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SSAFA 5k (June and July) and Caerphilly 10k

July 28, 2013
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Race medal after the Caerphilly 10k

Caerphilly 10k, June 23

On the Sunday before the second SSAFA race (June 23) I ran the inaugural Caerphilly 10k and, despite a mild hangover after a friends wedding the night before, I achieved a PB of 43.53 (taking a respectable 20 seconds off my PB). Despite the positives, I knew that I could have done better. Not only was I not 100%, but I didn’t have the best of starts either. Standing at the start line, minutes away from the gun going off, I realised I hadn’t actually attached my chip timer to my shoe. D’oh!

So off I ran to my car to get it, before hastily getting back into the pack of runners. From what I remember the actual race went pretty well. I eased up through the gears and coped pretty well.
It was wet and windy at the start, and I was freezing wearing just a vest, but once I started running I warmed up.
There were only a few people from my running club taking part in the race, but I felt comfortable enough to overtake them without exhausting myself.
The route out of the city centre was fairly flat and I was keeping up a good pace. I do remember getting to 5k and blowing quite a bit though. Despite the tiredness, and the paranoia that I would fade in the second half, I was boosted by my Garmin telling me that I had clocked a 5k PB of 21.10. Not too shabby in my eyes!
I kept plodding and tried to enjoy the race. I knew there were two of my running club friends ahead of me, one of which I knew I would never catch up with as he was lightening fast, and a few more behind me that I didn’t want to catch up with me either.
I got to 8k and there was a slight incline into the town. I battled on and kept telling myself there was not too far to go. Soon enough I was on the home straight and it was going well. I could see the finish. I decided not to ‘kick’ yet as I wanted to finish well.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt someone burst past me at a ferocious speed.
I couldn’t be having this. I get competitive when someone overtakes me in a training session, never mind in a race. I rapidly went up the gears and tried to catch up with the bright orange guy in front of me. He’d already had a head start and was absolutely flying. I tried even harder and used every ounce of energy left if my legs. I was almost out of control now, determined to catch up with him. In an almost animalistic way I screamed
‘AAAAARRRRGGGGHHH’ almost as some sort of release to spur myself on even further. The crowd suddenly saw this ongoing battle and started cheering us on. I gave every ounce left in me but I couldn’t snare him at the end.
What a finish!
I may not have caught him, and I may have made a fool of myself with a seemingly pointless scream, but it had been totally worth it.
I tried to find the guy in the ensuing scrum after the finish line, to shake his hand at least for a cracking finale, but I couldn’t find him.
After the race we were treated to a fairly impressive goody bag that contained a medal, wristband, a plastic bottle, an energy gel and a cereal bar.
There was also a fairly snazzy Caerphilly 10k drawstring bag that I’ve used a few times since.
Anyways, after the race I felt pretty good, and even managed a running club session the following day.
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SSAFA 5k, June 26
Next, on the following Wednesday ahead of the second SSAFA, was when I had a bit of a mare. Standing on the start line, after a manic day at work where I had barely had time to think about racing, I was chatting to one of my running club friends. He was saying that whenever he sees me running I always look pretty relaxed. He added that another member of our running club, one of the fastest ones, always pushed himself to the limit during 5ks.
He probably shouldn’t have planted the seed.
Or maybe I shouldn’t have been foolish enough to attempt what I was about to do.
Furthermore, and this is the last excuse I’ll make (honest), there was only a few people from my running club running the race and I had a good feeling that I could be the first one to finish.
The race started and for once I was where I wanted to be, near the front. I was running with people that I knew were experienced runners, as I had seen them at almost every other local race I’d done.
The weather was hot, humid and without much of a breeze in the air.
I ran the first mile in 6.22 and felt like I was flying.
Wow, I thought, I’m on record time!
The fastest I’d ever been in a race before was 6.48, when I did that for the first few miles in the Cardiff Bay 5miler a few months ago.
At this point I stormed into the lead of my running club and, in my head, was already planning my victory speech. I got to about 2k and by now the heat was getting to me and it was harder to breathe. I got to 3k and by now the wheels were really starting to come off.
It kept getting worse though. People that I had breezed past only moments ago were catching up and, worse still, were overtaking me. They offered me words of encouragement, but I was falling into a dark place.
By about 4k almost all the strong runners from my club had overtaken me.
I was tired, my legs were stiff, and I just wanted to finish the race.
I even walked for a few seconds..WALKED. In a 5k.
I tried to rationalise to myself that there wasn’t far to go, but by then I had lost it.
I remember getting to around 4.5k and the thought ‘what is the actual point of running?’ Crossed my mind. I was so exhausted, dispirited, fed up and frustrated that I questioned why I was even running in the first place.
I got to the final home straight and all I could do was keep going.
I saw some of the cheering supporters from my running club and I couldn’t even look them in the eyes. Inside, I was kicking myself.
I didn’t even attempt a sprint finish.
I was gutted.
I congratulated everyone else, saying well done for their PBs, but I knew I had blown it. It was so embarrassing it was almost cringeworthy.
A few people offered words of encouragement, but I felt like a 1st prize idiot.
I later found out I had finished in 22.06, nearly a minute slower than my time a month before.
Lesson learnt not to go off too fast and regret it!
SSAFA 5k, July 24
Redemption and racing clever. That, the final race in the series, was what the day was all about. As if I needed reminding, almost everyone that was there when I blew up and embarrassed myself kept telling me not to go off to fast again and suffer.
I was determined not to mess this race up again.
I was also determined that a few people that had beaten me last time would not beat me again. In an effort to ensure this, I had recently completed both a 13 mile and a 16 mile run in the heatwave that we had (where the temperatures were around the 20s and the humidity was ridiculous) in an effort to improve my endurance.
As we lined up on the start line I deliberately set myself near the back of my running club and, indeed, near the back of the group in general. The first 1k went pretty well and I felt strong. I kept reminding myself to reign myself in and not get carried away with the people in front. I was determined not to overtake them and regret it again.
The first mile flew by and I did it in 6.37. It was fast but I didn’t feel that bad. It got to about 2k and I had a choice: I could start to reel people in or I could play it safe and hang back. I wanted to do the latter, but I had to tell myself there wasn’t much room to play around with for a 5k. So slowly I started overtaking people I knew. Soon I was 4th in my club and I cold see the two people ahead of me. I knew I had to bide my time and still not do anything hasty as both of them were strong and experienced runners.
I got to 3k and started to narrow the gap to the guy in front.
I had beaten him at the Caerphilly 10k, before he had evened the scores at the second second SSAFA.
As we edged closer to the 4k mark he was about 50 yards in front of me and there was another of my running club members ahead of him, but I didn’t think I could catch up with them.
I slowly started to up the pace and was getting closer. We rounded the bend and we were on the home straight.
It was now or never.
There was an oncoming cyclist on the path, so I reluctantly let them through, and then went up a gear. I kept it up and edged past him. I didn’t sprint, but this time kept my pace up to a decent level. I kept at it and was afraid to look behind me. I saw the supporters from my running club and this time, rather than look away with shame, I smiled and attempted a sprint finish, hoping to add the icing on the cake.
Soon I’d crossed the finish line and it was over.
I’d done it, I’d got the monkey off my back and learnt from my mistakes.
Better still, I got a PB in the bag too!
I initially thought I’d had 20.49 thanks to my Garmin watch, before later finding out that my official time was nearer 20.55.
Huzzah!
My first sub 21 5k race!
Next up? The Brecon 10 miler a week today.
My long runs were more in preparation for that, as well as the Bristol and Cardiff half marathons in September/October, but every mile helps!
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