Saturday, July 19, 2008


Every once in a lifetime you get a race where everything goes according to plan, the pace feels easy and you cruise to the finish.

This was not that race.

Since I had taken yesterday off work as well, I got a nice lie-in until about 7:30, which is incredibly late for me. I helped Niamh to get the whole gang ready for summer camp, and when they set off so did I. I ran towards Cromane, where I scouted one road that I had seen a while ago, and wondered where it led. It soon turned into a dirt road, and eventually ended at the road towards Cromane School. My curiosity satisfied, I finished the loop and got home, exactly 9 miles under the belt.

We had another rough night with Maia. Niamh checked some books, and we now think she suffers from Roseola. It’s a perfect match for the symptoms, first the fever, then she seemed better, and now the rash and increased irritability. Well, we should soon be over it, but sleep last night definitely suffered.

To add to it all, I had to collect 20 concrete blocks from a quarry yesterday (we’re getting a shed), and while they were not overly heavy, lifting 20 of them was a good bit of work. There is a reason why my sport of choice is running, not weight lifting. When unloading the car, I suddenly got a massive pain shooting through my lower back. My vision turned black, I saw stars in front of my eyes, and for an instant I very nearly fainted from the pain. After recovering a little, I still managed to unload the car, but I was in agony. It’s funny the things that go through your head at times. My first thought was “at least I’ve already finished my run today”, my second was “I hope this won’t f*ck up tomorrow’s race”. I admit, I might be too running centred the moment.

Things come in threes, and I awoke today with an upset stomach. Lola complained too, so maybe it was something we ate. My back was still sore, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to run, so I laced up my shoes and headed out for 3 test miles. Normally I would not run before a race, but I first wanted to know if I would be able to run at all. Luckily, after a mile I felt much better, and after two there was no back pain left whatsoever. I think it was the body’s natural endorphins kicking in, because the pain came back not long after I had returned home. However, the race was on.

As I was warming up, I could not help but think that I didn’t have much luck with my races this year; the pneumonia in January, the severe stomach troubles in Ennis, and now the triple whammy of bad night, stomach and back pain. However, as soon as the race started, all of that was completely forgotten.

Learning a lesson from last week’s race in Ballydavid I made one change to my Garmin; I removed the heart rate from the display. Soon after the start, once all the kids had dropped out, I found myself around 25th position. Here I ran past Niamh and the kids, where I got some encouragement. I found myself about 5 steps behind Ann Marie Costello, who had won the ladies’ division in Ballydavid where I had ended up in front of her. I knew that I should not fall behind, but a look at the Garmin told me that we were running 5:40 pace. That’s faster than the apparent 3k pace I had been training with during my fartlek runs! This was suicidal pace, but I decided to hang on for three reasons. Firstly, I remembered an article (ok, Runner’s World, but spare with me) about 5k strategy, and that an insane pace at the start can yield a faster finishing time (don’t try it at longer distances, though). Secondly, the goal was once again to suffer as much as possible, and that pace should pretty much guarantee as much. Thirdly, there was a girl running in front of me, and I can’t let a girl beat me!!! I followed a few steps behind her as we passed a couple of runners who had started even faster and were tiring already. I was straining, but kept going. After about a mile I noticed that Ann Marie seemed to slow down, I slowly drew level and went past, around the halfway mark. This could have been the end of the insane pace, but I spotted yet another female runner ahead of me, and gave chase.

I might be giving the impression that I was merely chasing girls around the course, but that’s wrong. Male runners who seem within reach have the same effect, but the urge to overtake seems to be stronger if the runner ahead happens to be of the fairer gender. I was still running well ahead of myself, but I managed to draw nearer. At one stage a family stood beside the road and loudly counted the runners, and I was in about 20th place, apparently. By now I was in serious oxygen deficit, I was hurting badly, I wanted the whole thing to be over, but I also wanted to overtake the runners ahead of me, male or female. Somewhere after the second mile I managed to pass about three runners, including the lady, and there was a big gap to the runners ahead, which seemed impossible to close in the remaining time. Nevertheless, I continued to give chase. “Just 5 more minutes”, “Go on, pain is good”, “Your goal was to suffer as much as possible, now don’t complain”. I drew closer. By now I was straining so hard that each breath drew a moaning sound. I ran past a group of young lads who were laughing at me because of that. F*ck them. Just keep pushing.

