When you race in Scotland, it’s expected that the race course will definitely be ‘undulating’ at the very least, but most likely very hilly: at least one big hill somewhere on the course, and a downhill finish from there. It’s a luxury to run either a flat or a downhill route, and when you do, the letters P and B come to mind. The Dundee Templeton 10 (mile) road race, put on by the Dundee Roadrunners, is a race that surpasses this typical hilly-ness. With an elevation gain of almost 800 feet over the course of 10 miles along the country roads behind Templeton Woods in Dundee, it’s definitely the hilliest road race I’ve ever run. It puts the Balmoral 10km route – with it’s reputed ‘Big Hill’ (of 300 feet, which I still haven’t managed to conquer..) – to shame.
This race was my first ever 10 mile road race, so it has a special place in my heart. I ran last year’s in 1:41:09, and looking back, I feel like I survived the race. It was a challenging course, and towards the end, with its uphill finish, I was about ready to stop running and walk. Ironically, this race ignited a fondness for the 10 mile distance: longer than a pressure-filled 10km, but not the knee-aching length (for me) of a half marathon. And it’s a distance that, if you maintain your fitness and long runs of at least 8 miles (which I do), you don’t have to train for.
I had big goals for this race. After improving upon my 5 km personal best three times in the last month (twice at the River Ness 10km, once at the St Andrews Duathlon), and annihilating my 10km PB at River Ness, I suspected a new 10 mile PB was in the cards. I definitely knew that if I ran a flatter race, I’d definitely get a new PB, but I wasn’t sure if the Templeton 10’s hilly-ness was conducive to a new, sub-99 minute personal best. Spoiler alert: it was!
Sunday morning came early. My friend Wendy joined me in this race; she had run it with me last year – her first 10 miler too. We headed south to Dundee and the Claddo Reservoir, a mile from the race start. We quickly registered and went back to Wendy’s Landrover to decide our race outfits. It was sunny, a bit windy and a tiny bit cool.
Having experienced strong winds with warm-ish temperatures at the duathlon and the Bennachie Hill Race – and wishing I had worn my capri leggings instead of my long tights – I opted for my calf-high Nike capris instead. I also wore a race technical t-shirt with my Helly Hensen thermal, long-sleeved top on top. Finally, I wore a band around my ears just in case, and carried a pack of Honey Stinger Pink Lemonade energy chews on me. On my feet, I sported my bright pink Feetures socks, (I love them!).
Wendy and I jogged to the start, a mile away from the reservoir, on a country road. We could see other racers gathering, but first took a quick photo.
I was looking out for my little Coconut Friend Amie (last year’s race winner!), as she was running this race too, but I couldn’t see her. We walked towards the start quite casually, and the race started while we were on our way! I guess we were a bit too lackadaisical making our way to the starting line. With under 200 runners, we didn’t have to contend with pens and chip timing. We readied ourselves, activated our watches and started our race.
I had figured out that I needed to stick to 9:30-9:45 pace to get a new 10 mile PB. I needed to run faster on the flats, fast but not quad-shredding hard down the hills, and pace myself going up all the hills. It was doable, I just needed to be smart.
Wendy plugged herself into her iPod and we made our way downhill from the start, then following the road as it curved left. We passed a few familiar faces from last year’s race, and, literally, before we knew it, my watch beeped one mile. Already?!?
The first half of the race is basically the following: run along a short flat stretch of country road, run up a lengthy steep hill, and repeat three more times. As I was climbing hill #1, I noticed an older woman with great legs who I recognised from the Ballater 10 this past July. She and I were playing a cat-and-mouse game of running ahead of one another, then the other catching up to pass. She passed me going up the first hill only to plop herself a foot in front of me! I had to pass her just to continue my pace! I surged ahead of her and another woman who had passed me; both told me “Well done” as we made it to the top of hill 1. I gained ground on both women in the hill-climbing section, and was running about 8:30 minute pace on the flat sections. I slowed down and hovered around the 9:00 minute pace to not tire myself out too soon.
Mile 1: 9:17
Mile 2: 9:32
Mile 3: 9:56
Mile 4: 10:13
By mile 4, I took my thermal top off and wrapped it around my waist. It was so nice to run in a t-shirt! I also turned my ear band into a headband, folding the ear flaps up.
