Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Last Saturday was the Roundwood Reservoir 10K Trail Run, a charity race in aid of Bray Lakers. I had decided to enter this as part of my Dublin Marathon training, and was going to use it instead of my weekend long run. The race basically was a lap of Vartry Reservoir, and although its up in the Wicklow Mountains, the course itself was advertised as almost dead flat. I had planned on doing a practice run of the trail, but with the wet weather over the last few weeks I hadn't been able to. This, combined with the fact that this would be my first proper trail race meant that I wasn't entirely sure what my expectations should be regarding times.
Training has been going well lately so on a decent course I thought I could maybe manage to beat my best 10k time, so should I go all out, or just use the run as a 10k tempo run and not worry so much about time? I decided I'd play it by ear and see how things panned out once I got going.
Mistake 1: Never 'play it by ear' - always have a proper race strategy, otherwise you'll likely end up either not fully committed and disappointed with your result.
The organizers had said that either trail runners or road runners would be fine - so I went with my Brooks road runners, since my only trail runners were ones that I hadn't worn in ages and I didn't know how well I could run in them. As it turned out, road runners were totally unsuitable for the course, they just don't have any grip on muddy sections and I definitely lost some time not being able to plant my feet properly at times.
Mistake 2: Wear appropriate gear. Road runners are for the road. Trail runners are for off road.
Registration was busy, there were around 200 runners - a large turnout and some great money raised for a good cause. I checked my blood glucose 30 mins before the start and was 5.8, which was perfect, so I ate a banana and sipped some Lucozade Sport on the way down to the start area (abut 30g carbs total). I checked again just before starting and was 5.3 - but was fine with that as I knew the carbs would be starting to kick in soon. The large number of entrants meant there was likely going to be a real mix of abilities so I decided to position myself between the front and middle of the group at the start in the hope of being able to follow a decent pace and not have to overtake to many on narrow trails. The first 3k was on nice open and flat gravel and grass trail, perfect to run on so I started at a good pace and managed to overtake a few. The next 2k was on tarmac road, and a slight gradual uphill, but I was able to keep the pace steady and by the half way point I had run an average 4:47/Km pace - bang on target for my 10k PB if I could keep the pace for the 2nd half. I took a gel around the 4K mark (about 25g carbs) as I knew I'd need something to keep my blood glucose up at this pace. I wasn't entirely sure how hard I was pushing as my HR monitor was on the blink, but I felt reasonably good.
I soon discovered that a PB definitely wasn't going to happen. Just after the 5k mark the course turned back into the woods and the trail became narrow, muddy, and full of roots. I was finding it hard to keep my footing in places due to the bad choice of footwear, and had to jump over puddles, and pick my way around holes and roots. Everyone was slowing and bunching up a bit. After about 2k of this it opened up and there was some fantastic scenery as we ran along the top of the dam, but by then all hope of a decent time was gone. The last 2k was back through the woods again, this section even more wet and muddy, and full of overhead branches. At one point I had my sunglasses knocked off by a stray branch and had to stop and get them (see Mistake 2 above regarding inappropriate gear!). The pace had slowed right down by now anyway so I decided there was no point in hammering it and risking a fall so I backed and just ran steady to the finish. I ended up finishing in 50:24 in 63rd place overall which was a bit disappointing.
Mistake 3: Don't expect to set PBs on trail runs - conditions are usually not suited to fast times - especially in Ireland where our weather dictates that it will likely be wet and/or muddy.
Blood Glucose was 9.4 finishing, a little high, but nothing to worry about, I probably don't need a full gel mid-race so will reduce this next time. When I got home I realized I had to get my runners cleaned up and dried out so I could pack them for my flight to Seattle next morning (!). Hopefully I'll get to use them for a few runs during the week between work commitments.
Overall, while I was a little disappointed with my time, I'll take a positive from it in the fact that I was able to run comfortably at 10k race pace for most of the race - in the sections where it was feasible to do so. I've a bit to learn about trail running too, some practice and a few more of these races will help with that.