Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Culloden 10k (or, I'm really glad that I showed up)

I almost decided this morning not to do this race.  My training hadn't gone the way that I wanted due to knackering my back (an inflating-the-tyres injury, nothing to do with running), and a recce by car of the course a couple of days ago left me feeling seriously concerned about how hilly the course is.  The 'exciting, fast, mostly flat route' described on the website didn't bear any relation to what I saw on the ground.  Because I had it in my head that this was going to be THE RACE in which I was going to prove to myself that I could still run a 10k in under an hour, it kind of didn't seem worth doing because I knew that I couldn't achieve what I wanted...but I did the race anyway and, even though I didn't break an hour, I had a great time trying.

Bassman again very kindly acted as chauffeur, bag carrier, and (reluctantly) clothing consultant.  It was almost impossible to decide what to wear:  it was sunny but with a biting cold wind, and rain was predicted about half-way through the 10k.  Vest versus long-sleeved top?  Jacket and vest combo?  Long-sleeved top with vest underneath?  Hat?  Sunglasses?  Gloves?  Aaarrrggghhh!  Bassman stayed calm through all of the deliberations, although I suspect that the distant look in his eyes as I wittered on meant that he had gone to a Happy Place inside his head to help him cope.

In the end, I opted for just my vest, no  hat (too windy; it would have blown away), and no sunglasses (too pretentious; it wasn't that sunny).  And my tights - which I had changed 5 minutes before we left the house for the race - were the capri compression tights that I wore for the marathon to remind myself that I can face and overcome challenges.  You'll be pleased to know that all of my choices were the correct ones.  Anyway, the race...

View across the Moray Firth
As always, I was in the back of the pack.  As always, a brisk pace was set.  But this time, I kept up because I felt fine.  My race plan was to run at a pace that felt good without relying too much on my Garmin.  This worked for me in last month's River Ness 10k, so no reason why it shouldn't work here, right?  The first 3k were a joy:  gorgeous views across the Moray Firth to the Kessock Bridge and the surrounding hills and mountains.  We were running into a headwind the whole way and there were some gentle but long inclines, but on the whole I felt strong physically and cardio-wise. 

And then we took a sharp left turn onto a side road and started the climb up the almost 2km long hill that had looked bad enough when I drove up it in the car but felt endless on foot.  I really really didn't want to walk for any of the race but at 4km and struggling to keep my breathing under control (and feeling a bit sick), I gave in and walked for a minute or so.  This did help, and I managed to shuffle my way without stopping to the 5km point where there was a water station.  Normally I don't drink anything on 10k runs but I was so thankful to have a legitimate chance to stop and catch my breath that I accepted a plastic cup of gloriously cold water.  A few sips later, mostly taken standing still and pretending that I couldn't drink while running but really because I needed a break, and I was off again.

The next kilometre was a steep downhill section that I initially was cautious about, as I worried that my back might feel jarred by the impact but, aside from my lungs which were lagging behind, everything felt good so I picked up the pace.  At the bottom of the hill, there was a sharp left turn onto another small road, with lots of undulations appearing in the distance.  Sigh.

How it felt, not how it really was.
Now, I had spent some time last night reading about how to run up hills and the advice for short undulating sections was to run up the hill at your 5k pace and coast down the other side.  I don't really have a 5k pace - I have slow, normal and a-bit-faster-than-normal - so I tried to keep to the pace I was running (rather than slowing down as everyone else was doing) and powered up the hills using my arms for momentum.  And damned if it didn't work.  I didn't exactly float up the hills but I didn't struggle either.  Of course, there weren't really downhill sections - the pattern was uphill, level section, uphill, level section, etc - but I seemed to be coping better than a lot of the people around me.

At about 8.5k the road leveled off to a very gentle incline which I really felt in my legs, and I had to have a serious talk with myself about not walking.  Going slower was okay; walking was not.  With 1k to go, we were back on the main road heading for the finish.  I had miscalculated my iPod playlist - I was expecting to take about 70min to finish and had my songs arranged to fit this - so wasted a bit of time faffing about until I found my Finishing Music (Queen's Don't Stop Me Now).  My tired(ish) legs and heaving lungs perked up and I managed to run at 9:09min/mile pace for the last 0.2 miles.  Don't believe me?  Here are my official Garmin splits:

                                                 Mile 1:        9:30
                                                 Mile 2:        9:43
                                                 Mile 3:      11:33
                                                 Mile 4:      10:04
                                                 Mile 5:        9:39
                                                 Mile 6:        9:53
                                                (0.2 miles):  9:09

Finishing chip time was 1:01:28.  I was 22nd out of 40 women in my age group and 115th out of 184 women of all ages, and 252nd out of 332 overall.  Not the speediest, but not last either!  And faster than my River Ness time on a hillier and windier course.  AND if I hadn't had to slow down and then walk on that bastard hill, I'm convinced that I would have finished in under an hour.  I was (and still am) thrilled!

It's now six hours after crossing the finish line and I'm feeling okay.  I feel like I pushed myself but nothing feels like it's injured.  We'll see how I feel tomorrow but maybe, just maybe, it's time to change my view of myself from someone who is injured to someone who is...a runner!

Finally, a happy runner again!


  1. I'm always in a Happy Place when I'm with you, dear. xxx

    1. There's a very fine line between sarcasm and affection! xxx

  2. Well done from Paul and me! You deserve to be thrilled. xx

    1. Thanks! I would have been even more thrilled if I had finished under 60 minutes, but at least I have it in my sights now. xx

  3. Whoo hoo! Congratulations. That sounds like quite a course. I reckon if you'd had a chance at consistent training you would have managed under an hour, even with the bastard hill. Next year...! Any other 10ks coming up?

  4. Thanks! If I had done any consistent HILL training, I'm sure that the course wouldn't have felt as hard as it did - time to stop organising my runs around the flattest routes that I can find...will try to find a 10k for sometime in December (want to join me?) and then start increasing miles for half-marathon distance. I think. Right now, I'm just running what feels good and not worrying too much about having a plan. See you next month!

  5. I should sign up for something to get myself consistently back on track rather than the start-stop for while-start again at square one that is my current running regime!

    1. I'm interpreting this as 'Yes please, I'm up for doing a race!' Will have a look to see what's on in Dec/Jan. x

  6. Given all your probs with recalcitrant body parts I'm surprised you decided to actually run it instead of doing it in your imagination... but you did brilliantly! Well done you! Good luck for the next one xx

    1. Given all my problems with recalcitrant body parts, I fear that even running in my imagination is likely to strike me down...will enjoy this period of fun & injury free running for as long as it lasts! xx