Did my final race of the 2023 Grand Prix end on a high?
Unbelievably it has been over a week since my last race and I have only just made time to write up my report. So here goes…
As per my pre-race article, Sunday the 24th September was the 14th and final race of the 2023 Sportlink Grand Prix, the Bure Valley 10 Mile, hosted by Bure Valley Harriers. Starting and finishing in the North Norfolk village of Banningham, this was a race on undulating country roads.
At 17° C, the temperature was a couple of degrees warmer than forecast, though the ‘moderate breeze’ made things feel a little cooler and more favourable for racing.
The travel to the event was uneventful, and the usual standing around chatting while waiting for the race start was made much more congenial than usual by the abundant availability of seating in the village hall.
As per my normal pre-race routine I kept focusing on my desired pace and goal time. I was aiming for 66m15s (or at least sub 66m30s), and so a constant pace of 4:07 min/km. I could not help but think (and re-iterate to my wife) ‘how mad’ running for over an hour at that pace sounded! However, my personal record of 66m33s was set earlier in the season and so I kept telling myself that I could do it, and it was probably only a question of the course profile that might prevent me from snagging a new record.
I assessed the other runners and positioned myself in the corral according to how fast they looked. A process that is certainly error-prone. I mean, if race prediction from examining running data and physiology is relatively inaccurate, how do we expect to have any real idea of how fast people are just by looking at them… (I digress.)
A good start, with a few seconds ‘in the bag’
The first 600 metres was downhill and I made a conscious effort to keep my pace in check before the course leveled out and (according to my watch) I settled into a pace of around 4:05 min/km. I hit the 1st kilometre marker in a time of 3:59. A good start, with a few seconds ‘in the bag’ to help compensate for any uphills. Apart from some exposed stretches where the wind seemed to be always head-on, the run to the half-way point was very uneventful – gentle undulations that I managed to consistently bang the k’s out at around my target 4:07 min/km pace.
As I past 8 kilometres, my watch read 33m01s. If I ran the second 8 kms at the same pace I would get to 16 kms just outside of 66 minutes, leaving only 15 seconds to run the extra 93.4 metres…. (a 10 mile race is 16 kilometres and 93.4 metres long) … and only 30 seconds to sneak a personal record. I would need to speed up a little or at least hope I had something left in the tank for a quick finish.
The hill had cost me around 20 seconds
Not that I knew it at the time, but it is also at the 8 km point that you have to start the ascent of the first of 4 uphill sections on the return leg. Knowing how tight for time I was, I pressed hard to get to the top of this 1st hill as quickly as I could. I’m not a ‘naturally strong climber’ and always have ‘streams of people’ overtake me uphill, though in turn I reverse the situation on the downhill. Today I felt I needed to be a bit more enthusiastic on the up. Consequently, it was with welcome relief that I summited and could settle into my relaxed downhill rhythm. As I passed the 9 km point, my watch read 4:27. The hill had cost me around 20 seconds! No need to panic, I told myself.
The 10th kilometre seemed flat and I tried to put a little extra effort in to begin to claw some time back. I was back to my 4:05 min/km pace as I began the 11th km. I then hit the second of the hills. I was now thinking that I was certainly going to need that fast finish…
I tried to power up, but my legs did not respond and all I could think about was losing valuable seconds and how I had repeatably said to my wife prior to the race how fast a pace 4:07 was. Kilometre 11 was covered in a time of 4m23s – another 16 seconds lost… Now my mind was only thinking of ‘I cannot do this’, or at the least I needed the rest of the route to be mainly downhill.
The 3rd hill hit my brain hard!
It wasn’t though, and the 3rd hill (whilst not exactly big) hit my brain hard. The 14th kilometre was my slowest at 4:28 min/km pace. I passed this point at 58m32s. That gave me only 8 minutes and 1 second to equal my record. I was convincing myself I would not do it, but had to try and come close.
The run to the 15th kilometre was mainly downhill and I got my speed going again. I still had just over a kilometre to go and was approaching the 63 minute mark. A record was looking out of reach, but if it was downhill I could at least get close.
… covered in dead flies…
I then reached the base of the final hill, and my brain said ‘no more’ and my legs ground to a halt. I tried to power up but to no avail. Today was not my day, and I finished in a time of 67m28s – covered in dead flies…
Below is a table summarising the predictions from various algorithms / sources, along with their error from my actual performance.
|Algorithm||Predicted Pace (min/km)||Predicted Time (mm:ss)||Error (seconds)||Error (percent)|
|Riegel (6 min Assessment)||4:37||74:17||+ 409||+ 9.2 %|
|Riegel (3.2 km Assessment)||4:28||71:53||+ 265||+ 6.1 %|
|Athlete Data Analysis Platform||4:21||70:00||+ 152||+ 3.6 %|
|Running Watch||4:14||68:07||+ 39||+ 1.0 %|
|TrainAsONE||4:07||66:15||– 73||– 1.8 %|
|Riegel (5 km Race)||4:06||66:06||– 82||– 2.1%|
Whilst I was still within a few percent of most of the predictions, it was a bit of a disappointing final race, but equally a valuable one.
I think I ‘lost’ the race before I started
In many ways, I think I ‘lost’ the race before I started. Even though I had ran 66m33s this season, I had it in my mind how fast a time that was, and that I almost cannot believe I could run so fast. And whilst the course was a little hillier than Dereham (where I ran my personal record), I know the Dereham route ‘inside out’, as I have ran it many many times, which gave me a home advantage back then.
I believe I was as fit, if not fitter, for this race than for Dereham, but the above psychological factors got the better of me. And when doubt creeps in, it is incredibly difficult to turn things around, especially in a short space of time.
It’s all good though, as I’ll just have to come back next year and have another crack at this course! 😁
As ever, a big thank you to the race organisers, volunteers and all those involved. A thoroughly enjoyable and great race. Thank you.
Till next time.