Tay Ten: Sunday 7th April 2019 at 11:00am
I have to confess I wasn’t looking forward to this race quite as much as last year. Last year it was my first ten mile race and I had nothing to prove. This year I had expectations of myself, as had other people (partly because I’m daft enough to blog about my races!) and I knew my form wasn’t quite as good as last year when I was new and fearless. I had a nasty bug complete with high fever a couple of weeks beforehand which resulted in me being off work for 3 days – the first time I’ve been off sick in 4 years. This meant I’d had a longer taper than expected, which might be beneficial, but left me short on speed work. And my Smokies time this year was well off last years, though that was partially due to Storm Freya. I knew I had no hope of getting a PB here, but I wanted a decent time: preferably sub 1:14, but thought 1:15 was more realistic based on my current form and training. I was very much looking forward to the road trip though, as I knew several folk from Brechin, Arbroath and Montrose who were running, and even a few from further afield.
Joni had kindly agreed to drive, and picked Ashleigh and I up at 8:45am. David and Barry were heading through separately for some reason I forget. They’d left at the same time as us, but we got there first. There was a slightly longer queue for registration, only at our table as we’d all had our fingers on the trigger as soon as the race opened. I got number 18 and Joni got lucky number 13. We had to show photo ID, which I think may have been influenced by recent posts on social media where runners were caught out running under someone else’s name. I took my work staff card, where I am much fuller faced as the photo was taken about 3 years before I started running and lost several kilos (about 8?), but the lady agreed it was definitely me.
I’d forgotten that this race uses the chips you tie onto your shoelaces rather than the ones that are stuck to the race numbers. It’s easy enough to attach, and I double knotted my laces then checked it multiple times to ensure it was going to stay. One of the Footers had lost her timing chip last year and I did not want that happening to me.
We had time to catch up with a few Footers and folk from Montrose Parkrun before heading out to the athletics stadium. I missed the Footers photo though as I was probably on my second pre-race trip to the ladies at the time. I’m sure it’s the heightened pre-race nerves that does it. I did manage to bump into Joanne there though. She wasn’t running, but was there to support her husband Jock from the Kirkcaldy Wizards, who I finally bumped into on the track. A lady called Linda also spoke to me on my first trip to the ladies, when she greeted me by name. I had to confess I didn’t know her name, but it turned out she knew my name from the Smokies race report, which she kindly said nice things about 😊. We headed out to the track and started a gentle jog. This only lasted about 100 metres before Charlotte appeared, so we stopped for hugs and a quick chat. She had decided not to run today but was there with Lynn to cheer folk on. We had a quick chat about Chicago plans, but I forgot to discuss the arrangements for Stirling.
Barry, David, Craig and I did another lap and a half of the track, then it was time to head to the start line. I was in the second row with David and Barry. Craig said he shouldn’t be that far forward, and headed off back a bit. I said to David that I was probably too far forward, but one of the Dundee Hawkhill Harriers standing next to me told me to just go for it. Jock appeared next to us and I introduced him to Barry and David. They were all aiming for slightly different times though, so wouldn’t see each other again until after the race. Looking round, I saw Tracy was in the row behind me. I’d have to keep an eye out for her in the initial flurry at the start, as I didn’t want to lose track of where she was.
Nina made a few announcements about race sponsors and individual runners, including Gordon Donnachie, who often acts as a race photographer but was downing his camera this time to take part in his first Tay Ten. Then, a minute or two after 11:00am, we were off! I lost sight of David, Barry and Jock pretty quickly, as hordes (it felt like) of people ran past me. None of them was Tracy though. I was checking my watch pretty frequently in those initial few hundred metres as we ran out of the stadium, past the houses, and into the North Inch, as it takes a while for the watch to get a handle on your pace. It was saying 8-minute pace, then all of a sudden it was saying 6:10 per mile. I got it to settle around 7:20 pace, and stuck at that heading through the park. Tracy appeared on my right-hand side shortly after we’d made the right-hand turn into the park. She said she didn’t know how she was going to feel, so was just testing the pace. I agreed it’s always tough to gauge it. We ran together to the end of the park, past the marshals and crowd of spectators at the statue at the far end, and back along the river edge of the Inch, making small talk. The first mile chimed in at 7:24. A couple of seconds faster than last year, but I knew that I didn’t have the strength to keep speeding up, the way I’d done then. I did some quick mental arithmetic and worked out that would be 1:14 flat if that remained the average pace.
