Race report - Chester Zoo 10K 2002

Someone tell me if these epistles are boring; if so I'll make them shorter.

Conditions: <10 deg C (felt chilly), dull, light winds

I was up for this one - set on going for a sub-37 time, which I felt was a real possibility following the performance in the difficult Mersey Tunnel 10K. So up, in fact that my HR was racing away even in the gentle warm-up jogs.

"New Start - New Finish - New Race" said the blurb. Well, a check on the map of the course revealed a figure of 8 course with a short clockwise 3K loop, followed by an anticlockwise 7K loop, over 80% of the same course as before. And yes - they'd thoughtfully retained the climb up the hill from the Shropshire Union Canal for the last kilometre.

Start took place on the road but was just as congested as I remember from 1999 (my last time here). Lots of jostling as we got away - I was on the 2nd row and runners streamed past on either side.
Almost certainly started too fast despite this - I could see ahead of me some Wirral AC runners who are normally a bit slower than me. As I'm a lousy judge of pace in the early stages of a race, I tried to use them to set my own pace. Trouble was, they were slowly going away (where was that 1K marker?), yet I was feeling uncomfortable. Past the 2K marker in 7:09 - faster than I wanted, but didn't appreciate at the time how much faster. And still being overhauled by other runners at regular intervals.
Missed the 3K marker somewhere near the zoo entrance - was looking to see where the family were (they hadn't bothered to come out of the zoo!), but knew I was struggling. 4K in 14:41 - about where I wanted to be - but not off a heavily positive 2K split! Even now I still felt uncomfortable, and it was slowly dawning on me that 37 mins was now a hopelessly optimistic target.
We then entered the middle section of the run where we run over, parallel to and back over the M56. Hit the 5K marker in 18:30 - but no way was I going to run the second 5K in the same time. The climbs up and over the bridges, small as they were, got increasingly sapping. 6K in 22:26 - didn't bother to try to work out how far behind schedule I was.


  • from 1st post...

    Remembered MartinH's comment about these being the "graveyard kilometres" of a race and worked hard thru the 7th K. Where was that marker? Course got increasingly undulating as we crossed the Shropshire Union Canal and climbed through the hamlet of Croughton. Not even a pathetic attempt to tailgate the two or three runners who overtook me on the climb could prevent a further deterioration in my pace.
    8K in 30:38 - even 38 minutes was disappearing out of the window. Another attempt to pick things up produced only a modest improvement.
    Didn't even check my watch at 9K (34:38 as it turned out) as there before me was the bridge back over the canal - and the climb beyond. Weakened all too easily halfway up and lost another 2 or 3 places as a result. Had absolutely nothing left to try to chase down those who had overtaken me - or had I? Inside the zoo, with the finish line 40m away, heard someone closing fast, and managed a q sharp kick to stay ahead. My watch said 38:59 at the end - a very disappointing performance.
    Saw Rob aka FatFace only briefly after the race - sounds like he got badly impeded at the start - which, in terms of dealing with congestion, isn't much better than the old one.
    Warmed down in the best possible manner (not) by slowly carrying my 4 year old son as he threw tantrums round a chilly Chester Zoo for the next 2½ hours....

    Post mortem
    I'd really wanted a good performance from this race, but thinking about it now, I screwed up due to a number of failures:
    1) (possibly) failure to prepare properly in the last week - should have taken it easier I now think in hindsight.
    2) failure to appreciate the nature of the course - flat & fast for the first half, but increasingly difficult & undulating for the second. No excuses there, having seen it all before on previous Zoo 10Ks. Still, it led me to set myself an unrealistic target.
    3) failure to set the right pace from the start - hmmmm....when you see runners you normally beat going away from you, what is the right pace? Still, should have taken more notice of the way I felt.
    4) failure of guts over the last 3K. I hit a crisis at a similar stage in my last 10K, and battled through it. Today, mentally, I wasn't strong enough. There was still something in my legs - as I found right at the end - and only briefly did the HR top 180 (on the hill) in the entire race.

