This morning marked the end of the Polaroid Series for another year. Another cracking pair of sunglasses, four medals and a mixed bag in terms of race performance from me this year round. For those who don’t know the Polaroid is made up of four 10 kilometre races. This was our second outing at the Polaroid and once more each race was well organised and offered a good chance for improvement week on week and pbs all round.
Race 1 in Helensburgh has just enough uphill to give the legs a shock for anyone who’s fresh from winter hibernation but once again the route provided an excellent opener. Running the tree lined boulevards of Helensburgh before routing back via the coast it is great to be out of the city. The depth of field was evident at this first event and The Boy did well to place in the top 10.
Yet again the Polaroid coincided with my attendance at four morning a week boot camp at Glasgow Fitness and although last year I felt the two complemented one another my legs were definitely feeling the effects of several races in the month leading up to the Polaroids. As a result I ended up about 30 seconds slower than last year in a time just over 41 minutes but was pleased to be closer than expected to my time from last year.
Race 2 saw us move on to Dumbarton. Starting on the grass before moving on to the narrow cycle path you need to be wary of the regular bollards along the route on this one. I felt like I was really pushing it and at the half way stage was happy that I was going to improve on my time from the previous week. The course is flat and fast and I maintained my pace in the second 5k to finish in 41:03. Again this was a bit outside my time from last year when I had the benefit of a more rigorous winter programme as I was preparing for the London Marathon. This winter I ran regularly but without the pressure and structure of a marathon programme. However I was pleased again to be reasonably close to my time from last year.
On to Race 3 at Clydebank and I managed to put a good dent into my time for a seasons PB of 40:38. It hurt a lot and I was sorely tempted not to run so I could go and watch Rangers destroy Motherwell. A lucky escape as the pain only lasted for 40 minutes at Clydebank. This route is again a fast course that loops an industrial estate before following the canal on a two lap course. I started a little further towards the front of the field this time and it certainly helped pull me along to a fast time. Last year I had managed 40:24 on this course and it goes to show how useful the Polaroid Series is as a training tool that I was closing back to 2014 fitness levels after only 3 races. It was at the end of race 3 that Jack started telling me I might have a chance of a series prize – the top 20 runners over the 4 races. Despite his optimism I had to tell Jack that I was finishing in approximately 200th place in each race 🙂 A really incredible testament to the quality of runners in the series and the remarkable optimism that Jack has in me.
So three races down and then it all came to a shuddering halt this morning at Race 4 – Balloch. The only Sunday race, I finished in an underwhelming yet somewhat remarkable 44:30. Remarkable that I made the start line despite being bed ridden the previous day with a shocking hangover after my Dunoon Stag. Feeling really sorry for myself I made myself travel out to Balloch and I am glad I did as the course travels through some of the nicest scenery in the series. It was refreshing to run without a pressure goal and I was glad to even be able to put one foot in front of the other. The Boy and I rewarded ourselves with some great burgers from the Farmer’s Market before he collected yet another prize for finishing in 8th place in the Male Seniors Category. Despite his optimism the week before I doubt my series prize will be in the post any time soon.
A big well done to Ronnie Cairns of Dunoon Hill Runners who completed 3 of the series events as part of his fundraising efforts on behalf of Yorkhill Hospital.
Having completed the first three 10K races in the Polaroid Series over the last few weeks, it was all to play for in this morning’s race around the Vale of Leven. I entered this series of races for the first time last year and really enjoyed the excellent organisation and camaraderie that grew over the course of the event. This year proved to be no different and we were in for another fantastic month of racing.
The series got underway in Helensburgh and I could not help but feel a little concerned at the evening start time. Due to most of my running happening early in the morning, particularly for races, it felt a little alien to be sidling up to an event at a time when I would usually be settling down to my dinner. Nevertheless the atmosphere began to grow as people arrived (and the coffee kicked in) and I felt the familiar sensation of pre-race nerves starting to take effect. The facilities were great and the course itself proved a fair one – there were no major undulations – and I found myself crossing the line in 8th place with a shiny new PB of 33:30! I knew that I had put in a decent performance but was still shocked to discover that I had taken 29 seconds off my previous best time. It was also pleasing to see that the Harriers had managed to secure a prize for 3rd Team – just one point behind second place – gaining me a cheeky voucher for Sweatshop!
The order of races had been shuffled this year and so Dumbarton featured as the second event of the series. I was feeling optimistic after the success of week one and was also armed with extra determination to finish inside the individual prizes, having narrowly missed out previously. The grassy start was less dramatic than it had been last year (where several people slipped during the first hundred metres!) and the flat and fast course was bound to lead to fast times. I was delighted therefore to knock a further 22 seconds off my PB to finish in 33:08 – securing 9th place. An individual prize still managed to evade me but I was more than happy with the faster time!
By the time Clydebank came around I was hopeful that I could drop below the 33 minute mark. Last year Clydebank had been my fastest course of the series and I knew that the course would be flat. Unfortunately it was not to be. My legs felt tired throughout the race and I struggled to find a change of gear to keep up with the fast group. On reflection I think the half-marathon in Campbeltown the previous weekend must have taken more out of me than I had given it credit for. I finished the race in 33:44 (still one of the fastest times that I have every recorded over 10k!) and missed out on the prizes once again.
And so to this morning. The Vale of Leven. I was lucky enough to have the support of my fiancee Vicki at the race this morning and so I was determined to make a good impression – I didn’t want her thinking that all of the training sessions which I was disappearing to were actually trips to the pub! We arrived nice and early and found Kenny who informed us that he was still feeling a little under the weather after his (3rd!) Stag party on Friday. As we made our way to the start, past the incredibly tempting farmers’ market and bbq, I began to get really nervous! As the crowds got more dense I was worried that I was going to miss the start or not be able to make my way to the front. Vicki noticed my agitation and took my bag so that I could jog ahead and get to the start line nice and early. As I stood talking to the other guys at the start (and laughing at Stevie who had managed to pin his race number to his vest upside down) the horn signaled for us to go! Whilst it was a little unexpected, it certainly got things moving and before I had a chance to think we were making our way up the road and into the park. This was the hill which I had somehow succeeded in blocking from my memory and I decided to take it steady for the first kilometre to figure out my pacing. I tucked in with the pack and decided to wait it out. 2km later and we exited the park and hit the long and winding downhill section. I decided to let things fly here and managed to pull away from the pack and catch the next runner along the course. After this rollercoaster section of the route things settled down and I found myself stuck on my own for an uneventful second half of the race. I soon realised that this would be no personal best but I stuck to it and finished in 33:58 – having taken a slightly premature turn as I came into the finishing straight which, fortunately, only cost me a couple of seconds. The celebratory roll and sausage from the farmers’ market was phenomenal and Kenny, Vicki and I made our way to watch the distribution of the prizes. I was delighted to find that they awarded prizes to the top ten runners in this race and so, finally, I found myself grasping that elusive individual prize! It was also a bonus when they announced that the Harriers had once again taken 3rd place in the team prizes: another Sweatshop voucher! With the vouchers burning a hole in my pocket it was time to leave.
This was another fantastic series with four exceptionally well organised races providing a good variety of fast routes and scenic courses. The generous prizes were much appreciated but it was the fun atmosphere and the camaraderie which really make this series stand out. I will definitely be back next year (and I will be eyeing up those individual prizes!).