Durrell Challenge: My First Win!
Sometimes last minute race sign ups are the best! The Durrell Challenge is a prime example for that. This was the first time I had entered the race, a 13km route from People's Park, up Vallee des Vaux and through the country lanes to the Zoo. I had heard there were lots of hills and yes I can confirm there were!
Lead up & Prep
Having only a few weeks' notice before signing up to the race, I was nervous for the shorter distance as I had been focussed on my Ultra training throughout the summer and wasn't sure how my legs were going to adjust to a quicker paced race. Having done a few intervals and threshold sessions (and feeling very sick from how hard they were) I didn't have high expectations. However, I think this worked in my favour as I turned up to the race more relaxed and rested than usual and wasn’t even sure of the course. I was also still recovering from “one or two” drinks at my leaving do from Friday night...
Stuffed with the standard pre night pasta and ice cream, I did my standard floor lay out of all my gear and outfit and had an early night.
With the start of the autumn weather, conditions were very windy but could've been a lot worse! In fact the wind provided a nice cooling breeze after the first few hills.
Turning up to the race it was very clear all Covid19 procedures were in place with hand sanitizer on arrival and only runners allowed in the start pen. Consistent with other races in recent weeks the race structure consisted of around 7 waves of 40 runners set off at 30 minute intervals to comply with social distancing regulations. This was very well organised and very efficient and although I miss the atmosphere of the gathering runners and the buzz before the start gun this is something I will have to get used to for some time yet.
After a quick warm up with Rich, who found out in the week he would be running it twice - once in the race in the first wave and then again as a tail runner with the last wave later in the day (bravo Rich!).
As I waited for the start gun, I began to think about my race strategy (nothing like leaving it to the last minute). My conclusion...the standard “Go out hard and hold on”. Not something I would normally do or recommend - but sometimes works in your favour!
Having done a 10km time trial in the summer with Rich, I knew his 10km pb was about 100-200metres faster than mine. To make sure I set off at a steady but I decided that I would try to keep Rich in sight for as long as I could. It became clear very quickly that Rich was feeling good and having a good day and my early mile splits even surprised me but I could still just see him in the distance. At mile 4 I took on a caffeine SIS gel for a much needed boost.
As the race settled down, I continued to run on feel and focussed on trying to keep a quick cadence rather than being too concerned about pace. The hills were ticking off with the big climb out of Vallee des Vaux easily the worst - the trick is quick feet, lots of small steps and keeping the heart rate low with big deep breaths.
Having nowhere to hide in the wind with the race being staggered everyone just had to power through it head on and it was relentless. Having turned off the alerts on the watch the big yellow counting markers at each kilometer helped psychologically and provided a great countdown to the finish line.
The whole race felt super comfortable, in fact - the best I have felt in any race before. I crossed the finish line still feeling strong in 57min 46sec which was good enough for first lady home and officially my first ever solo running win!
Special shout out to Rich for getting a PB of 57:16 on his favourite course and 14th overall.
All in all a great morning out and something I really didn’t expect. A special thank you to all the organisers, volunteers and the smiliest Marshalls cheering out in the cold making the day one to remember.
And I made the local news…