I ran with Tracy along the banks of the Tay until a little after the two-mile point. I’m not really sure which of us was setting the pace. It was conversational pace for both of us, and felt comfortable, but I think we were still testing the pace and not wanting to push it. I also had half a mind on Stirling, and wanted to see if it felt like this was a pace I could sustain for 13.1 miles. We were slowly overtaking a few runners here and there, and on one overtake Tracy disappeared in behind me. I was pretty sure she was just behind me, maybe because she’d got tired of my chat which, to be fair, isn’t exactly scintillating. I know better than to look round though, so just kept pushing the pace up slightly. Mile 2 came in at 7:19, and mile 3 at 7:17. Maybe, just maybe, a sub 1:14 was a possibility? I knew it was far too early in the race to start thinking about that though, and tried to put it out of my mind. I was also unsure how to pace it now that had become my job. I think it might be psychologically easier to be the one behind, as long as the person you’re racing isn’t disappearing into the distance at a pace you know you can’t handle.
I’d been getting slightly faster, but it hadn’t been enough to put any distance between myself and Tracy. This course is really flat, with pretty much the only undulations being the underpasses. We encountered one of these shortly before the 4 mile mark, and Tracy appeared on my left-hand side this time, saying “Up the hill”. Compared to Smokies it’s nothing, but it does affect your stride pattern a little.
We had left the bonnie banks of the Tay around 3 and a half miles in, and were now heading along the River Almond. I knew there was a water station at around 4 ½ miles and I was looking forward to this. They give you little 330 ml bottles of water, which is much better than the 500 ml bottles from an ease of use standpoint, and they also helpfully take the lids off for you. However, this means that you can’t carry them for long if they’re full. I took a few well-needed sips, then poured half of the water out so I could carry the rest of it for a little longer.
I’m not sure whether Tracy had decided to make her move at the water station – like I had done at Smokies – or if it was just that I’m a bit slower at taking water on board. Either way, she ended up in front of me, just by a few metres, but I let the gap stay. We went under another underpass, and had to stay on the left-hand side. This was around the 5 mile point, and was the crossover point for the loop back. For the front runners it was over 7 miles in, and a young gentleman was heading past us on his way back. It may have been the leading guy, but even so it felt weird to be kind of getting lapped. I’m always in awe of just how fast some runners can be.
Shortly after this encounter, we were onto the trail section which runs along the banks of the Almond for the 6th mile. This was where I had my slowest mile last year, but at least Denise had kindly chatted to me along that part of the route, and there hadn’t been any puddles to dodge. This year there were lots of small puddles due to earlier rainfall, so I spent more time looking at my feet than the lovely scenery on the right-hand side. Tracy had overtaken a couple of Dundee Road Runner guys, and I stuck on their shoulder for a while before eventually saying “Excuse me” and running through between them. Tracy was getting just slightly further ahead on this trail section. At one point around the 5 ½ mile mark I tried to time it based on when we passed a particular tree, and it seemed to be roughly 4 or 5 seconds. Not a lot, but I had slowed to 7:31 for mile 5, and 7:37 for mile 6. I was starting to think that this was Tracy’s race to lose, rather than mine to win. (Our personal race of course, not the actual race, where guys like fellow Footer Ruairidh were over 2 miles ahead!)
Even though I’d slowed down though, Tracy wasn’t widening the gap. We made a welcome left-hand turn away from the banks of the Almond around 6 ½ miles in, and I saw her glancing back to check the gap. The marshal on the bridge gave us a “Well done Arbroath”, and a few other marshals slightly further on (there were a lot of marshals on route and they were all very encouraging) gave us a few “Well done ladies” and “Well done Arbroath” comments. These are always appreciated, especially at this point in the race which is usually where I have a bit of a mid-race dip. We made our way through the houses and along an open but quiet road, sticking to the left and overtaking a few runners, but only picking up the pace marginally. I came alongside Tracy again just after the roundabout around the 7 mile point. At this point our breathing was more laboured than it had been a couple of miles in, so I was pretty rude and didn’t bother saying “Hi”. I knew we just had a Parkrun or so left, but I didn’t know what kind of pace I could sustain for that distance. However, the water station would be coming up again soon as we were on the way back. I’d also noticed though that rather than the wind being at our backs, as I’d been hoping for, we were now running into the wind. It wasn’t a strong breeze, but I must have been tired enough for it to be noticeable.
