don't race me guys, work with me and we can reel in this man ahead" but it was left to me to chase him down (which eventually did happen). When we chatted after the race, the guys did say that it wasn't that they didn't want to, but just that they didn't have the extra speed (which I guess is actually a compliment!) - and on the odd occasion when one of them did come up alongside me and start to move across, the pace did drop so I had to take the lead again.
Alan came past on my inside on a nice downhill stretch at about 9 miles and so I asked him if he'd personally selected this race for our club championship. The downhill stretch soon turned into our last major climb and so he admitted "yes, but never again!". This section finally separated our little group so with 3 miles to go, we were all strung out along the road, with some of the guys just seeming to have more left in their legs than me.
Side by side with Alan in the final stretch
I'm not sure what it was about this section of the race, but I think I found it the least enjoyable, even though it was the flattest. I guess that we'd turn back to head east so no longer had the headwind to cool us down, and the sunny day had certainly brought out the flies in force. It definitely wasn't just that I was smelling more attractive to them all than anyone else, as other people were also swatting away round their heads as they ran!

With about a mile to go, I had closed the gap to Alan to just a few metres and as he wasn't making any impression on the guys ahead of him, I suggested that it might be nice to finish the race together as it was our club championshiop race - and we were the first club male and female. It seemed like a nice way to get through the final stretch of the race, though when I passed Alan he did ask me not to go too fast as he was starting to cramp up.
Into the finish...
I made sure that we were side by side as we headed down that final stretch of road (though it was almost like running into a wall as you turned back into the storng headwind for 100m or so down the rough road with its speedbumps) and turned into the field. If we'd pushed it, I think we would have overtaken the man in front on the grass as he seemed to suddenly fade, but we just had a nice relaxed run in to finish 11th and 12th overall. Not amazing times, but then nobody would have run a quick time on that course on that day (though if teams had been mixed rather than single sex, I think DRC might have been the first team, as clubmate Jacob wasn't too far back).

DRC Champs 2015

It turns out that interesting things had happened slightly further up the field, which is why I mentioned the announcement at the start. The man who had been in second place for most of the race missed the turn into the field and ended up going into a housing estate, and so finished in 3rd place after all. I believe his language wasn't the best when he actually ran into the field, which did seem rather harsh, as we'd been warned about remembering to turn into the field, and there were also orange arrows painted on the ground, and many supporters there. He looked rather grumpy at the prize giving, but that was probably embarrassment about what he'd shouted earlier, and the organisers did acknowledge that he would have finished in second place if it wasn't for this error.

Comparing the male and female trophies

Despite it not being the best race ever, I would say that all in all it was a great day out for myself and my mum....and was made even better by the amount of cakes and cookies we were given post race, so we could all sit on the grass with a cuppa and catch up with friends old and new!

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