Forty-five minutes into the race, I ate my pack of Honey Stingers. I love them, they’re so good and they’re my go-to for mid-race fuel. I had climbed every big hill and was now running along a long, flat ridge before turning back towards Templeton Woods and the finish. The two women that I had passed in the hill-climbing section had passed me, but I was okay with this; I was still passing other people.
The race route turned right and our descent commenced. I took advantage of this section, and ran faster but made sure not to pound the pavement; I needed my legs for the uphill finish. I passed a few men going downhill, and hit a bit of a headwind as well, which slowed my pace by about 20 seconds. It was still hovering below the 9 minute mark. The route veered, and we had a crosswind instead.
Mile 5: 8:56
Mile 6: 8:24
Mile 7: 8:53
At about mile 8, the race route passes through a village, where you turn right again. I looked down at my Garmin when it beeped 8 miles, and I got a pleasant surprise: a new 8 mile time of 1:14:xx. I know I come off as competitive and time-focused, but I find it so exciting and ensuring to see my fitness progressing; I can’t help but keep track of things. I knew at this point in the race that even if I ran the last two miles at 10 minute pace I would still get a new PB.
Turning right also meant running with the slight headwind again. This made things a bit tough, a bit slower, but again, I could do it. I had been running with three men who were doing the run-walking thing, and we kept playing the cat-and-mouse game between miles 8 and 9. The route met up with the starting line road, and we turned left. Left going uphill, into the Templeton Woods. It’s this section that I was saving my legs for.
I put my head down and ran uphill, up the road, turning left into the woods. Underfoot went from tarmac to a slight inclined, muddy path. I remember this section being incredibly difficult last year, and uphill, but this time it wasn’t so bad. It was flat, and I actually thought to myself “Why did I think this was so hard last year? Why did I think it was uphill?”
Now I remember: because it was! The route went from gradual uphill to very visible uphill. I was in my last mile, and had increased my pace in anticipation of the finish, but it just wasn’t coming. It was hard, and now I remember why I almost stopped to walk during last year’s race.
Then I saw a little person running towards me on the path. A short person dressed in a black down jacket and green running shorts. It was my Coconut friend and colleague Amie! She saw me and yelled “C’mon Danielle, you’ve got this, you’ve got this!” She knew I wanted a PB. I yelled a breathy “Eight minutes!” indicating by how much I had possibly beaten last year’s time. Amie’s words of encouragement spurred me on, and I picked up the pace again, passing all those run-walking guys, and finally turning left to the finish line. I ran into the finisher’s chute and crossed the finish line.
I had run 10.09 miles in 1:35:13, with an average pace of 9:27 minute miles, and an elevation gain of 770 feet. I had crushed last year’s time by almost six minutes (!) and set a new personal course record. I also beat my previous 10 mile PB (from this year’s Smokies 10 – 1:39:05) by almost four minutes! Like the River Ness 10km, I knew a PB was doable, but I didn’t think it would be by this much!!!
Mile 8: 9:06
Mile 9: 10:20
Mile 10: 9:55
I collected my race goodie bag, and found Wendy, who had finished in 1:32:29, besting last year’s time by 9 minutes (she stayed with me last year).
As I was taking a cool down walk, I saw Amie. We ran to each other and gave each other a hug. She had come in second place this year, finishing in 1:07:19 (!!!). We chatted with Wendy, and then Wendy and I headed into the tent for some non-primal, homebaked treats (I grabbed that slice of lemon drizzle cake picture above). We also grabbed a cup of hot tea, which was ideal once we started to cool down.
We watched the prize-giving, where Amie scored a £30 gift card from Sweatshop for her individual efforts, and shared some bottles of wine for her Fife AC team efforts (they finished in first place for the women’s teams!).
Wendy and I then headed to her car to stretch and head back up the road to Laurencekirk, both of us very happy with our race efforts on a beautiful day for running. What a way to end my race season! I’m incredibly pleased with my efforts as this race showed that I could run hard and ‘race’ over 10 miles, and that my pace has come on tremendously! It was only in the hilly-climbing that my pace went above 10 minute miles. I’m one happy primal runner 🙂
I’ve also started a new post-race tradition: I wear my race t-shirt to work the following Monday. Amie wore hers too 😉
What’s your favourite race distance?
What’s your most memorable race?