Going through the tunnel on the way back, you get to see some of the runners who are at around the halfway point of the race for them. I suspected they were feeling a bit fresher than I was! I was pleasantly surprised to see someone I knew at this point – Nicola Loudon who has done a couple of guest blogs for Race Recce. I waved at her and she gave me a “Well done Pauline” in response. I checked my watch and saw the time was 50:55, which I hoped meant she was having a reasonably good race. I wasn’t sure what it meant for me though as my mental arithmetic skills don’t extend to working out timings when it’s an odd fraction of a mile. I’d try and suss it out at the 8 mile point.
I wasn’t sure what to do at the water station that was coming up. I wasn’t gasping for water, but I’d not taken water at mile 8 of Smokies last year and immediately regretted it. So I decided I’d feel better for taking some. Tracy made the tactical (I assume) decision not to slow down for water, so moved a few seconds ahead of me whilst I got my bottle and took some welcome sips. This is shortly before an underpass (and yet more lovely encouraging marshals at the top cheering us on) so I took my time catching back up to her. She was drafting behind a tall Kinross Road Runner. I felt like I was running a little faster than in the first couple of miles, in terms of effort, but actually I had slowed to 7:35 pace. This was not promising as I really wanted to be sub 1:15. The Tay was now on our left-hand side, and unlike last year there were more runners around. You can see about a mile ahead at this point, which is great. Though slightly discouraging when you can’t see any of the guys you’re here with because they must be at least 7 minutes ahead of you. I ran level with Tracy again shortly before the 8 mile marker. I’d been waiting for her to make her move, but she seemed to be waiting too. I knew I didn’t have two 7 minute miles left in my legs, but I really wanted that sub 1:15. Mile 8 buzzed in at 7:34, and I did some (possibly incorrect) calculations that I needed two 7:30s to go sub 1:15.
That’s when I spotted Gillian Sangster up ahead in the distance. She was somewhere between 100 – 200 metres ahead (I don’t have great depth perception so am not good at judging long distances) but she seemed to be getting closer rather than further away. I had moved just a couple of metres ahead of Tracy but was paranoid that she was on my shoulder, just waiting to sprint past at the 9 mile mark. At this stage, I decided I had to just forget about her as I can’t second guess her tactics, and I only have control over what I do. I decided I was going to try and reel in Gillian, and try and get as close to 1:14 as possible without blowing up. I picked up the pace slightly, but someone went past me. It was a tall guy wearing a Dundee Road Runners vest, so I didn’t bother trying to keep up with him. I ended up running alongside the Kinross Road Runner who had been running with Tracy for a bit, and asked him if he had a goal time. He said he didn’t, but was hoping to be faster than last year when he’d ran 1:19. I said he definitely would be faster, and should be sub 1:15.
I was closing the gap with Gillian, but probably not quickly enough to catch her. We were back on the bumpy section of tarmac which I described in the Perth Parkrun post, so I was watching my feet placement and let the Kinross runner (I found out from the results he was called Jim – well done on your PB if you read this!) get a little in front of me. We neared the turning point back into the Inch along the side of the golf course. There was no chance of me taking a wrong turn this year. In addition to the marshals, Andy and Brenda from Montrose Parkrun were there to cheer on Wendy and Karen, and they gave me a cheer too – thanks guys. I turned the corner and risked a sideways glance to see where Tracy was. I couldn’t see her: did that mean she had fallen further behind than I thought, or did it mean she was closer than I hoped? I ran along the side of the golf course trying to pick up the pace, and my watch finally showed a sub 7 pace for the first time since the initial flurry at the start. Gillian was now only about 5 seconds in front.
When we got to the park exit to go past the houses and round towards the stadium, I chanced another glance, and saw Tracy was maybe 7 or 8 seconds behind me. I tried to pick up the pace further as she’s got a much better mile pace than me: was she going to catch me in the final 400 metres? I was gasping for breath quite loudly now, and hoping I had the strength for a bit of a sprint finish. I followed Gillian into the stadium and saw Barry and David who were standing near the gate looking for me. David shouted “Well done Pauline” – twice, and I saw him looking to see who was behind me. I attempted a sprint, and did briefly get up to 6:00 minute mile pace. I didn’t manage to catch Gillian though, and there was no punching the air like last year: the track was busier and I was waiting to see what the gap was. I wandered off to the inner part of the track to get out of the way and, like last year, apologised to the female marshal who had to take my timing chip off because I was a little light-headed after that final effort. I remembered to get my goody bag, and immediately opened the bottle of water.
