Saturday 17 January 2015

Dartford parkrun 26 - an icy morning, my first time as a pacer and an accidental first finishing position

Dartford parkrun event 26 was quite a cold one. The overnight temperatures had dipped below zero, frozen all of the puddles and caused a light frost. After the course inspection, the course didn't seem to have suffered too much so the decision was taken to go ahead as planned.

twenty minute pacer [photo: richey estcourt]

The event fell on the third Saturday of the month which meant that it was pacers day. I had volunteered to attempt to pace at 20 minutes and a few minutes before the run started I had the 20 minute pacer label attached to my back. The pacers were introduced to the runners during the run briefing and we were then sent on our way.

early morning frost and ice [photo:7t]

My plan for the pacing, considering the course is not completely flat was to keep an even effort rather than an even pace, so my rough plan was this;

To start with a 3.59 first kilometre, then as the second kilometre starts with a downhill, let gravity do some of the work and put in a 3.50. The third kilometre is flat so another 3.59 would be perfect. Kilometre four is always my slowest and can sometimes be over 4 minutes, so I planned for this to be a 4.10 split. Then the last kilometre would be a return to the 3.59 pace and an overall time of 19.57.

around the 1 kilometre point adjacent to the football pitches [photo: richey estcourt]

The thing with plans is that they seldom work out. So here's what actually happened...

I got as far as the other side of the bridge and as I turned right to go onto the grass/trail section my feet caught a slippery patch and I found myself hitting the floor with a bump. I was helped up within a second or two and I continued my way along the grassy path - fortunately the only injury was a slight graze to my right shin.

frost and a sign (but no cones) [photo: 7t]

I continued around the trail and up to the football pitches where my Garmin buzzed to alert me that I had reached the 1 kilometre point, the Garmin said 3.55, so the first kilometre was pretty much on target. I was running with the front runners at this stage and we continued together around to the 2 kilometre point which we hit at a pace of 3.59 (according to Garmin). Total time 7.54 (pacing target of 8 minutes).

still on the football fields [photo: richey estcourt]

Before setting off on the run I had advised the timekeepers that if my pacing was going well I should reach them in a time of around 9 minutes and 30 seconds - as I passed them towards the end of lap one I heard a shout of 9.12 - That was a little faster than I had expected due to the feedback from the Garmin, but I thanked them and continued on.

another sign and more frost [photo: 7t]

The third kilometre passed fairly quickly and I found myself back on the grassy trail section (without slipping this time), the Garmin split time for kilometre 3 was 3.55, meaning an 11.49 3km split (11 seconds in front of the target but in line with my plan) but the notification came a touch later than I was expecting.

heading towards the start/finish area [photo: richey estcourt]

Up the trail, across the football pitches for a second time and then it was back down the twisty path and into the main section for a final whizz up to the library and back. My Garmin definitely should have alerted me to the 4 kilometre point as soon as I entered this part but it didn't.

limette the fox-viking-marshal [photo: dani] 

When my Garmin did finally alert me to my kilometre split, it gave me a 4.01 as my fourth kilometre split time, which I thought was great but as it came further down the path than I had expected. The total time according to Garmin was now 15.50 - just 10 seconds in front of the target. However I was now very suspicious that it might not have been tracking the distance as accurately as it usually does.

at the end [photo: richey estcourt]

The last kilometre was a case of just maintaining the pace I had been running for the last 4 kilometres, so that's what I did. I was hoping that I'd cross the line within 1% of my pacing time. A pacing goal of 20 minutes means that a 1% tolerance is equal to 12 seconds, so I had a window of 19.48 - 20.12 in order to stay within this percentage.

frost and cones (final corner) [photo: 7t]

I ended up crossing the finish line in 19.28 (P1) which was 32 seconds quicker than my target time, so I was a little disappointed for not being closer. The Garmin ended up tracking the course a little short and if I had continued running until it had registered the full 5k I would have been very close to the target - So, I'm blaming the technology for my failure!

from l-r gary (in the background), adam (24 min pacer), me (20 minute pacer), ben (30 minute pacer)

Further analysis using the course Strava segments shows that I ran the first 2.5 kilometres in 9.44 and the second 2.5 kilometres in 9.50 (they don't add up to the total official time, but it gives a fairly rough idea of splits). I'm not entirely sure if my pacing actually helped anyone to complete the course any faster, but it was still fun to do. It was great to put another slightly different angle on the event and I'm really looking forward to doing it again.

After the run I did a bit of barcode scanning, helped to pack away some of the signage and then spent the rest of the morning in the Dartford Harriers clubhouse with the rest of the gang... it seems to have been another successful event!

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