Sunday, 30 October 2011

Running my first race in the dark

Last Friday I ran my first race that took place in the dark, in the Skeleton Race in Loughborough. It was another great experience to add to the small number that I’ve already had in running. As well as being my first race in the dark it was also the first race I’ve don’t that didn’t take place in the morning so the preparation was completely new. (I did want to put some pictures in but it turns out that there wasn't anyone taking pictures that you can buy)
First things first, preparation
I really wasn’t sure what to do during the day; should I go for a gentle run in the morning? What should I eat, when should I eat? I think I could have done a little more research than I did but in the end I went for doing nothing in the day and pretty much ate as I normally would; I had couple of pieces of toast for breakfast, early lunch and then an early dinner. Even though I could have known a little more about what I should have been doing, I made a plan. I think this is important for everyone to do for every race, no matter what your ability. Remember; fail to plan, then plan to fail.
Committing a cardinal sin, again
If you’ve read some of my other posts (if not, then why not?) then you might have stumbled across my post about my last race and committing some of the “cardinal sins of road running”. Well, on Friday I committed a big one; I didn’t warm-up. To make it worse, it was a freezing evening, making injury a huge risk.
Once the race started I could feel how stiff my muscles were and it took them about a mile to warm-up. Even though I didn’t end up injured, I think, in fact I know, that I would have had a better time if I had warmed-up.
Head torches
The problem about running in the dark is that, well, it’s dark. Race rules said that all runners must carry a torch or wear a head torch (I opted for a pretty cheap head torch). Friday was the first time I had run with it (another slap on the wrists for me, I know) and let me tell you, it’s tough to run in the dark with a head torch that doesn’t offer much in the way of light and that bounces around your head.
When the race started there was, like you’d expect, lots of runners lined up ready to go. That meant that there were lots of head torches lighting up the way. After about a mile, there were less people around me, meaning less light, and after about 2 miles there was no one in sight in front or behind me......I was all alone.
Nearly getting lost
So, 2 miles down, I’m on my own and I’m coming up to a marshall. They shouted at me which way to go, I went in the direction I thought they said and they had to shout back that I’d gone the wrong way, I had to turn around and mumbled a few unpleasant words. After that my faith in the marshalls went right down. At each turn I started physically pointing and asking which turn I had to take.
I came to a turn at about 4 miles and the marshall shouted something but I wasn’t sure what it was. I headed down a path but wasn’t 100% it was the right way. The course was supposed to be marked out with glow sticks but I didn’t see one for a few minutes, I began to think the worst.
 As I started to think that I was lost, there was a moment where I think logic evaded me. It might have just been that I was tired and not the fact that I thought I had gone the wrong way and was lost. There was a single moment that I thought if I was lost then I would stay in the same spot and wait to be found, until I realised that I could just turn around I go back in the direction I had come in.
Coming across the finish
Turns out that I wasn’t lost and I hadn’t gone down the wrong path. The glow sticks started appearing again and I had started to gain on the person in front of me. I could see the finish up ahead to switched on the after-burners and tried to catch up the guy in front. I pushed as hard as I could but left it too late. I wasn’t too disappointed though as I had still come 9th   (out of ~250), easily my highest finish in a race.
9th place, lessons learnt and an enjoyable first race in the dark, all topped off with a toffee apple at the finish because it’s so close to Halloween.  

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