Sunday 8 August 2010

The Bugatti Beer Race - the best 10k ... in the world!

There are few events in the world that I plan my diary around - my September holiday in Greece, my family trip to Georgia, New Year's Eve.  The Bugatti Beer Race doesn't rank with these, but it's very, very close!  The race is pretty low key, very good value, and every runner gets a T-shirt, beer, and burger at the end.  It's mid-week, which means that on a tough training schedule it can be a speed session, or on an easy schedule it can be a focus race.  Oh, and the second half is fantastically undulating!  Hurrah!  None of the boring, flat, out & back PB course here.  A good time at Bugatti is something like 10k PB + 2-3 minutes.  It challenges the mind and body, and with its great atmosphere, feeds the soul.  Add to that the fact that the Bugatti is a focus race for several of the local clubs, and you get a bit of fun, some familiar faces, and just a little bit of needle to try and put your club ahead of the others.

So, this year, I have been looking forward to the race for a few months.  I'd planned a pretty quick attempt (for me).  It would be a full on speed session - 10k at the fastest pace I could keep up for the duration.  Due to a minor revision of the schedule, though, I was going into the run with a 14 mile goal-marathon-pace effort.  I knew it would be tough, but I also knew that I wouldn't have a clue how I was going by time and pace.  So, I planned to use my heart rate monitor to keep the effort high.  I aimed for 85%-90% of the max HR for as long as I could hold on.

On the evening of the race, the legs were, as expected, feeling a bit tender and heavy.  I warmed up as usual, trying to push a bit of speed into my legs, and to get my head in gear.  To minimize impact on the local villagers coming home from a long day at work, Cheltenham Harriers kept us off the road until the last minute.  Then, we moved out to the line, stood still for a few seconds, and the horn sounded.  Without all the usual standing about and waiting, it was pretty much straight from the warm up to the race.  So, I set off down the gentle decline (100ft in the first 1/2 mile) with half an eye on my HRM to keep from going off too hard - a common mistake among Bugatti newbies.

This was my first try at "racing" the Bugatti.  Previously I'd done it as a "just finish" on unfit legs - followed by a 4-month layoff having finished off a tear - and a 1/2 marathon pace tempo run.  So, as I paced along, I found myself among several of EVRC's top performers of the year.  We had the chance to watch the very fastest guys shoot down the road, and joined into a mini pack about 50 runners back.  A few of my fellow EVRC runners were heading out pretty quickly.  Sheila, Steve, Shrimp, and Julian all worked past me as we moved through the second mile.  When we turned into the wind, I upped the effort a bit, moving to about 95% to keep onto the back of Steve and Shrimp - they're taller than me and offered a little shelter from the headwind.

Once we turned out of the wind, I let them go, hoping to pick them up again in the hills.  I had no hope of seeing Julian again, since he'd blown past me like I was standing still (you may remember his first 10mi run was the Hilly Hundred in May - he's having a great Summer!).  I eased back down to 85% to recover from the extra effort against the wind and prepare for the hilly section.

Ah, the hills!  The Bugatti isn't actually particularly hilly, by trail running standards.  But, for the flat-track bullies of the 10k road race fraternity, the second half of this race is a killer.  There is a long drag (~100ft ascent) after 3.5 miles, and a few 50-75ft rollers to get the blood moving after that.  The finish is at the end of a nice half-mile drag, just to kick you a little while you're down.  Unless, of course, you know it's coming and you like some hills!  For the first climb, I set into a good rhythm, ignored the HRM, and powered past the nearest runners.  I must admit a bit of smugness as I noticed that these guys & gals who left me for dust on the flat hadn't changed their stride, their RPM or, as far as I could tell, anything else except their speed as they struggled up the hill. 

Once at the top, I flew down the other side, catching the first of my club-mates.  I began to pick up the others as the rollers took their toll.  At the penultimate hill, I picked up Julian - to the surprise of both of us!  At 9k, I pushed the pace a bit, working to 95%. With 800m left, I pushed a bit harder and again stopped looking at the HRM.  The final drag of around 400m was an all-out affair - I didn't know whose footsteps I could hear, but I didn't want them to get any louder.  I had one runner in view, and was determined to pass him before the finish - and I did!  I finished in 43 even, and was absolutely elated!  Even with the hard run a few days before, I'd managed to take 30 seconds off the previous year's time, and I'd finally raced a controlled 10k.  In fact, hindsight says I could have pushed harder from about 1k further out and taken another 10-20 seconds off the time.

I waited at the end to congratulate my club-mates as they raced in, and when Nic crossed the line we headed for the beer & burger queues.  Eventually, we divided and conquered.  Nic went to get the beers, while I held our place for the burgers.  She rejoined and I got my 3-4 sips before handing over the bottle (I was driving), and we picked up our delicious burgers, celebrating a fantastic event.  Thanks, Cheltenham Harriers!  We'll see you again next year!

1 comment:

  1. It is so much fun to have the oomph to power up the hills and still have a reserve for the other side. Good show! And Nic, too!