Recommendations don’t come much higher than the stellar race reviews I got from fellow Dunoon Hill Runners who took part in this event last year so it was a no brainer that I would travel to one of my favourite parts of the world to take part in the 6th Kyles 10 Mile Road Race last Saturday. Argyll’s Secret Coast is a stunning part of the world and one of those Scottish destinations that if we had the weather would make you never go abroad again.
And so it was – a glorious day for a drive up Loch Lomond before crossing the Rest and Be Thankful en route to one of Scotland’s most iconic view points over the Kyles of Bute. Jack (The Boy) managed to blag a last minute slot so we headed up for a rare joint foray discussing his forthcoming stag night which is likely to set both our training schedules back months. Arriving an hour before race start we decided to park at the start line and walk up to registration. This gave us our first taste of ‘shinty hill’ and an indication that undulating was perhaps a slight understatement in the course description.
Pleasantries exchanged and the competition sussed (The Boy is more interested in this than me – I was more concerned with the bake sale happening in Kames Hall and wondering how many cakes 10 miles would earn me) we were back to the start before we knew it in the baking heat of the Argyll sun. That’s right when the sun was out from behind the clouds it was scorch – a taps aft kind of day.
And so we were off – Adopting my now trademark slow-burn I eased into the race on the first mile uphill past the shinty pitch and the golf course. The mile marker was marked with a ‘cheeky’ fellow and the messages and posters of encouragement at each mile certainly helped pass the time and raise a smile or two along the way. This is as tough a first mile as you will find in any race and it is important to set a steady pace and hold something in reserve.
A gradual downhill through the second mile meant two things –
1. It allowed me to pick up my speed
2. We were surely in for another uphill climb soon
Feeling strong we turned left and started to head south. By now I was warmed up and running around 6-45minute mile to 7-30minute mile depending on the lay of the land. I was even picking off a few runners who’d perhaps set of too fast or were feeling the effects of the climb out from the start. I settled into a rhythm about 20 metres behind a chap who seemed to be doing a good job of reeling in a runner or two every mile. The course is up and down at this point but the scenery certainly helped take the mind off the climbs.
My mind started to wander on mile 3 thinking about work, passing a minute or so. Shockingly on looking up I realised my pacemaker had opened up a lead of about 60 metres. Lack of concentration has always been my downfall in team sports and I hadn’t really considered until now what impact it could have on my running.
I spent the time until mile 4 closing the gap again. In the distance spectacular views of Arran began to appear and I was pleased to get a glimpse of Ostel Bay as we climbed again nearing the southern most point of the route. Around mile 5-7 I started to feel the effects of pushing the pace but managed to hold strong as we turned to head north. By now we were passing some of the walkers who had set off on the route an hour early. A great idea to involve more people in the event. In the opposite direction one of the only vehicles we passed all day on these tranquil country roads approached. Despite being an open-road event the course felt safe and marshals guided runners on the sharpest corners.
I was starting to plot my end-race strategy and knew I had enough in the tank to attack the final 3 miles but decided to hold off until 8.5 miles. I was glad of this decision as the further north we ran the stronger the head wind seemed to get. This definitely exacerbated the heaviness in the legs. My experienced pacemaker decided to tuck in behind me although I’m not sure the wind was coming from the same direction to allow him to benefit from my wind shadow. It was only right that I did some of the work and we passed another few runners and a lot of walkers between miles 6 and 8. Passing me again my pacemaker headed for home and we had a bit of a smack down in mile 8 until I managed to pull away in the final mile.
I finished strongly and felt I could have gone for another mile or two which was a confidence booster in my longest run for a while. Again it showed that I had set off too conservatively and I need to learn to push myself harder in the earlier stages of the race. However I really enjoyed the race and that continues to become more important to me. The scenery, company and course was excellent. Added in some great performances from The Boy in second place and my Dunoon Hill Runners team mates and it was a great day all round.
The weather continued to reward us and to top it off there was a BBQ at the Kames Hotel right on the finish line. Despite leaving our wallets at the start line we managed to get back in time for a burger and the prize giving.
I’m a certainty to return next year and I think this race now goes up there with Mok Run as one of my must do races in the season. A friendly field, spectacular setting and a challenging course. Just gutted we didn’t realise there was a ceilidh. Next year. We’ll be back.