Official time: 1hr 38m 15s, 160th / 176 finishers,
Gender: 53rd/64 finishers, Age group – 30th/35 finishers
Wasp stings: 2
Headless rabbits: 1
The Ballater 10 is a small, club-run event hosted in the Highland town of Ballater by the Deeside Runners. I originally signed up for this race eons ago when I had decided late last year that I wanted to run a half marathon and signed up for the Great Scottish Run in September 2011. I’d figured this would be a good race to do in preperation for my first half marathon – little did I know that come the 31st of July I’d be up to my neck in marathon training and worrying that I actually had 18 miles scheduled for that day not just 10…
Despite having now completed two halfs, I was still looking forward to my first crack at the 10 mile distance. My goals for the day were to A) Maintain my goal marathon pace throughout (sub-10min/mi), B) Finish between 1hr 30 and 1hr 40 and C) Not to try and be a hero and go for the big sprint finish and wreck my legs for the week’s training ahead.
Mike came to mine at 09:30 for a lift, we picked up Naomi on the way and made it to race HQ at Ballater Primary School by 11am. Once we got our numbers there was the usual hanging around waiting for familiar faces to turn up – I saw a couple of ladies from work, there was a good Fetch and Stonehaven Running Club contingent present, and I spotted Lucy Colquhoun as well. The start was very low key – the race wasn’t even chipped so we all just lined up at the marked start line and after a brief race announcement (that there were more competitors than finishers tshirts so if we wanted one we’d have to be fast…) we were off.
The race starts by going through the centre of Ballater before crossing the river Dee and heading off down a single track road. I enjoyed running through the town with all the tourists standing looking glaikit at us – the roads hadn’t been closed so cars were somewhat marooned in the middle of the street with a sea of neon lycra surrounding them, forcing them to a standstill.
Mike had warned that there were hills at miles 2, 5 and 8. Being a single track country road it was pretty undulating with lots of small hills and decents as well. I ran the first couple of miles sub-9 – I was trying to keep my pace down but it was really hard with so many people streaming past me at speed – the same problem I’ve encountered in my last two races. I quickly found myself at the back of the pack, as usual, running sub-9 miles – for heavens’ sake that isn’t all that slow! These smaller club races are always so fast, but I stuck to my race plan and plodded on.
The first three miles I felt totally rubbish and somewhat nauseated at the ascent of the first hill. At mile 5 there was the biggest hill which I decided to walk. I wanted to save my legs and energy to maintain a strong pace throughout, in the end it only added a minute and a half to that mile so it wasn’t much of a disaster. There was a water stop at the top of the hill which was very well received – it wasn’t sunny but still reasonably warm and humid. I felt well hydrated though so the cup of water was just a pleasant way to wash out my mouth and pour over my head.
At about Mile 6.5 the course turned off-road on to landrover tracks through a forest. It was quite flat and I was able to make up some time and start over taking people. We then crossed a wobbly suspension bridge which was a nice landmark and made our way back up to the main road (A93). I was feeling really comfortable and relaxed; there was a guy in front of me who had bright yellow shoes which were quite hypnotic to watch, and I used him as a pacer until the finish. I took a GU with me and decided to suck on it after the hill at mile 8 – I only ate about half of it but the sugar and caffeine give me a nice lift until the finish.
The last mile was on a path which was rather overgrown and featured nettles and sharp brambles ready to attack runners legs. I really wanted to overtake pacer-man at this point but because the path was so narrow I had to sit behind him for a while until it was safe to pass. There were also some rather macabre sights in this race sadly – a lot of squished hedgehogs, squirrels and bunnies on the roads, but I think the headless rabbit on this path would have been the er, highlight. It was very fresh – a lovely snack for some hungry mammal at some point I’m sure.
So I’ve got the finish in sight and I’m raring to go once I can overtake pacer-man; I suddenly feel a stabbing pain in my right ankle and shriek! “What the #@£%??! Son of a @£#&%!!!” The pain continues as I try to continue moving and smack at my ankle at the same time, it spreads throughout my foot and throbs up my leg as I realise I’ve been stung or bitten (non-venomous snakes such as adders in long grass are not uncommon up here in the summer). I tried not to panic and wanted to overtake pacer man even more now so I could get to the finish as fast as I possible could! I felt my chest tighten up and my breathing felt restrained – for a moment I started freaking out that I might be going into anaphalactic shock, but then as it eased off after a minute I figured it was just the shock of being stung. The path widened as we re-entered the park where we started and I over took pacer-man (who must have learned some lovely new swear words from me) and lengthened my stride. I passed a further three people in the park and crossed the finish line happily within my goal time.
I quickly sat down and took off my shoe and sock and saw two bloody marks on my outside ankle bone – arrg! It must have been a snake! On closer investigation it wasn’t looking too bad and the final diagnosis was two wasp stings. It was damned sore though and although my ankle swole up more later in the day there was no lasting damage.
I was the last of my friends to finish – Naomi did fantasticly in her first race outisdethe 10k distance and finished a few minutes before me. New PBs for Mike, Vikki and Sheri and happy runners all around. I was pleased with my race – a nice change after the last few disappointments. Regardless of how ‘slow’ I was (average 09:49 pace is not slow!) which left me right at the back of the field, I got my tshirt and goodie bag and hit my goals. I really enjoyed the distance and I look forward to going for a huge PB next year, or perhaps at another 10 mile race if I can find one after the marathon. The hills did make it challenging, but it was a well organised race in beautiful scenery so I’ll definitely be back.
8.57 – 9.14 – 10.30(hill!) – 9.31 – 10.59 (hill!) – (water station)10.31 – 9.40 – 10.10 – 9.29 – 9.14.