23 August 2023

Caernarfon 10k 2023

When lockdown hit, I was a bit nervous I might lose my shape. Most of my exercise, after all, came from my commute, and it had now been shortened from many miles to only one flight of stairs. But I replaced my cycling with running, and actually came out of lockdown fitter than I had got in. I found that out the first time I went racing again, after that was allowed again. I registered for the Anglesey half marathon, and immediately broke my personal best on the 21 km. That was promising!

From there it only got better. My next race was the Steepest Street in the World Race, and I even got me a podium position there. Not that I ended up on the podium; I had no idea I had come third, and had just gone home. But it suggested I really was in better shape than before the pandemic, and my half marathon time had not been a fluke. I also ran the Conwy half marathon a lot faster than I had done the previous time. Not a personal best; I suppose the route is a bit too vertical for that. And about as vertical as the next race: the Nick Beer 10k, which is basically just the prettiest part of the Conwy half marathon. And I ran a personal best on the 10k there, in spite of the 600 ft elevation gain; it was 46:09. And that made me want to run a flattish 10k. Surely I could break my personal record of the 10k again? I had been quite proud of running two personal bests on the 10k in succession in 2016: 47:57 in Caernarfon and 46:35 in Bangor, finally breaking a personal best of 50:09 that had stood since 2011. I was clearly faster now than I was in 2016 (let alone 2011). But how fast? One way to find out!

I noticed the Caernarfon 10k and registered. That should be the one! It has less than 200 feet elevation gain. And I had been doing well recently; running silver in the the Steepest Street in the World Race, and doing my commute quite fast as well. So all was looking well. Until about 4 PM the afternoon before. We had a cave rescue callout! When it was clear that was really happening (sometimes it happens you get a callout, and before you even get to the scene you get stood down as someone else has already sorted the situation out) I thought my race was not going to happen. Call-outs can become all-nighters! But then it was a rather smooth rescue, and I was home before midnight. Without the callout I would have been in bed at 10:30, and I also would have had dinner, which didn't really happen because of the callout, but I thought the race was still doable. So on the day I let Marjan, who was going to be my support (again!), know that I was indeed going to race, and at 9 o'clock we met. 

We got to the race terrain, and all went smoothly. It was also beautiful weather! A bit windy, but otherwise lovely. We also bumped into another acquaintance of her: Viv. And after a while I went to the start. 

Pre-start selfie with Marjan

I made sure to start at the front. This time I did not want to have to wrestle my way through slow people in the beginning when all the runners are still quite bunched up. It did mean a lot of people quickly overtook me. And I noticed that more than three of them were women. I wasn't quite sure how many, but something like six.

I often start feeling quite fast, but not this time. I didn't know if that was because of the callout or something else. But I just muddled along. I had decided I needed to run every kilometer in 4.5 minutes and then I would get my personal best, so I made sure to check at every kilometer time. I suppose I could have switched on my Strava exactly when the horn sounded, and then I would have had much more precise time record, but I hadn't, because sometimes when you tell it to start it needs to load for a while. I didn't want to have to deal with that! So I had started it a few minutes before the start. But if I just got everything rounded off to minutes I could still keep a reasonable eye on how I was doing. And it seemed to go alright!

Around kilometer 7 I started struggling a bit. I noticed my heart rate was higher than I had intended it to be. I had run the Steepest Street in the World Race with a fairly constant heart rate of about 160, so that was sort of my aim, but I was quite soon at 166, and later went over 170. That is a lot! And my breathing was frantic. And at around 8.5 km my head was getting a bit light. But I had only a short distance to go then, so I just kept going.

Around 8 km; notice the red face

From around the 6 km sign I had seen a woman in the distance (shortly after the start I had lost sight of any of them), and I had been slowly gaining on her. I was wondering if I could perhaps overtake her. But coming closer to the finish I realised I wouldn't. By then I was only interested in the personal record. I wasn't even overly keen on overtaking two blokes that were near me. I was tired!

Close to the finish I was a bit annoyed when one of the men cut me off in order to try to overtake the other one. I saw later on footage Marjan had shot that it hadn't been successful! But I had a quick look on my watch when I came over the finish; it said it was 10:44. So that meant I had a personal best! I knew we had started a little bit after 10AM but I couldn't remember by how much. I would have to await official results. But my mission was accomplished! I had improved my seven year old personal best. 

After the finish. Pic by Marjan

I caught my breath with Marjan. And together we cheered on the next runners. We were looking for Viv! But didn’t find her. When we were sure she must have finished, and we must have missed it, we decided to leave. 

There was no text with results, but later that day the results for all were published. I had run 43:58! That’s pretty good. And I had finished 11 seconds after the woman I had seen. I was 8th woman, and all 7 faster ones were in the 21-34 age category. The fastest had done it in 36:43! That’s really fast. 

I knew I would be tired the rest of the day, given how long I had been running with a very high heartbeat. But I still managed to have a productive day with cutting the grass, doing the laundry, and sorting out my lawnmower storage. Not bad!

I suppose the next time I run a flat 10k I will find out if this was the best I can do. Maybe with a good night’s sleep I can do even better! But I know I will have to push hard to achieve that, if I can at all. Watch this space! Next race is in October…

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