The Great Orme in Llandudno, North Wales, could never be considered and easy run. With 700m of climbing it doesn't take any prisoners. At least the weather was looking good for a reasonable run and a pretty straightforward destruction of my PB. The last time I did this race was 2 years ago. I had completed the course in 53min 33sec. It had been the second race I had ever run. I missed out on the race last year due to a family issue but this year I was going to take my PB down in a big way.
If you’ve read my 2011 Pier to Pier race report, you’ll know that the weather had really hurt my chances of a sub 45 min 10km but this time the weather was set fair. My prep had been great. I’d tapered properly, running for less than 1hr in the previous week. As I said the weather was almost perfect. I would have preferred a slight drizzle to cool me down even more, but the big danger – the wind – was looking very easy.
I met my friend Richard just before the race for a warm-up. Richard is a pretty quick runner. He completed this course in 43.22 just last year. Unfortunately, Richard was involved in a car accident just a few months ago which has given him some difficulties running. So it wasn’t clear how well he would perform. We just jogged very easy for 400m and I did a few strides on the return.
As the clock came round to 12.00pm the horn went and the first runners started. I crossed the line after about 1 min and turned my watch on. I felt really strong from the off. I suffered in the first half mile from runner congestion which added about 30 seconds to my time. First 1km in 4mins 45 sec. My heart rate was already in the mid 150s. The next kilometer continues the uphill and was completed in 4 min 41 sec. My cadence was averaging 172 per minute. My normal cadence on the flat is nearer 180 in these shorter races but the ascent of the Great Orme is not to be taken lightly. Even though it climbs a mere 500 ft over the first 4km it feels relentless.
I had hoped to get to the top of the Orme within 20 mins. This would have given me 90 seconds to catch-up on the long descent down onto the West shore of Llandudno. On this occasion my slow start meant I was at 21 min 20 seconds when I reached the top. It was clear to me that the 45min target was out of the question. Now all I had to aim for was as good a time as I could on the day. As I descended off the Orme my pace was a pretty consistent 7.25, still to slow for my original target but fair as the climb had really taken it out of my legs. My average heart rate was in the 160-165 range, normal for me on a 10km. The most interesting part of this race is the run up Church walks. Even though the climb is just 100ft in total, over half a mile, it needs to be planned for. The number of people who have to walk up this hill is crazy!
Anyway, my ascent of Church walks was well below 8 min pace so a fair time was still on the cards. I had been chatting to a guy as I ran down the far side of the Orme and this had helped to keep my heart rate in check. Now as I passed the 8km mark he was finding it hard to hold on. The final 500m of Church Walks is a decent onto the North Shore Promenade. This comes at a great time for the tired runner. If you’ve pushes the boat out getting to the top of the hill you can choose to take it easy and recover while still keeping a sub 8 min pace. This is what I did. Kilometers 8 and 9 were completed in just less than 8 min pace. I didn’t have a target time in mind at this stage. I was just running as fast as I could without burning all my energy. At this stage in a race I find it useful to spot someone up front that I think I can catch. On this occasion I had noticed a guy run past me down the back of the Orme and for this reason I had him in my sights! As the final km started I estimate that I was about 50m down on him. As I spotted the 500m to go sign I had reduced that to 20m. Strangely, no one had past me by this time so I felt I must have been going strong. I passed him just before the final 250m sign. In front of me were 3 runners. One young guy who looked a lot faster than me, an older guy who was just holding on, and a woman who is well known in these parts for wearing luminous kit! It’s at this point in any race that you find whether you’ve got anything left in the tank. I targeted the crazy lady and “pushed the nitro button”! I had the amazing feeling that I was flying! As I crossed the line I found that I was! My Garmin showed a pace of 5.16/per mile. In addition, I saw, for the first time ever, 180 on my watch as a real max HR!
Lessons learnt from this race are; Set a reasonable target time and my training needs to be more specific! Next race is the Chester Half Marathon in May J