Tracy came sprinting over the line about 5 or 6 seconds after me, but I never got to see her finish properly as I was too busy being incapable of removing my timing chip. I shook hands with her, Jim from Kinross, and a couple of the Dundee Road Runners. Then David and Barry appeared and we had a chat with them and Gillian. I wasn’t sure she knew who I was prior to this year’s Smokies, but she said she knew it was me behind her from my footsteps! Always nice to be recognised, even if it is for having a distinctly clompy heel strike! Jodie had said on the C25K graduation run last month that I sound like I’m running in high heels, which can’t be a good thing and isn’t something I’ve had to do for years.
David and Barry had both done brilliantly: Barry had said he was aiming for sub 1:05, but I thought he was secretly hoping to be faster than that, and sure enough his time was just over 1:02! I was sure he would be in the top ten with a time like that, but it turned out he was 15th. Tough competition! Not too tough for Arbroath Footer Ruaridh though, who finished second in an amazing time of 56:32! He assures me this is an average pace of 5:39 per mile. As someone who can’t quite break 6:30 for a single mile, I’m massively in awe. He got a nice wee trophy and a Run4It voucher for his efforts. David had managed a PB over last year, with 1:05:04. He said he went the wrong way at that underpass junction and would otherwise have been sub 1:05. His run was off the back of two long runs on Thursday and Friday, so it’s looking promising for his Ultra. He better write us a race report for it.
David and Barry said they were heading inside to warm up, whilst I chatted to a few folk from DRR, Jock (who’d done pretty much what he was aiming for with 1:10 and a few seconds change – a big PB on his previous visit a few years ago) and Joanne and their lovely dog. Charlotte also appeared and congratulated us. She and Lynn had given me a boost cheering me on outside the stadium, and they were heading back to look for more folk they knew to cheer on. I was going to wait on Ashleigh, Joni and Craig finishing, but it was much colder than last year and, only in shorts and vest, I was cooling down. I saw Tina in the stands though, with her granddaughter waiting on Jodie and Karin coming in. She shouted over to congratulate me and offered to take a photo. I explained David and Barry had gone inside, but they reappeared as we were chatting as they had gone the wrong way! So we got our post-race photo after all. Then Joni and Ashleigh appeared. Ashleigh had a rough start to the race due to her shin splints/ hockey injury (it can be a dangerous sport). They’d run together the whole way, until Ashleigh decided to pick up the pace with 1 ½ miles to go. They’ve got London Marathon in a few weeks, so hopefully the injuries and niggles will be resolved: time to taper. They’re raising money for charity if anyone wants to donate.
We went back to the Sports Hall to get our stuff and put warmer clothes on, and thanked Nina for a well-organised race. She asked if I had enjoyed it, and kindly said I was looking remarkably fresh for having just ran 10 miles. I promptly went to use the ladies and saw that in actual fact I looked rather dishevelled at least in terms of my hair which was a total mess from having taken my buff off around the 2 mile point. I didn’t look in urgent need of medical attention, but was feeling peckish. We’d been told the Café had opened specially for the race, so we thought we should make use of it. I think they made the right decision to open it as they were doing a roaring trade. David was only going to have a coffee, but in the end David, Barry, Craig and I all got paninis. We went to sit down at a table to eat them, and wondered what the huge queue of much more smartly dressed people were doing: they were getting a buffet lunch. They’d had to attend a conference on a Sunday though, whereas we had just taken part in a race, which I suspect was a lot more fun. In fact, one of the guys asked if we’d been running and said pretty much the same thing, so we didn’t begrudge them the food. A lady from Anster Allsorts popped over when we were eating and said she recognised me from my race report about Smokies (after the Stirling and Loch Ness Marathon posts they’re the most widely read ones on this site). She was complimentary about the blog, and asked if I wrote reports on every race. I’m sorry I didn’t remember your name to include it in this report! David joked about my fan club, and I pointed out he should write more posts for the site.
Even though the sun wasn’t shining this year, and I didn’t quite get the time I was hoping for (my official time was 1:14:13, so about 15 seconds off my goal) this was still a great race. As always it was really well organised with lots of encouraging marshals, and I love the novelty of getting to run on a track, even if only for a short distance. The scenery is lovely except for the short section through houses as you’re looping back, and it’s a nice fast, flat route. I’ll probably be back next year, and it’s definitely one you should consider. There are very few ten mile races, which is a shame because it’s a perfect distance (for me, at least). We’re very lucky to have two excellent ten mile races in this part of Scotland, and if you live in the North East or Central Scotland you should definitely have it on your bucket list for next year.
Photo Acknowledgments: All photos taken during the race (except on the photos where the photographer is clearly stated in the caption) were taken by Roy Mitchell who kindly agreed to their use.