Friday, September 26, 2014

Swansea Bay 10k 2014 - my race review

Swansea Bay 10k 2014 
Swansea coast road - September 21st 2014 - website

My impressions from the day:Course: 9/10 - simple, flat, quick, well set out, great start area.
Marshalling: 8/10 - I didn't see many, which isn't to say there weren't any it just says they were doing an absolutely great job :-)
Facilities: 8/10 - after years (43 in fact) of organising and running the race the facilities are really good.
Organisation: 10/10 - Couldn't fault the overall organisation, like I said above they have good event pedigree.
Fellow runners: 8/10 - great atmosphere, people listened to the time binning in the start area,
Crowd: 8/10 - not the biggest crowds all round the route but they were very vocal and encouraging.
My performance: 8/10 (& 0/10) - pleased with my time and application. The second score was due to my apparent error of judgement in the last 200m (more of that below)
My time: 54:48
The start line - borrowed from the Swansea 10k facebook page
"Dude, can't you see me?? I am like right in the middle!" - borrowed from the Swansea 10k facebook page
My Race:
It started with a quick 2km - and so goes many a race failure... happily this one didn't end in a complete pacing mess. The start area was great, I managed the usual pre-race nerves induced loo break without much fuss (I was amazed the queues weren't too bad when I got to the toilet blocks), and got to the right start zone with no problems.

So I was ambitious, I figured go out at a target pace and then see if I can hold it. That was simply not going to happen, and so as the sunshine beat down on a huge field of runners my targets were beaten down too. The first two kilometres are nice and wide so there were no bunching issues meaning that I could try my plan without fear of blocking anyone off if the wheels fell off. Into the 3rd kilometre the bite began and it was obvious I had to reign in my pace and finishing target time, by the end of the 4th going into the Mumbles I knew the second half of the race would require a pretty big effort.

The turn around and drinks station come at or around the halfway mark, and so does the disappearance of the shade. The race starts at 1pm, so if there is sun then it is pretty fierce (for the UK at least). Going into the return leg along the prom the heat and the feeling of having put in too much effort in the first third of the race got into my head and started a bit of negative dialogue. Happily my pace didn't fall off horribly and I began ticking off the kilometres to the finish.

Telling yourself you can hit the final 2k and actually hitting the final 2k hard are two different things, the effort I was hoping to rediscover in the closing stages didn't appear and I simply held the pacing where it was. I managed to speed up a little, and going into the last 500m I thought I was on for a reasonable time after all. In the last 200m there is a rise and the path narrows slightly and as I gathered pace towards the line I suffered my lowest ever racing moment. I looked at the course, saw no space and opted to move onto the grass verge. This was fine, what wasn't fine was that the verge was of a sharper gradient than I realised and as I rejoined the tarmac I tangled with another runner.

Avoiding the near face plant to the gasps of the crowds, and seeing that I hadn't floored the other runner I carried on utterly red faced. I crossed the line in a good time, but felt completely hollow - had I ruined someones day? Waiting a short while in the finish funnel I saw them limping through with a friend, my heart sank even further through the ground beneath me even though the limp didn't look especially horrible. I apologised with a simple "sorry", there seemed nothing else that I could really say and from the look on their face nothing else that they would really want to hear. I can only hope that in the end their day wasn't as bad as I felt, I did not enjoy the aftermath of the race at all even though it was fabulously arranged. My wife and I went for a Joe's Ice Cream afterwards (kind of a Swansea race ritual), but even that didn't take away the feeling of a spoiled race.
I think the look on my face at the finish line said it all really - not my greatest day!
In the days after the race I began to unpack my thoughts around the race and the event in my finishing dash. Friends comforted me with sentiments along the lines of "these things happen sometimes", which I know is true but it only helped a little. I learned a valuable lesson in my 11th 10k race, and it is not something that will happen again in any race I enter. It was striking how one brief moment changed an entire day, especially when I was happy with every other aspect.

On a more up beat note, I suspect I will be signing up again next year as the event and its organisation is just awesome.

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