    An experience to exorcise at next year's race.....
  • ....hope others had a better one...
  • Still a good time Mike.
    I;ll bear this in mind ofr next year when I run - my chest was too bad for any running this weekend.
    Still, had to make use of the family Zoo ticket though - yes it was cold wasn't it ? Bring back last weekend - Winter seems to be here now :-(
  • MikeS,
    I totally sympathise, having had a similar experience earlier this summer. However, I think races like this, although painful (both physically and emotionally) are useful, if unpleasant, learning experiences and although it probably doesn't help you much right now, you should be reassured by the knowledge that we've all been there. Regardless, a sub-39 is nothing to sniff at and you showed guts by pushing through the pain.

  • Mike - I say keep the race reports coming, definitely something to look forward to on Monday morning. Is a horrible feeling when you know you're going off pace so well done on a sub 39 in any event. I did wonder whether you were putting in too much speed work in the week leading up - perhaps you left some of your speed behind in training?

    Can't say I'd fancy that 'post-race' warm down either!!
  • I really enjoy these post-race reports, whatever experience is being relayed. Keep 'em coming and good luck for getting your sub-37 next time out.
  • Blooming good time, Mike. Don't beat yourself up about what you could have done differently. Sometimes a bad run just strikes on a race day and that's that. Next time will be better.
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Mike, keep your reports coming. The "bad" reports are just as entertaining as the good ones. Difficult to say what went wrong but maybe you were just tired from all your training last week or started off too fast.

    Like you I find it very difficult to judge my pace at the start and have started off too fast in almost every race I have ever done. Is there a solution?
  • Markers at 1 & 3K would have helped. It didn't really affect me too much as I hadn't targeted this race for a good performance. I'll definitely do this one again (and will try to keep something in reserve for the last hill). Did anyone else find that tiny bridge over the canal nearly as bad as the hill at 9K? For some reason it just stopped me dead and broke my rhythm.
  • A few comments about the Chester Zoo 10K.

    I have to agree with Mike S about the congestion at the start. It is an improvement on the previous start but the problem is one of number on entries. It starts on a country lane wide enough for 2 cars to pass with a bit left over, but there are 1000 runners. We could, of course, debate for ever and a day about runners lining up realistically compared to where they think they will finish. But this just ain't going to happen. So to the race:

    I took 20 seconds to cross the start and another 500 metres to get into my stride. I missed the 1km marker but went through 2K in 9:31. One of my pre-race concerns was whether to wear a T-shirt under my club vest but by 4K (18:37) I was glad that I chose not to. It was cool but with hardly any breeze, perfect conditions really. I was hoping for a drink at 5K (23:18) but I had forgotten that you don't get them in this race. My pre-race target was 46:30, so remembering the canal and motorway bridges and the hill at 9K meant there was no real chance of that, but I was determined to see how close I could get. 6 and 7 K came up in pretty even splits (32:32) but the hardest part of the race is the last 2K. I hit 9K in 42:12 but the hill got me (again). I read somewhere recently about the way to attack a hill is to increase your breathing rate and leg cadence before you start up it. It did work to a certain extent and I was quite pleased that I gained about 15 places whilst going up. The other tip I picked up was to set the top of the hill as being 20 metres or so after the summit. That way, you feel less inclined to slow once the hard work is done. I eventually finished in an offical time of 47:05. My unofficial time would have been 46:45, which would have been my faster 10K for about 15 years and only 15 seconds off my target. So, I guess you can say I was reasonably happy with my time. I met up with my 2 clubmates who had opted for this race instead of the Liverpool 10K who finished in 37:37 and 42:00 (gits). Mrs Fat Face who always finishes in just under the hour finished in just under the hour (59:56). She was having a good 'un until the last 2K and she faded a bit. But she enjoyed herself and that is the main thing (and let us not all forget that!!!).

    There is a fun run with this race, which was rather poorly organised. When it eventually started, about 20 minutes late becasue the bloke with the bike disappeared, it involved about 1000 runners starting at a wide section and then all attempting to get through a section about 6 feet wide (after about 40 metres), then doing a 180 turn and then running back into the path of all the runners who hadn't managed to get through the narrow section yet. A lap of the zoo then ensued and back to were they started but for some reason the tape to hold back the spectators had been moved, so the leaders had to battle their way through the crowds to get to the finish. Organised chaos described it.

    There had also been a lot of debate as to why the Chester Zoo and Liverpool 10K's clashed this year. Apparently, part of the reason as to why Chester was brought forward 2 weeks is that last year the race was in the schools half term holiday. The public were complaining that they could not get to the zoo of the car park, so the date was changed. At least we know now.

