On Saturday (19th) I, and several other Penarth & Dinas Runners club members, drove a couple of hours up to the Elan Valley in mid-Wales to compete in the Elan Valley 10 mile race. The previous Sunday (13th), I had run a 10k race in Bute Park in Cardiff, and had got (back) under 45 minutes, my target for 2011. The Elan Valley race was a different story.
Elan Valley is home to a series of reservoirs which were built in the 1893-1904 period. The reservoirs are Craig Goch, Pen-y-Garreg, Garreg Ddu and Caban Coch. Claerwen reservoir was added in 1946-1952.
The start of the race was next to Caban Coch reservoir, about 10 minutes walk from the visitor centre. This is a photograph my 13-year old daughter took with my iPhone near the start of the race. As you can see, the autumn colours were beautiful, making this one of the most scenic races I have done.
There were about 120 or so runners doing the race, and as I looked around at the start I could see there were very few younger (under 30) runners. This is usually a sign that the course is going to be tough, and in fact our Club captain Clem and his wife Janice had warned us of a nasty hill at 2 miles. We had a good turnout from Penarth & Dinas, in addition to myself there was Paul W, Paul F, Malcolm, Yvonne, Sara, Clem and Michelle. Steve H and Janice came up too to support us (shout at us).
The race started at 1pm, with the mayor of Rhayader setting us off on our way. The first mile was downhill, and when I checked my time at the first mile marker and saw it reading 6 minutes 45 seconds, I told myself to slow down! The course was then flat for the best part of a mile, but just approaching the two mile marker a local (who looked like a farmer) told those of us bothering to listen that a “short, sharp hill” was approaching. He was right about it being a hill, and it was sharp in places, but there was nothing short about it. It carried on for a good mile, with numerous false “peaks” where one thought one had reached the end of it. From the top of that (never-ending) hill through to the end the course was undulating, with hardly any flat stretches.
This was the 3rd ten mile race I have done this year, with my previous best being the 2nd one at Brecon, where I did 1 hour 21 minutes 13 seconds. I was aiming for a time of 1 hour 20 minutes, and went through halfway in 38 minutes 40 seconds feeling fine. But, after mile 6, my lack of distance runs of late took their toll. I have concentrated my training since the Swansea Bay 10k on speed work to get my 10k time down, and have not done many runs longer than 6-7 miles. From 6 miles onwards my legs turned to lead, and it seemed everyone who was behind me started going past, including Paul F from our Club.
I ran with Paul for about half a mile, but could not keep up with him as my legs tired more and more. By 8 miles I knew I was going to miss my target time, and in the last mile (which was slightly downhill), I could only muster a time of 8 minutes 3 seconds, pretty pathetic for the last mile of a race, and a sure sign of how tired my legs were. I finished in 1 hour 21 minutes 53 seconds, nearly 2 minutes outside my target time, and a terrible second half to the race after going through the first 5 miles well under my target time.
I was very disappointed to miss my target time, but did feel a little better when other members of the Club who had done the Brecon 10 mile race told me how much slower they were in this race. I was only 40 seconds slower, several who had done the Brecon 10 were 2 or 3 minutes slower. Also, it was good to cheer in the (few) Club members who came in after me.
After the race, we all retired to the visitor centre for the prize giving. I’m delighted to say that our Club chairman Clem won the male 50-60 category, with an amazing time of just over 1 hour 5 minutes. Here he is receiving his prize.
So, the previous weekend I do my season’s best for 10k, this weekend I was disappointed to not beat 1 hour 20 minutes for a 10 mile race. The ups and downs of running. But I, and all the other Club members who ran this race, need to remind ourselves just how tough a course it was. We should be pleased with ourselves we actually competed in it and completed it!