The first SUMS race of the season came round quickly, it was time to put all the winter training to test.
Running up to the event I had two choices -
Keep doing the miles asked by my training program and complete the race, taking it easy to reach the weekly total of 58 miles or taper and have a go at improving last years result.
Towards the end of the week I came up with a third option, I decided to taper and take it easy during the race, but as it turned out I didn't take it easy.
A Friday overnight stop in Bucksburn meant everything had to be packed Thursday evening. I didn't know whether to take trail or road shoes but with the course conditions being updated on Facebook, the snow was gone so opted for road.
Saturday morning was clear with frost but it wasn't to last. A large bowl of porridge and it was time to drive to the Duthie Park. I arrived at 0830 and found the car park full so had to find a parking space in a side street. It wasn't raining at this point so I opted to leave my running jacket in the car, a decision I would later regret. I grabbed a banana, my only fuel for the race and made my way to the start. Registration was quick so I found myself all set to go with a bit of time to stand around shivering in the cold till race briefing. At this point I pulled the sleeve over my watch and vowed not to look at it till I got over the finish line, this would be my first ever race not fretting about minutes per mile etc, I just wanted to run how I felt and not be distracted by the timepiece on my wrist.
Nine o'clock and we're off, I'm at the back of the pack and start slow and steady. As we leave the park light rain starts, it's so cold I think it falls as snow but I'm not sure. I'm travelling light with a water belt rather than back pack. Theres a few photographers and I'm conscious of carrying the banana in my hand, theres no room in my waist belt for it. As we leave Aberdeen I feel quite good and speed up, "make hay as the sun shines" I think to myself, although the sun isn't shining today.
The last two D33 races have been hot and sunny where I suffered on the return leg but with the cooler temperature today I'm not drinking the same and don't feel thirsty. This means I can bypass the checkpoints and don't need to refill the water bottle. It's at the first checkpoint where I hatch a wee plan, since I'm running well and don't need to stop I decide to run the whole race without stopping or taking a walking break. Although I'm supposed to be taking it easy I also get it into my head I could possibly get sub five hours and resist taking a look at my watch.
Passing the pond two geese look perplexed at the passing runners. The track runs parallel to the main road and it's at this point last year the leading runner passed me on their return leg. So far there's no sign of the leader, so I guess that I'm running better than last year. I reach near enough the slug road before meeting the leading runner. That's the beauty of an out and back race, you get to see the leaders and can cheer them on. This gives me a lift as the legs are beginning to feel a bit tired.
Last year I reached the half way point in two hours forty minutes. I reach the checkpoint, run round the cone and push on without stopping. I'm sure it's about two hours thirty but still resist the urge to look at my watch. Now it's time for the hard return journey with legs feeling even more tired. I think of the negative split and think if I can keep this pace up then I'll get in under five hours. I'm determined not to get passed on the way back so concentrate on keeping a steady pace. This is the first time I've tried such a strategy and it starts to pay off as I pass runners heading back to Aberdeen, hoping I don't run out of steam.
The muscles are sore and tired, negative thoughts begin to creep into my head but instead of slowing to walk I lengthen my stride to stretch the muscles. This works as I keep on passing runners, I'm not used to this.
I look for the geese on the way back but they've gone. Theres a wee uphill slope after the pond and it's here I'm aware of tightness in my right calf but I'm not going to chuck in the towel yet. My left hamstring is also complaining so I have to shorten the stride for a while. There's an uphill section of road before the last checkpoint, I manage to keep a good pace here, run through the checkpoint before dropping back down onto the track. About six miles to go I think to myself, the calf gets tighter and the hamstring threatens to give up the ghost, I'm going have to monitor it but I'm not going to let up. At Peterculter theres the unmistakable sound of approaching footsteps behind me. The party is over I think to myself as I haven't been passed since before the half way point. The runner steadily closes me down and I jokingly thank him for ruining my wee plan as he passes. I try to speed up but theres still a good bit to go as the runner disappears into the distance.
I've only been passed once, I think to myself, so concentrate on keeping a good pace but negative thoughts remind me of the tight calf and hamstring and I really have to fight off the urge to walk. I'm not the only one feeling it as I pass a few more runners on the way to the last three miles which are downhill.
The track is pretty empty here,the heavy rain keeping all but the hardiest of dog walkers at home. The trail is usually full of people at the weekends. The way ahead is clear, I can't see any runners and I dare not look back. I'm determined not to loose any more places despite the exhaustion, where has this competitive nature come from? This is most unlike me.
I feel a limp in my run with a mile left to go but I know I'm going to run it. I can hear footsteps behind once again, someone is tailing me and running strong to the finish but I'm not going to let them pass me at this stage, I speed up despite the pain.
The track doubles back on itself at the entrance to Duthie Park which is deserted due to the weather.
Through the finish arch, get a medal from George and goody bag, into the gazebo and open a beer. I finally check the time on my watch, two minutes past two, I missed my target by a couple of minutes but I'm not too bothered. I couldn't run quicker if I tried, I gave it everything I had.
Unfortunately I was soaked through and getting cold so couldn't hang around.
So thanks to George and the volunteers for organising another great D33 race, it's much appreciated.
"The D33 gives the coolest medals", that was Skyes words and something I tend to agree with.
Tues 4 miles Wed 4 miles Thurs 3 miles Sat 33 miles Weekly total 44 miles.