2023 Burton 10k

A bit of a strange race this one, let me explain.  I have been doing some training and arguably plenty of it in the last few months, albeit averaging 25% less volume than at my peak a few years ago.  However, most of the training has been steady state stuff / endurance with no focus whatsoever on speed work.  What sessions I have done have been well adrift of my capabilities at my peak in 2019.  The figures do not lie.  Nonetheless, I felt training had been going well enough in recent weeks alongside a gap in diary commitments allowing me to enter a road race for the first time in ages just to see where things are at, with zero expectation set.  I had thought my last road race was pre-covid in 2020, but actually that is not true as I also did the Wheaton Aston 10k in December 2021.

The Burton 10k is a race that I know well, having won it in 2017 (32.38) and 2019 (32.56).  I was very borderline on entering the race and my original intention was to enter on the day depending on how I felt due to a developing cold.  As it was online entry only I waited to the Friday evening, just before entries closed before pressing the button, hoping that the cold wouldn't develop.  As it was it got progressively worse during the weekend so I lined up at the start line with a hacking cough.  Combined with knowing that this is a slow course with a 50m climb over the first 2km, I knew that my relative fitness can only be compared to my previous two outings at this race.  Even without the cold I was expecting a time of around 33.30 - 34.30 terrain.

The conditions on the day were pretty good for August, about 16c with light drizzle at the start that cleared at some point during the race.  Over the first km I was well positioned and in the lead group that soon fizzled out to just the three of us.  After a few hundred metres the main climb of the race hits and it is this that always kills off any prospect of a PB.  I felt ok and tried to pace it such that I'm holding a few percent in reserve as it would be easy to red line it and then pay for that early effort later on.  I did drop back a bit in the first half of the hill and was 3rd about 5 metres back, but by the top of the climb after about 1.5km I was joint second, still only 5 metres away from the lead.  It was around this point that the younger lad I was with faded away.


Although the road undulates there is a moderate net climb to about the 6km mark.  After 2km I had caught the leader and quickly made the decision to do my own thing rather than hang on his shoulder.  It was up to him whether to hold onto me or not.  My hope was that he would eventually find the pace too uncomfortable and then drop back which is more or less what happened.  By about 3km I was on my own and it was up to me to make the break stick which was fine by me as the final 3km is sharply downhill and exposes my weak descending ability.

Sometimes when the break happens you can create a gap quite quickly that exposes the real difference in pace, but the gap to second grew very gradually so I never felt I was in a race winning position.  At about 5-6km I would guess the lead grew to about 20 seconds although is difficult to tell from a quick glance.  At 7km there is then a long descent to the finish and where my weakness exists.  That said, my final 3 km splits were 3.04, 3.08 and 3.12 (net descent of 49 metres), and just after 8km I knew the race was more or less won by this point.

At the 8km mark - felt in control during the long descent.

Second place near the tractor.  It was around this point that I knew I race in a race winning position.

I won in a time of 32.42, 33 seconds ahead of 2nd place and only 22 seconds adrift of the course record.  I knew during the race that I was having a good one, but to beat my 2019 time of 32.56 and to only be 4 seconds behind my 2017 time is both pleasing and perplexing as there is nothing from my training that indicated this sort of form, let along this form whilst racing with a cold.  Heck, I'm only 29 seconds adrift of my PB on what is a slow course (albeit I did a 31.29 split during a half marathon when I was at my absolute peak)!  Having compared to my 2017 time I was actually up to 10 seconds ahead at 7km, but then lost a bit of time during the descent.  I think this can be explained away by being in a battle royale in 2017 that didn't exist this year, plus kind of forgetting that you are supposed to go all in at the end of a race when in reality I remained at my controlled pace that I could have continued beyond 10km.  I suppose that was the only disappointment, in that there was another 10-15 seconds had I needed it, but there is no such thing as a perfect race and overall I'm pretty ecstatic with the outcome as it defies logic.


The opportunity for more road races are few and far between now and end of the year as I have some more ultras planned, but I might see if I'm able to squeeze one or two in if time allows as it was good to be back on the tarmac.


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