[This was meant to go out last week but I had Blog issues annoyingly]
Alton 10 on Sunday was fairly horrendous, and sadly I wasn’t alone in that opinion. I hasten to add that this was nothing to do with its organisation, the lovely volunteers or the race itself.
I’ve done the Alton 10 before, two years ago, and it was pretty much the same course. Funnily enough when I went back to read how it went it was from a post where I also claimed to have experienced the “worst race of my life” (I’m nothing if not dramatic I suppose). Though the race I was talking about was one of our club league races, an RR10, and not actually Alton 10.
It’s handy having a blog where you document your training and races because you can go back and refresh your memory on what a race was like. From my memory and the post, it sounded like I quite enjoyed it, though I wasn’t racing it then either. No the thing that made this race hideously horrendous was the weather. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved how beautiful and sunny the weather was all weekend but for running a 10 mile race that began at 10.30am it was tough indeed. I’d also eaten a small farmyard the day before at that BBQ restaurant…
Because the Cakeathon is looming ahead (last Bank holiday in May), I’m trying to get my long runs up again so I can attempt to do a fair number of laps (it’s a three mile lapped race where you have 6 hours to do as many as you like; laps = cake as well). Last weekend I did 10.5 miles so this weekend I wanted to do 13 miles so I got up early and ran three(ish) miles before leaving for the race.
It was handy to have these three miles beforehand so I could a) test the weather out and b) test my stomach out. I’d slept awfully and that was probably mostly due to the excessive quantities of meat eaten the day before. I felt like a BBQ was happening in my tummy all night. Anyway, the three miles went well but I realised quickly it was going to be a very warm race.
I decided to don the old crop top on for the first time this year, though I was a bit apprehensive as I didn’t feel quite my best after my few weeks of greediness indulgence post-marathon [side note: no I’m not saying I’m fat, I’m jut saying that I personally felt a bit fluffy].
I thought I wouldn’t fancy any breakfast before we left but I was actually really hungry. HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK? Bizarre. So I had a nice bowl of steaming porridge – perfect for the weather, I thought and my dad drove us to the race. I picked my bib up easily, went to the loo (an actual loo; hurrah for no portable toilets) and met up with some of the club while my dad headed off to a spot to spectate.
I chatted away to my friend, Sarah, on the start-line and realised I was thirsty already. She kindly gave me some of her water. And then we were off. My intentions were to use this simply as a long training run, aiming for a pace between 8-8.30min/miles. I knew the course was hilly so wasn’t going to stress if my pace edged closer to 9min/miles.
The first mile was pretty standard. I got into a nice groove and overtook a number of people. It was chip-timed but tricky to work out where to stand at the start so after a fair amount of overtaking I found a nice spot of people running a similar pace to me. The first mile is downhill so it was all very comfortable and la-di-dah.
(Photo credit: Alan DenmeadPhotos)
I saw my dad and he gave me a quiet “hello” which was slightly underwhelming, but given that the race was sparsely spectated and in the middle of some lovely, idyllic country roads on a Sunday morning I’m fairly glad he didn’t go mad with the cheering.
My dad actually made a GIF of me running – how cool is that?? I find GIF’s quite mesmerising…
Mile two hit and I was feeling HOT. There was limited shade and the sun was beating down hard. Urgh this was going to be a long old slog.
I managed to slowly crawl my way past a few people and tick along, but inside my head I was in my own personal hell. My face was hot, my quads were burning from the hills (not the sun thankfully) and I remember distinctly thinking “my legs never felt like this during the marathon”. And then later thought, as the sun seemed to sap every happy thought I’d ever had, “this is worse than the marathon”. I heard one girl really struggling saying to her friend, “I can run 10 miles no problem, just not in this temperature”. There were no happy vibes around.
My dad said even he noticed that the race felt very flat and people looked dejected. The heat was just making the race such hard work. The hills were relentless but that was to be expected. Downhills still sucked because of the sun. There were only three water stations which ordinarily in a 10 mile race wouldn’t be that bad, but in that temperature it wasn’t enough. Sensibly I stopped, literally stopped, at the water stations to drink a full cup of water and then take another to dump on my head. It revitalised me for a moment until I was hot and dry again.
I managed to get through the race by counting up the miles to mile five, and then counting back down again. The course goes out and comes back (albeit a different route) so you know when you’re heading back, which helped. I stared in wonder at a man running in a cotton t-shirt. Poor guy. Side note: I also saw a woman with four gels attached to her belt. Do you need four gels for a 10 mile race? I can sort of understand one if you really think you need it, but FOUR?
Not sure how I’m smiling…and the photographer was handily just after the water station, just after I’d poured water all over myself! (Photo credit: Alan DenmeadPhotos)
I didn’t push the pace, not that I could have done if I’d have tried! I felt comfortable with the pace but in terms of motivation and general happiness I was struggling. The last mile was horrendous. It was like someone had popped my balloon and I was slowly deflating. My legs were like blocks, which is odd because I hadn’t suddenly got faster or anything. I’d maintained a similar effort. I felt like I was crawling to the finish and the final hill right at the end all but ruined me. Then there’s a glorious little downhill and round the corner to the end.
So yeah it was pretty tough. I couldn’t have imagined trying to race it. I think had I run at home I would have run slower and I’m chuffed with the effort levels involved because of the hills but realistically this race felt awful. My time was 1:20:20, with an average pace of 8min/miles. So not too shabby at all.
Everyone I spoke to found the race just as hard. There was a feeling of Post Traumatic Race Disorder floating among us as we all agreed it was the hardest race for a long while. It was nice to have people to share my pain with as sometimes in a race you have a bad one because of your own pacing or training, but to have everyone agree was nice – though obviously I’m not pleased everyone suffered like I did!
Kudos to the Scouts who were earnestly filling up people’s cups left, right and centre afterwards as well. You can see one behind me (IN A JUMPER AND FULL TROUSERS) in this photo. Bless him.
My hair is lovely and slick back due to the water I threw over myself during the race and obviously the sweat. Nice
But despite it probably being ridiculous hard, I’m glad I went. It was nice to be on the ‘racing scene’ again with my club mates. It made for a more interesting long run and would have been jut as hot at home anyway.
Nothing like getting a medal for a training run after all!
How do you stay cool during summer?
Have you ever suffered from ‘Post Traumatic Race Disorder’?
What races do you use gels in?