Black Rock '5'
Just over a week ago I headed over to Kinghorn, Fife, for one of my favourite races. Black Rock '5'.
This is an out and back race. Starting at the bottom of a hill, up and out along the beach at Kinghorn, around a rock and then back to the start line and finishing on a steep uphill section.
I usually drive across to the race but due to limited car parking spaces in Kinghorn, I decided to get the train over since the start is located metres from the train station.
Mandy and I headed to the train station, met up with a number of other Edinburgh AC runners and got to the registration hall with about 40 minutes to go.
I attached my chip to my shoe, pinned my race number to my vest and then went out for a warm up. Due to the relatively short distance of this race, I wanted to get a good warm up in so as with other races, I headed out for a 2 mile warm up.
Heading out in the direction of the race route, I noticed a strong head wind. We would be battling in to this wind on the way to the rock. On the plus side, it would be on our backs all the way back to the finish.
With 5 minutes to spare, I found Mandy, who was acting as support crew and handed her my warm up clothes and made my way to the start line.
This year was a record number of entries and it really showed. The start was a bit cramped. Everyone standing on a single track road, squeezed in to a small space, I couldn't help but feel sorry for those runners right at the back. Although the race was chipped, it was only chipped for the finish, no start mat so everyone would get a gun time only. This could potentially add a good 30 seconds to a minute on to their eventual finish time!
I positioned myself about 2 or 3 rows back from the start line to give me as good a chance at a PB as possible. The course isn't 5 miles so all I can do is compare the race from one year to the next. Some times you need to wade around the rock due to the tide coming in while other times there is no water and it's just a race around the rock and back.
You never know the condition of the sand until you start racing and the same goes for whether there is water or not, that's what adds to the race. A bit of mystery.
It wasn't long until we were racing, the start is straight up a hill which gets the lungs working! Once at the top of the hill you can relax a bit and get in to some space as the road widens and you head down hill towards the beach.
I could see a couple of Edinburgh AC vests in front of me and I hoped to be able to run close to them but at the same time, I was going to run my own race and just see how it went.
As with all my shorter races, the Garmin was ignored and I just ran hard.
Heading downhill I heard a couple of shouts from team mates who weren't racing due to either injury or having other races planned over the weekend. It's great to have their support. There were a couple of "Well done Scottishrunner" as well. (Cheers @runner_ross).
Down on to the beach and through the first section of soft sand and then a small river which was ankle deep. This course is renowned for being the graveyard for running shoes. Most people keep an old pair of shoes just for this race. Once the sand and salt water gets in to them they just get thrown out and this was my plan for my old New Balance 905 racers. These were my first ever pair of racers and they have done me well but it was time to say goodbye to them.
Heading out towards the rock I was trying to run hard but at the same time try and not completely wreck myself for the return run. I found a group in front of me and took shelter behind them. I waited for a minute or so and then made a move out in to the wind and chased down the next group in front of me.
At this point I spotted Nicola Duncan (Portobello AC) was running about the same pace as me but the difference between the two of us is, Nicola is considerably smaller in height than me and a good number of stones lighter - this head wind must have been tough for her so I as I approached my wind shelter for the second time, I told her to tuck in behind me, I'd shelter her out to the rock.
She did just that. She got in behind me and sheltered but the problem now was, the shelter I was aiming for, heard me offer my services as a wind break to Nicola and took an extreme side step to the right to make sure I wasn't benefiting from his bulk.
A bit annoying as I would have been happy to swap places with him after a while and we could have worked together - it wasn't to be. I saw another group ahead of me and so put my best foot forward and gave chase, hoping that Nicola would stick with me.
I could hear someone close behind and presumed she had seen my plan and had came with me. We rested for a bit and then went after the next group ahead, well, that was the plan!
It was as if they had read my mind because as soon as I passed the group I had been sheltering in, they pulled away and there was no way I was going to try and chase them down or catch them.
I was now taking the full brunt of the wind and the rock wasn't close enough to use the return journey to recover from another hard effort.
What rubbed sand in to the wounds a bit more was I could hear more than just one person heavy breathing behind me now. The runners I had passed were now all grouped behind me. I was hoping someone would pull up next to me and offer to take a turn but it wasn't too be.
We eventually got to the rock and it was now the return leg. Wind on our back, legs a bit heavier than I would have liked, a number of runners came past me but I wasn't for letting them pass easily. They might have benefited from my shelter on the way out but I was going to fight them all the way back.
Photo taken by Barry Davie.
The sand on the way back was softer than on the way out and it really zapped the strength out of my legs. I was running with a small group of guys now and we were all trying to race each other as much as possible. It was great. I would surge and then someone would come after me and pass but only by a couple of metres, I would then push again, it was a brilliant run back towards the road.
Once back on the road, after running through the really soft sand again, it was time to try and open up the pace a bit. Get back in to a good rhythm and try and either catch some runners in front or hold off anyone who is fresher legs behind me.
The road section is good but it's back up the hill we ran down so the lactic really builds up fast in your legs. I was struggling but then one of my club mates passed me and told me to keep pushing. He is faster than me but I wasn't going to ignore his wise words. I tried to match his pace and I stayed with him for maybe 100 metres but then he pulled away.
I gritted my teeth and kept on pushing up the hill, just as someone tapped me on my shoulder as they zoomed past. It was yet another Edinburgh AC runner but I wasn't sure who this person was and I had nothing left to chase him.
Continuing up the hill, my legs were burning but I knew the downhill was going to arrive soon and when it did, I tried to keep the pace going, making sure I didn't drop any more time or positions.
Down past the train station, down to the start line, we then take a sharp left hand bend and finish on a steep uphill. This is when you just need to focus and keep on pushing.
That is exactly what I did, running as hard as I could, one more person passed me but I had nothing to give, my legs were dead.
I finished in 27:20 and came 44th / 1025. My best time and best position ever on this course, I was over the moon.
After the race
After all the Edinburgh AC team were in, we all headed to the local pub where the prize giving was being held, enjoyed a number of beers and a fish supper. It was a great social evening and still ranks as one of my favourite races. Great organisation and really friendly volunteers.
The shoes have also returned to home, pretty much unscathed. The lack of water around the rock means I can use them again next year. Bonus!
Would I do anything differently?
Now that I have had time to look back on the race, I would maybe do a couple of things differently.
I would try and run the second mile a bit harder, maybe get in to a group up front sooner than I did. Rather than charging along the beach catching groups, just be in the faster group in the first place.
I still lack confidence to run harder on the shorter distances, although I'm not running according to my watch, I should push harder earlier in the race. Trust my training and know that I can do it.