Not all distances are created equally Dominic ScottingThursday, 6 , 2012
So this week my training has finally started to pay off and all of those early starts and long runs are starting to seem worth while.
There had been a far amount of talk between me and some club mates this week about our up coming RAT race, the RAT or Roseland August Trail to give it it's full title is a scenic run along the Cornish coast path, or at least this is what some people would have you believe. With childish naivety I had emailed Nick, my coach, to tell him I would like to do the 20 mile version of the event, Nick duly scheduled it in to my training plan and I so I had unwittingly set in motion the wheels that would lead me to a gruelling extravaganza of pain.
When I emailed Nick 20 miles seemed like a perfectly feasible distance, after all I should, at 8 minute miles, be able to knock this out in 2:40 accounting for difficult terrain I told my wife that she should expect to finish the race in 3 hours.
My concerns were first raised when I arrived at the race village to be met by the sight of a number of runners with walking poles, what would they need those for? The second thing that really set the alarm bells running was when the organisers gave me a route map showing the course as being 18.2 miles but explaining that taking into account ascent and descent the course was 20 miles, could there really be 1.8 miles of ups and downs over 20miles that meant nearly 10% of the course would be straight up or straight down. I didn't like the sound of this, but it was too late to go home!
And so on a misty morning myself 4 club mates and three coach loads of deranged or ill informed runners set off for the coast path. There was a palpable sense of tension in the air. The event was split into three distances 32, 20 and 11 as the thronged mass of 20 milers waited for the off one of our fellow club members passed us on the 32, he looked strong which gave us all hope. In dribs and drabs more and more of the 32 milers passed us with every runner passing ramping up the tension until it was our own time to set off.
And then the start came. I got a good start and was straight out with the leading pack,I'd spotted that there was a set of stairs early on and had no intension of getting caught in the traffic trailing up them. Pretty early on I realised my hopes of 8 or 9 minute miles were just that hopes, which looked to be dashed just like the rocked boats on the cliff below us.
The ground was hazardous and climbs were un-runnable, sadly many of the descents were also too steep to run, this left very little ground to run on and meant that it was almost impossible get into an rhythm. However, once I had found a rhythm, of sorts the first 9 miles to check point 1 fell away fairly swiftly all of Nick's advice about fuelling and Gatorade's help with hydration started to come into play. At 2/3 of the way in I still didn't feel too bad and was feeling confident that I hadn't overcooked it despite my fast start. I had managed to get into a small group of runners, some of whom were on the 11 and a couple of us were on the 20 this really helped me to keep put hammer down when needed and ease off when on the climbs knowing I wasn't alone.
A tough finish
The last couple of miles was particularly tough, especially as there were no mile signs so not knowing exactly how far was left was quite tough, thankfully runner 303 kept me going over those last few miles and I managed to drag myself over the finish line. To my amazement when I got in and checked the times I had done my 20 in 3:28 and had finished 8th out of 120, this is my best race place to date and even as a percentage represents my highest placing.
Two lessons were learnt on that wet and slippery coast path; effort in training is directly proportionate to achievement on race day and you should never judge a race by its distance!