    Also, as much as we complain about organisation at races, lets all remember that the organisers at most of these local races give up their own time to do it. If they didn't there wouldn't be any races. I am very grateful to them all.
  • Sorry, I got a bit carried away. It was a bit longer than I intended.
  • Rob,
    Glad you did - nice to hear I wasn't the only one put out by the hills! You did well on the last climb - if you're in the right shape at that point, you can gain an awful lot on other runners there.
    Some interesting observations also - particularly on the reason why the race date moved.
    I'd unsuccessfully tried to persuade my elder son to have a go at the fun run. We arrived just as the leaders were finishing, and weren't aware of the problems at the start (though we realised it must have been delayed).
  • Couldn't agree more about the organisers. It's very easy to really enjoy a race and then carp about the one or two things that would improve it. It must be quite annoying as an organiser to read about this.
  • Well, there seems to be no question that the start was still a problem. It's not carping - the organisers need to know about this - they did their best to address a known problem from previous years, but the solution turned out not entirely satisfactorily. I can't see why they should be annoyed about such feedback.
    Constructive suggestion - we started quite close to a junction. Maybe two arms of the junction could be used next year for a split start?
  • Well done everyone!

    Mike S your time was still very good. However, as runners when we know what we are capable of it does rankle when races don't go the way we wish. I think we are too hard on ourselves sometimes! Well done, very good report too.
  • Have you seen some of the photos of the kids in the fun run? They are absolutely superb. Have a look at www.sportspixs.co.uk

    For the ones of you who thought that I don't look my age, have a look at at the photo on page 11, 6th row down, 4th column along, race number 101. You may wish to reconsider what you said.
  • Mike

    Your time was still a good time, your reports are always interesting, please don't shorten them.
  • Good to read the reports of others especially as a relative novice to the 10K road race scene - most of my running is at the gym and on a treadmill (I hope I am not drummed off the site for such a terrible admission)

    I had some similar experiences to those already mentioned:

    1) I am delighted to hear that I wasn't the only one to miss the 1 & 3K markers.

    2) Having started off reasonably quickly (aiming for my first sub 45 run) I was looking around at 4.20ish for the 1k marker - it is quite frightening for a novice to realise it ain't there - perhaps there wasn't going to be any -perhaps I was running at 3.30 pace and would spontaneously combust at 4K?????

    3) Markers discovered and and I noted I was averaging 4.15 pretty quick for me and with talk of hills I was once again becoming worried - at least I had the music from my MP3 walkman focusing the mind and minimising the pain (Walkmans! - I sorry I'm a complete barbarian)

    4) 4.5K batteries gone on walkman!

    5) 5K 21.20 - hills and pain to look forward to.

    6) The next recollection was the hill from hell at 9K - at one stage I thought I may actually be running on the spot!

    7) Top of the hill - people runnig towards me - (Am I supposed to be encouraged that these people finished 10 minutes ago and still have enough energy to run around?) still at least one kindly soul shouts something about 400m to go.

    8) I can see the finish - manage a bit of a sprint (which later makes me question how tired I really was - although I was close to the stomach emptying stage while handing my number in.)

    9) A last 5K of 23.10 and I have achieved my goal - 44.30.

    10) Thanks to all the organisers of an event and experience I thouroughly enjoyed -I am in danger of becoming hooked.

  • I enjoyed your report Mike keep 'em up!
    What's this I hear about a seaside run? Is it on the Wirral? (If I'm way off the mark - please ignore me, I have a very small brain)
  • Codfather,
    check it out

    site isn't kept as up to date as it might, but should give you enough info.

    Either that or nag me about it - I've done 97 of them....
  • b*gg*r - typoed my link reference

    check it here
  • Thanks Mike. I've bookmarked it.
    97!!!! now that's dedication - I take it you are the Mike mentioned on the site.
    I plan to do it so all being well I'll see you there.
    Thanks again
  • For a truly embarrassing pic of myself, go here and check out the piccie of no 587 on the bottom row of page 1, second right....
  • seen your pic as well now Rob. Looks as though you managed to shed a few years between the time that was taken and us meeting later.....

    Btw I reckon the one of me was taken at the time when I realised my HR was playing tricks - hence the look down at the wrist.
  • Mike
    Now I know what you look like I may well 'see' you on the 27th. I don't feel as daft now - it's a shame that you cant take back stupid things you write.
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