I blogged earlier in the week that I wasn't looking forward to the Runners World Forest of Dean Trailblazer 10k. The main problem I had with it being that rather than considering it a decent race I was viewing it as an opportunity for a long run missed. It was after all a Sunday morning and, as I latterly found out, the same day as the Tewkesbury Half Marathon. If it wasn't for the fact that I had paid £29 to enter, which seems pretty steep, I wouldn't have bothered.
So I drove the 20 or so miles down to the race village at Speech House. When I got there I was pleasantly surprised. There was a race village with a running shop, bar,cafe and various massage tents etc. Very professional. I checked in, got my number (54) and then milled about a bit. For me this was a novelty - I had plenty of time - normally I am scrambling to get to the venue and then in a panic to get ready. So far so good.
When I picked up my number I did see there was a baggage drop and a valuables drop point. With about 1minutes to go to the warm up start I went to drop my bag only to find that the baggage claim was unattended. Cue a mad dash to the car to leave my bag there and then check my valuables which were my car keys!
At the start of each wave there was a warm-up period - this was led by a lady on a podium with a microphone who took everyone (reluctantly) through some stretches and limber up exercises. Some easy stuff to get the muscles working and get the heart rate up a little. It was pretty funny watching the other people in the wave do this as no-one looked comfortable doing it. We are so reserved.
It was then a short walk to the start and a break in the weather. Up until this point it had been windy and pretty chilly, just before I sorted my bag there was a splattering of rain that actually made me think about wearing a rain jacket to run. I am glad that I didn't. As we walked to the start there were competitors from later waves arriving and the place was filling up rapidly. There was a woman who was not the smallest in running kit demolishing a hot-dog with onions! I've not seen that in any nutrition manuals;)
At the start there was a briefing about the trail, the markers etc. This was excellent and a show of hands highlighted that there were a lot of trail newbie's in the crowd - me included. Timing was by chip and so at 10:13 we set-off.
The course was excellent, there were some nice long trails, a longish and slow up hill that saw a number of runners lose ground and a long downhill stretch where I lost a lot of ground. Since I went running with @stoddy38 the other week I have noticed how reticent I am running down hill. This is a mental block and is purely because of my knee. Basically I'm nervous of it. SO on the first down hill I lost a bit of ground, I made it up gradually although in a 10km there isn't much time to do this. I used my Garmin (I think everybody in Wave 1-2 was wearing one!) and a glance down showed 2miles in a little over 00:12:30. A that point, feeling pretty strong I thought I was going to crack 40minutes. That wasn't to be and I eventually crossed the line with an official time of 00:41:03 (my Garmin shows 00:41:00 which with my love of symmetry and neatness is much more aesthetically pleasing).
My Garmin stats from Garmin Connect....
The long uphill took a lot of my pace away and I started to blow a little. I recovered sufficiently to be able to go again and increase slightly with the 40min carrot in mind. It was with huge disappointment that I rounded the final bend realising that I wasn't going to break 40 and that my finish would be impeded by a finish straight through a field with long grass. I am sure plenty put the hammer down here but I wasn't prepared to take the risk just to shave a few seconds off.
At the finish I removed the timing-chip was handed a bottle of water and a goody bag. The goody bag was excellent a Trailblazer nylon gym-sack containing a few magazines, some cereal bars, a bottle of for goodness shakes, some freeze patches etc. This together with a race t-shirt that is actually useable made the entry fee seem pretty decent.
I went through and got my keys, out to the car to get changed. I had a quick chat with a guy in a later wave who had travelled from Oxford then headed home.
I am glad that I made myself go and do it, it was brilliant to be competing again, to actually race and get that extra performance boost from racing. It was also nice that it was a 10k as it meant I had to run a lot faster than I would and that I have in training. When I crossed the line I knew I had put everything in to the race. Also the event itself was really brilliantly executed, plenty offriendly marshalls, lots of energy with the warm-ups and a genuine feel of being a proper race.
My targets at the beginning were sub 45min with a stretch target of sub 42mins. On that basis it was a success.
Checking the results website today I was 18th out of 558 finishers (there was one poor soul with a DNF - I wonder if it was the hot-dog lady?). That puts me in the top 3% which is a first!
Bring on the next race!