Sunday, 15 September 2013

Baldock 10K: will the hills ever end?

Today I ran in the inaugural Baldock 10K, starting at Newnham, to Bygrave, Ashwell, then back to Newnham. I cycled to the race start with my friend Tracey, since it was only a couple of miles away and we thought it would be a good warm up. We didn't count on our woeful cycling/gear changing and I forgot there were hills. So legs were a bit tired when we arrived!

The race HQ was located in an industrial estate, with the baggage store in a farmer's grain store (complete with combine harvester) and toilets in Reclamation Russell's office (if you see any mirrors, send them to Russell). There was BBQ (supplied by Chapman's butcher) at the start, and I had my eye on a bacon roll for when I'd finished the race.

The start was quite a walk from the HQ, up a farm track. Organisation was a bit hit-and-miss with the timing, the "timing man" couldn't get his van to the start line to put down the mat, so he had to carry all his equipment through the runners. (I did offer to help him but no-one else seemed bothered.) He just slapped the mat down randomly and we were almost ready to go. As usual, we (me, Tracey, and Ralph) were at the front, Dave Lawson has a lot to answer for.

I had a slight idea of the route from a pre-race report published on the organiser's website. I wasn't quite prepared for the muddy conditions though. The first mile was across a farmer's field. It started gravelly with some puddles, it soon turned into thick mud. My shoes were caked, and I was carrying extra weight on my feet. Made the first few km very hard.

Once we hit the road at Bygrave the mud started to fly off my shoes, although we were then hit with a hill for a mile. My legs were starting to protest! I picked up a young lad who seemed to be running a good pace and we ran together for the next few miles, chatting to each other every so often about our hoped-for finish times (about 50 minutes).

When we entered Ashwell we had more hazards to think about: the narrow pavements (couldn't run on the road because of parked cars), stone steps, bushes, and startled old ladies (my personal favourite). There was a nasty hill out of Ashwell, I had to push hard at this point (I'd lost my young man *sniff*). One of the runners behind told me at the finish that he'd been focusing on my back (you know he really meant arse) hoping to catch me up but I was "too strong". Hurrah!

A lovely flat stretch for the final mile was improved 100% by spotting Jane and her young support crew cheering us on. I could also see the smoke from the BBQ so I knew I was close. Unfortunately, a glance at my watch showed me I'd be very lucky to break 50 minutes, even if I ran a 7 minute mile. So I didn't. I resigned myself to 50-something and cruised home. Was lovely to see Ralph and Tracey with their medals!

My official time was 51:45, which I'm pleased with considering I had planned to run this as a training run for Standalone 10K, and in view of all those hills. (As I ran up the first hill, I vowed never to run a race around Baldock again, so please remind me next year when I'm considering Baldock Beast again.) Details of the run are below.

We obviously had to cycle home again, but first we stuck around for the presentation, because Tracey came third lady! Well done Tracey :)

The cycle home was hilarious. We couldn't get going up the hills, and Ralph (who ran home) was way ahead of us! He probably could've beat us home but, as a gentleman, he escorted us through the fields through Radwell back to Stotfold. So. Much. Mud. And tree roots. And just a lot of shrieking. Tracey and I have vowed never to do a triathlon.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Duck N Dash 2013

Today I competed in Freedom Tri's Duck N Dash aquathlon. It was my first ever multi-event race, and I learnt a lot!

Post registration! A good look for Saturday evening

I walked the 2.5 miles from Stotfold to Letchworth as a warm-up, arriving at the outdoor pool at 8am to set up my transition area. Here, I set out my towel, run shorts and race top with number pinned on, my trainers and socks (full of baby powder!), and my drink. I'd registered the day before, so also had my race number written on my arm and leg. My timing chip was attached to my ankle with a strap, to be worn for the whole event.

Here I encountered my first problem. I'd walked to Letchworth in my running gear, which I'd just removed for transition. I should've brought warm clothes to wear while waiting! Fortunately I had my fleece and spare clothes for afterwards, so I wore those. Next time (!) I'll need a tracksuit and some spare socks and shoes. 

My transition area

While waiting for transition to close and the race briefing to start, I wandered around the pool area, trying to find someone I knew. At running events I usually see a lot of people I recognise, here I didn't spot many at all! Finally found my friend Jane, whose son was competing in the Ducklings section, and Ed and Elinor from run club, whose daughter was also taking part. Latched onto them for a while until I spotted my friend Sarah who was doing the event as a relay with her husband. It was good to chat about what we were about to do, made me feel less anxious!

After the race briefing, I got changed out of my warm clothes (kept the fleece on), and then met my family, who'd just arrived to support. We found a spot to watch the Duckling swimming event and enjoyed that, then it was my turn. 

We had another mini briefing, including how to swim the course and about overtaking, then we lined up in number order. I was 145, about in the middle of the group. Swimmers set off every 10 seconds. I dumped my fleece in the "Duck" bucket, then the next thing I knew, I was in the water and swimming. Felt very comfortable (surprisingly!). I think it was the reassuring sight of someone's feet just ahead of me. Felt someone touch my toes, so at the end of the lane I let him pass me. Same again on the next 50m, but after that it was me doing the overtaking. Had a "can't breath" moment about 200m in, slight panic as I inhaled water for three consecutive breaths, but soon recovered. There was a bit of a melee on one 50m stretch, lots of overtaking and slow swimmers, but just stood my ground (water?) and I was fine. 

Before I knew it I was out of the pool and running to my transition area. As usual, I stopped for a chat with my neighbour ("can't believe we just did that!") and struggled putting my shoes on (should've bought those bungee laces). Not a disaster, but not as fast as it could've been. 

Thanks to Freedom Tri for the photo

Initially, the run started OK, was good to see Ed supporting too! I had put a gel in my pocket earlier, so I had that as I started. Legs went to jelly a bit on the first 0.5K but I know the run course really well, so knew it was just a tough path rather than me. Overtook and was overtaken, but mainly didn't lose places. Spotted my family at the end of the first lap, son shouted "boo mummy you're rubbish", he's obviously learnt that from his dad ;-) On the second lap I could sense a lady behind me breathing heavily but getting a lot of support from the marshals. Obviously a club runner. I kept her behind me, every time I heard her get closer I sped up. She helped keep me focused on that second lap. As we approached the finish she began to pass me, and I let her for a few metres, then my sprint finish kicked in. I'm so proud of that finish! I wish more people had seen it (modest?). 

I did thank her at the end for pushing me, and she said I'd kept her going too. Excellent! Overall time was 41:37. Swim and transition took me 11:39 and the run was 29:59. Pleased with the run time (average 8 min/mile pace), swim was probably about 9:30 leaving a good 2 mins in transition. Told you it felt slow!

Big thanks to the Freedom Tri members today, they were really helpful when I had seemingly stupid questions to ask ("do I really wear my timing chip in the pool?!"), were great during the pre-swim briefing, and were obviously enjoying the event. It's a big race to organise, with the two events to marshal and lots of different groups: Ducklings (children's groups), Ducks (400m swim), Drakes (600m swim), and the relay. I think they did a great job. I was impressed at the number of children competing, and how carefully those events were monitored. 

Thanks also to Becca and Jane who gave me lots of advice, and Kieran (my physio) who is the reason I entered. 

I "might" consider possibly doing this again next year. Might.