A quick Ballater blog while it's fresh in my mind and before I go on holiday....
This was my second attempt at this race, after a fairly horrific effort last year. (It was a warm day. There were hills. I was slow. I finished in 1:43:47 and swore never to run it again.) Oh.... Well, I had one more PB to get to complete a clean sweep of PBs in 2011, and in the absence of any other handy 10 mile races, it looked like it had to be this one. Anyway, the horror had faded slightly in my memory and I was very confident of a PB this time round, even if not a huge one, given that the hills were likely to be still there.
We managed to get there on time (always a challenge) and I even managed to get registered and go to the loo without too much of a rush, although the little one then decided to have a fit of "Mummymummymummy" clinginess and I wondered if I was going to have to run the race with a four-year-old attached to my leg. Finally managed to disengage her and head to the start, where we lined up and were sent on our way at 12pm.
It was still warm, and the route was still undulating (very little of it seemed to be flat), but in a direct reversal of my experience at the Stonehaven Half a few weeks ago, the hilly bits weren't as bad as I remembered them. The first 6 miles is on country roads, and yes, they undulated. There were up bits and there were down bits with rather more up bits in the third mile (9:36) and rather more down bits in the fourth (8:44), but none of it was dreadful. Having spent the first few miles dreading a remembered hill at around 5 miles, which had achieved Everest proportions in my mind, the reality was less than I feared. I still walked a bit of it, but managed that mile in 10:02 compared to last year's, er, 11:45. The 6-mile marker took us off-road onto a rutted track, another bit of the race of which my memories had not been fond, and I was starting to feel a wee bit tired at this point, but decided to hang on to the back (not literally) of the guy in front of me who seemed to be going at roughly my pace, although his occasional groans of anguish were a bit off-putting. At about 7 miles, actually I can't remember where it was, we had to cross a bridge, which everyone walked across, I'm not sure why, perhaps we were not allowed to run it? Soon after, we were back on to the road again, and the anguished groaner decided to have a little walk, at which point I went past him.
The route is a pleasant one, quite varied, shame about the number of squished rabbits, or rather ex-rabbits, along the way but I tried not to look at them too closely, though narrowly avoided treading on, or in, one. I also seem to remember a "Caution - Squirrels Crossing" sign at one point, though I may have hallucinated that.
I was quite glad I'd decided to take water with me in my Camelbak waist thingy, although I normally wouldn't bother for 10 miles, but it was warm and thirsty work and there was only one water station at about halfway. I got through most of my bottle. The 8th mile, on a busy-ish road where several vehicles seemed to come perilously close, felt quite tough, but the 9th was largely downhill and I ran this in my second fastest split of the race - 8:54 - though it probably should have been quicker. By the 10th, we were heading onto the narrow path amid long grass which I remembered from last year, and I was flagging considerably, but the sums I'd been doing in my head all the way round assured me I was on for a good PB and on I plodded. Heading back into the field, I saw husband and daughter by the playpark, and a few moments later Mother Duck, who naturally had finished some hours earlier, shouting encouragement. The final lap of the field (having already passed behind the finish line) was painful, but I managed to put on a sprint at the end and overtake the woman in the blue top who'd been close to me for most of the way.
The result: 1:33:52 - a PB of very nearly 10 minutes. I was very happy with this since I had predicted 1:38. Would have liked to have finished a bit stronger, but I ran every mile significantly faster than last year, which is satisfying. It's a challenging course, but it felt easier to me this time despite being another warm day, which reflects my increased fitness (I hope). I may have to go back next year and try to knock a bit more off.....
Goody bag was OK, with a humongous blue cotton t-shirt, bottle of Lucozade, banana and the ubiquitous cereal bar, but sadly no chocolate this year, much to the disappointment of the little one who last year had polished off the lot in the car by the time we got home.
Mile splits, with last year's splits in brackets just for the hell of it - what took me so long last year, especially in miles 4 and 5???
* 9:01 (9:34)
* 8:58 (9:45)
* 9:36 (10:49)
* 8:44 (10:00)
* 10:02 (11:45)
* 9:04 (9:51)
* 9:47 (10:53)
* 10:20 (11:07)
* 8:54 (9:25)
* 9:24 (10:41)