Prior to this race, I spent a bit of time perusing my race report and Strava details from last year’s race. I made a couple of interesting observations: the second mile had been the toughest, and I’d not helped my chances by sharing a bottle of wine with a pizza meal the night before. To put it succinctly, I had some clear areas in which to improve. So, obviously, this year I prepared for the race by having a takeaway pizza and half a bottle of wine on Tuesday night. Ah. At race registration, further issues presented themselves: the race was reversed, and followed a slightly different course from last year.
So much for race preparation.
Still, other aspects went a little better: in comparison to last year, when it had pretty much rained non-stop for the week before, and was raining during the race itself, this year was a sun-fest. Solid underfoot, and a lovely warm (but not too warm) evening meant that quick times were in order. I was a little more sensible with my lunch and made sure to rest as much as I could through the afternoon.
If I was to take lessons from this race, the first would be based upon the above: look at last year’s mistakes, and learn from them. The second would be this: at the published start time of the race, be at the start line.
Sounds simple, but at 7 o’clock, most of us were still loitering around in the clearing near the start, and then gradually started meandering towards the start line. We had more or less started clumping together, but not in any sort of order, when suddenly people started running. I didn’t hear a starting klaxon or any shouts, but there was obviously something. Unexpectedly, I found myself much further back in the field than I had wanted to be, needing to weave my way through slower runners. I was far from the only person with this problem, and it caused a little bit of chaos. Especially as not far from the start, we entered a series of narrow paths, and passing was all but impossible.
As a result, I probably went off too quickly, catching and passing a few people that I expected to finish somewhere in the region of pretty quickly. The problem was, having passed them, rather than settle in, I unintentionally maintained my quicker pace, and exerted a little too much energy too quickly. One nice aspect of the reversed course was that the two out-and-back stints were both early in the race. While I don’t mind an out-and-back, they can be pretty demoralising towards the end of a race (this was particularly bad at the Great West Run). Whereas in this case, having them nearer the start was actually quite nice, particularly now that I’m starting to recognise some of the regular runners, and can gauge how I’m doing in comparison to them.
The other main result of the course reversal was that much of the first half of the race was on roads, while the second half was predominantly trail routes across fields. Not only fields, but the hillier part of the course too. Through this middle stint of the race, I was starting to get somewhat annoyed by the “song” going around my head. The latest Pharrell tune, maybe a bit of classic rock? No, the theme song to “Raa Raa the Noisy Lion”, a CBeebies show that my daughter watches. For reference:
Unfortunately, not only was this a slightly irritating tune to have constantly going around my head, but I also didn’t know most of the words. So much I was humming and going “Raa Raa!” Oh well.
Still, although the song was sending me slightly loopy, it did help to distract me from the actual running. Having the more difficult terrain, the stiles and the hills in the second half was tough, and my legs were certainly starting to feel it trying to clamber over those stiles towards the end! Still, I managed to slowly catch and pass runners over the last couple of kilometres. The final kilometre was my fastest of the race, so I obviously hadn’t completely overexerted myself!
I was very happy with a time of 45:29, a few seconds quicker than I’d managed in Crewkerne, and a big chunk faster than this event last year (mainly because of the dry conditions!) In all honesty, I probably preferred it last year, with a bit more of the race off-road, and in wetter, muddier conditions, but it was still a very enjoyable race, and one I’m planning to do again next year.