While many were heading up the A1 this past weekend for the Great North Run, I settled for rural Warwickshire and the Draycote 10k. For anyone unfamiliar with the location, Draycote Water is a reservoir just outside Dunchurch, owned by Severn Trent Water. As with most reservoirs, there is a perimeter road/path around the outside, with one full lap equating to roughly 4.75 miles. It’s quite a common place for runners and cyclists as, at the right time of year, it’s relatively quiet, at weekends it’s almost always traffic free and the scenery can be rather beautiful. It’s also the home of several races, ranging in distance from 10k to 20 miles. The Race Organiser run most of the events, with a 10k taking place every month as part of a 6 race summer series and a 6 race winter series.
There were a few reasons why I chose to do the race, not least because a friend was doing it and recommended it. I’ve also been a bit frustrated and disappointed recently that I am still not where I was 6 months ago in my training. Despite only missing a few weeks of training in the spring, due to injury, I’ve been finding it harder than expected to get back to where I was pre-injury. That being said, I feel that training has been going relatively well in recent weeks and, with an October half marathon planned, I wanted to see just where I was in terms of race pace, in a step up from a 5k.
My target for the race was a realistic, or so I thought anyway, 45 minutes. This is some 40 seconds or so slower than my PB but, as I mentioned, I’m not quite where I was 6 months ago. 45 minutes, a nice and round 4:30 per kilometre target pace.
With an entry limit of 600 it’s already a small event but, with so many other races happening this weekend, the field was particularly small with less than 150 runners. This meant that I could start near to the front without the worry of holding others up. The race starts by heading anti clockwise for a kilometre before turning round, back to the start and then onwards for a full lap, finishing next to the visitor centre. As we headed off at the start, I was unsurprisingly pulled along by some of the faster runners. It felt quick, but not unsustainable, so I went with it, clocking the first kilometre in at 4:23.
As we made the turn from the upper path on to the lower road, I was feeling confident. 7 seconds in the bank from the first km and I was feeling good at that pace. One issue with running at Draycote though is that it is quite exposed. You may get a bit of shelter from the trees on a sunny day (although the swarms of flies will get you instead), but there’s no escaping the wind and, on a windy day, you really feel it. It was ok at the start. Standing waiting for the start in shorts and vest wasn’t an issue and neither was the first km. Turning that corner though, the wind just hit. Trying to maintain pace coming back down the straight was tough work, and pushing hard in my attempt really took it out of me.
The second km was 4:37, cancelling out the time gained during the first. The road section was longer than I thought before reaching the visitor centre and heading up the short hill behind it. This made for an even slower third km, 4:41.
If you’re familiar with Draycote, you will know that for most of the way round, the path is the road, but at stages it splits. The course takes the road route, which often means little ups and downs as the road drops away from the path before returning. This means that the course is actually hillier than you would expect, for a reservoir. Not in the sense of long, gradual climbs, but short and sharp ones that just take the edge off your momentum. So from behind the visitor centre, the next 5k was what could (and was during the introduction) be described as rolling.
Kilometres 4 and 5 were back on pace at 4:29 and 4:31, but 12m gain in the sixth pretty much ended my chances of meeting my pre-race goal with a 4:41. I gave everything I had in the second half of the race, particularly when back on the final straight into the finish. The wind had died down from the first lap but it was still strong enough to work against you. There were three of us close together as we entered the final kilometre and I tried to use them to push me into the finish. I overtook one as he faded but the other took off in the final 400m and I couldn’t stick with him. The final 4 km’s came in at 4:30, 4:34, 4:29 and 4:35 giving me an unofficial finish time of 45:30, slightly slower than I had hoped.
The event really was fantastic. For £13, for affiliated runners, you get chip timing, a water station (in cups though, not great), a medal and a goody bag, which included a technical tee, 2 cans of healthy drink, a bottle of water, a pack of Haribo and a raw food protein bar. Great value really and I will definitely be back in future.
As for my performance, it really leaves me with a bit of a question in terms of where to next. This wasn’t a relaxed effort, it was all out and 45:30 was as fast as I could have gone on race day. I’m clearly not where I want to be in relation to my planned October half and, with a few little niggles, I’m cautious about pushing myself too much and risking injury. I could settle for a more realistic time, or I could push back my 13.1 mile plans and work on building for the spring. With a busy Saturday planned, I’m not so keen on taking half of my one-day weekend out to travel to Leicester and do a half marathon if it’s not to be an ‘A-race.’ I’d rather just do the miles from home and have less of the day wiped out. There is a Rugby half a couple of weeks later which is an option. It’s a hilly course but if I’m not PB hunting anyway, then that’s less of an issue and, as it’s local, it will be less of a time commitment. Either that or I just wait until next year.