Sunday, 29 May 2016

RACE 7 - Dove Stone Diamond


A couple of days resting after the Manchester race and I was ready for the Diamond, a completely different experience. This was a midweek evening race, the temperature was much cooler (so much I had my thermal leggings back on and a t-shirt under my racing vest!) and the Sunday sun was replaced with soggy drizzle. The sold out Diamond had far fewer participants and spectators than the Great Run, with a course capacity of 250 and 207 eventually crossing the finish line. There was no medal or finishers bag - just the opportunity to buy some good pizza, coffee and beer to reward our labour - but that's not why we run this particular race, it's for the love of the sport, the surroundings and racing together.

I swapped my road shoes for tough trail trainers, made for getting traction in mud, flexing with the terrain and protecting from stones. This year the course was slightly longer, at 10.7km ("more race for your money", according to the race director), due to an embankment that we used to run down now needing to be run around.

With the experience of last year's race under my belt, I had been pondering my strategy. I wanted to beat that time of 62m 52s. The course starts with a climb made of three sections, which can easily tire the legs. I determined to take the hill at an easier pace to conserve my energy (hoping I wouldn't loose too much time in the process). Aiming for 5 minutes per section, I successfully reached the forest (also known as the plantation) 15 mins after the start.

Feeling that went to plan, I decided to continue the 5 minute idea. It worked really well for me, breaking the race into manageable chunks and keeping me on track for a target finish. The forest and subsequent moorland was a fun, undulating, muddy set of sections that brought me roughly to the halfway point after half an hour. So far so good even though at one point I'd had both feet in a bog, covered in mud - my trusty Salomons stayed securely on (phew, no lost shoes!).

A fast downhill on a concrete road took me to the two streams that need to be waded through - nice wet feet for the next half, although it does wash a lot of the mud off. I actually find the second half tougher than the first, due to the relative monotony of the reasonably flat bridle path and feeling the tiredness by this point. I continued my 5 minute strategy and ended up running the reservoir with two female runners in order to keep at their good pace.

After the embankment, it was another long downhill that allowed me to pick up the pace. Knowing the end wasn't too far away allowed me to focus on maintaining the increased pace. Some great encouragement by marshals all the way round was topped off near the end with cheers and shouts to run faster. A final sprint and I was over the line in 61m 50s - a full minute quicker than last year and with an extra 0.7km in the bag. Good running from lots of Greyhounds was celebrated with a pint of Silver Owl from the on-site Greenfield Brewery. Lovely :)

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