Talk about tough.
The Dovestone Diamond is a 10k, multi-terrain route with about 500ft of ascent/descent and with the days rain it had turned the offroad parts of the course into a pretty muddy slop-fest so while it was tough, this was definitely my sort of race!
I’m not a fan of evening running but when it’s a classic race a few miles down the road an effort must be made so off we went – me, the wife, Amanda and Simon all with varying goals and aims for the evenings running. For me, I’d run the Lactic Flashback a while back and figured if I went full bore here as I did with that race I might sneak into the top 25 although this field seemed to be a lot more competitive and stacked at the front end as it hit the full 250 runners limit before the day but having not run the actual route I didn’t know what to aim for particularly other than to survive the first 2.5 – 3 miles of uphill and then be on flat/downhill on the way back.
Sprinting at the start line
I started at the front of the line because there’s a short sprint along a road and you funnel into a very narrow, very muddy path before hitting a narrow gateway and a thin path so having found in previous trail races it’s well worth making an effort to avoid getting caught up in a mass of legs and bodies trying to squeeze through a gate early in the race and so it proved. I went out with the front runners for the first half mile and settled into a hard working pace but felt reasonably comfortable although the first mile and a bit are hard hard work for sure!
The climbing continued but not quite as steeply as we headed into a wooded section and it while still puffing and panting I did enjoy some reasonably technical trail through there and along the side of Dovestone reservoir leading to a final little switchback before you hit the relative relief of knowing you’re halfway there and the remainder is downhill or flat!
Trail spirit and a split field
Thank you to the racer behind me on the final little uphill bit who when I took a little breather by walking up a few steps encouraged me to keep running. I love offroad racing for just this sort of spirit.
There was a definite split in the field at the halfway point with me and a couple of guys at the back of the top 20-30 racers and then a gap where you could be reasonably confident that if you didn’t fade badly you probably wouldn’t lose position much. Probably an indication that a bit more speed training would be required to step up into the top 20.
The run around the 3-5.5 mile point was around the reservoir and was a case of getting into a consistent pace and calming down the breathing from the climbing and then came the great fun of the traverse down the side of the big grass bank at the side of the reservoir. I’d always wondered what it would be like to do that and it was reassuring to take back all of the 100m lead the person in front had in a matter of around 20 seconds. Thank you downhill practice!
Forrest Gump survival finish mode
I wish I’d known the last last km of the race better though, I kicked waaaaaaaaaaaay too early with a km to go and while I think I held the two places I gained, there was nothing consistent about the pacing now, just Forrest Gump survival mode. Still, I managed to out-sprint the chap in 25th and crossing the line at around a 3:20/mile pace even for a few seconds was a great way to finish off a really tough but enjoyable race in what actually is my 3rd fastest 10k time of 44:50 and the other two were road races so to say I’m happy with that would be an understatement.
I can race uphills reasonably well these days and I’m glad I decided to start at the front to have a chance to stay clear of any queues at the first narrow path. Hard work but definitely worthwhile. Apart from that, I probably got a bit carried away kicking early at the 9km mark and faded badly so probably worth leaving it a little later next time but ultimately no real harm done as I’d have been more than happy with a couple of places and even a minute or two slower in the conditions and terrain.
Me: 24th in 44:50
Simon: 182nd in 1:02:21
Amanda: 193rd in 1:03:46
Ally: 202nd in 1:05:58
Thanks as ever to all the marshals and volunteers who help organise and support the race, standing around in the rain is never much fun but each one gave me a bit of encouragement as I went past and I always appreciate the little boost you get from it.