Devilla 15k trail race

This blog started out last week as information about my taper plans for Devilla 15k trail race. The race has now been and the taper seemed to work well, so the blog has changed in to a race report. Sorry about that. 

I'll briefly go over my preparations for the race just so you don't feel like you're missing out on anything.

Pre-race week

I dropped a quick email to my coach to ask about how to take on a taper week for Devilla. It wasn't a 'A' race for me but I thought I might as well give it my best and see how my fitness is coming along on the run up to Inverness half marathon. 

I reduced my mileage, had a rest on Friday and went for an easy 3 mile run on Saturday morning just to tick over. 

It's a week before the National Cross Country champs at Falkirk (27th Feb) but even if I was in the best form of my life, I reckon I will be lucky to finish in the top 200 at this race.

I thought I might have a chance of finishing in the top 10 at Devilla so that made more sense to aim for that race as a test.

I've ran the race 3 times previously and always placed pretty well. 

2013: 11th
2014: 7th (the year of the short course!)
2015: 6th

The race

The weather had improved and it was looking like a good day for a race. I headed out for a quick warm up prior to the start, did some of my usual drills and strides and then took my place on the start line in my Edinburgh AC club vest and my new ashmei beanie and compression socks.

I was feeling good, I was feeling confident.

I got my toe right on the start line, the only other time I get this close to the start is parkrun but if I wanted a good start, this is where I had to be. 

After a slightly longer briefing than I'd have liked by the Race Director, we were off. The first 200 metres are along a windy bit of road and I was keen to not get stuck in any bottleneck so kicked early and was sitting in second place. That wasn't going to last but it was good to be clear of the pack early on.

Within the first mile everyone had settled into their pace and I could still see the guys in 1st, 2nd and 3rd position and I was sitting 6th.

The forest section

I was feeling good so I passed the guy in front and sat in 5th place for a while.  Miles 2 and 3 took us off road and in to the overgrowth in the forest. I was stuck behind the guy in front now, the trail became really narrow, winding through the forest, dodging tree trunks, bogs, branches. I love this section of the race! Some really deep water sections appeared and there was no option but to run through them and just hope you didn't fall.

During this section the guy in front did catch his foot on something and fell in front of me, luckily on to dry ground but all I could do was hurdle him, quickly check he was OK with a quick shout and then we were both back running again. I was now in front of him and I tried to take advantage of this and picked the pace up but then I took a wrong turn at a junction. Only a couple of strides past the correct path but it was enough for me to lose the position I had. 

I was now back behind the runner and I could hear others catching us. I was feeling strong and really wanted to pick up the pace but there was no options other than sit behind him, until I spotted a gap. I was going to have to put a sprint in to get around him but it was a risk I had to take.

We approached the gap, I went for it, scraped my legs along a branch and some bushes but I was now in front again and I put the foot down. I put space between us and before long I was back on to the forestry commission access tracks and able to get into a good rhythm and push the pace.

By now though, only 3 miles in to the race, I had forgotten what position I was in and I was just focussed on not dropping a place. If possible I would like to catch the guy in front of me but the slower pace through the overgrowth had cost me and the guys in front were disappearing along the paths.

Owain racing at Devilla
(Thanks Alan Ramage for the photo)

What goes up. 

Last year I dropped a couple of positions because I got a stitch with just a mile to go, I was determined not to have this happen to me again this year. How was I going to combat this? Simple, when heading up the hills, keep the breathing relaxed. This should then keep the heart rate low and hopefully, prevent me getting any stitch. It worked!

I climbed the hills and once I got to the top, opened up the legs again. 

Heading up the final climb with about a mile and a half to go, I was tempted to push a bit harder but that is exactly what I did last year and got my stitch. This time, I got to the top and then started the run home. 

Not once did I see anyone in front of me but I was over the moon when I finished and realised I had finished 4th overall in 58:30.

Devilla 15k finish line

(Thanks Gordon Donnachie for the photo)

Slower than last year but the course was also slightly longer this year due to a broken bridge so I can't really compare the times. The course was also a lot muddier this year! 

4th place overall

 

What's next?

As I said, I have the National Cross Country race this weekend, then I am heading down to Tring to meet the new hopefuls for the 2016/2017 ashmei ambassador recruitment process and then it's Inverness half marathon. I would really like to get sub 1:20:00 there, just need to hope for good weather! 

Owain Williams

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