The course is almost ideal for a race. Killarney national park is very beautiful, it's almost flat, and the trees provide shade from the sun and shelter from the wind, both very welcome. The only problem is the finish, it’s uphill, and by God, that’s the last thing I needed at the end of a brutal 5k. However, the runner ahead of me seemed to suffer even more, I pushed with all I had, and with the last bit of strength that I didn’t even know I had, I drew level about 10 meters before the finish and went past. I thought “wouldn’t it be nice if Niamh and the kids saw me finish”, and suddenly I saw them. I crossed the line, somehow remembered to press the stop button on my watch, staggered towards my family, and collapsed on the grass, unable to move for a minute. Eventually I recovered, and managed to look at my time. I did a double take: 18:07, more than a minute better than my previous PR, which, incidentally, had been set last year on the same race. No wonder I was so knackered.

This was my best race ever by quite some distance. There is not a hope in hell that I would have been able to reproduce that pace in a training run. Chasing the runners ahead of me kept me busy, the mindset to deliberately suffer as much as possible helped, and the legs did the rest. I really could not have run any faster, I left everything I had out on the road, and was completely spent when I crossed the line.

Hard Work. Extremely satisfying! That afterglow will last for a while.

18 Jul
9 miles, 1:10:30, 7:50 pace, HR 146
19 Jul
am: 3 miles, 26:37, 8:53 pace, HR 130
pm: 6.2 miles, including:
   5k Killarney Fun Run, 18:07, 5:55 pace, HR 179, 17th overall, massive new PR


  1. Glad to hear about the PR Thomas, well done today. Lopping a minute off a 5K best is tough work, so enjoy your success.

    We've been through the Roseola thing twice (once with each kid). In our experience, once they got the rash they were near the illnesses' finish line. ...It was an uphill finish, of course.

  2. Fantastic effort and great race report as always Thomas! You really get a lot of inspiration from passing the ladies don't you? It's amazing what race day adrenaline can do. 1 minute PB in a 5k, wow!

  3. Well done Thomas - a huge PB. 18:07 is very speedy indeed. My mate Macca reckons that's worth 2:56:37 for the marathon.

  4. ok, i just caught up with the past 20 or so posts! well done and well done on your last two races! i guess the "suffer as much as possible" goal works. I wonder if I should try

    i hope maia is better, it's so tough when they are small and sick. i'm shocked to hear you weren't throwing wild parties while living the single life...we singles, you know we like to live it up every night of the week. :)


    Well done with the PB, you earned it the hard way! Recover, and then get back at it.


  7. The strategy worked! 5k are always lung burners. Like a long sprint.

    Way to go Thomas! Well done.

  8. Fantatsic race and report! Congrats on the PB. You worked your ass of for it - what perserverance.

    Now, if only we could get love2run to start passing the ladies rather than slowing to chat with them...

  9. Excellent, Thomas! That is a huge improvement. Way to suffer and get after it! More PRs ahead...

  10. That's a fantastic result Thomas. Well done you certainly pushed the pain training to the limit. I still have to get under the 19 minute barrier, which I hope to do next month but 18:07 bloody hell! That's 05:50 per mile.

    Your Brain Training training Pace Level is now 24 (MP of 06:43 - wow!)

    Hope Maia gets well soon.

  11. Excellent PR Thomas. You've got the ability to sustain a very fast pace through 3 miles, unlike most of us. Funny you should mention the fairer sex beating the pants off you. I took at look at the result from the little 5K I ran on Saturday and was amazed to see a female type finished in 16:47 ... turned out she was a national champion in Cross Country while in college ... she is now a high school Cross Country coach at one of our local high schools and was running with her team (altough she crushed everyone on her team). You just never know what will happen when you try to chase down a girl.

  12. It must be "screw up your back month"! Steve my running partner and Rick who runs with Michelle both messed up their backs recently. Steve was able to recover in about a week. Rick is only 4 days from his "tweak" and tried running the relay with Michelle's team this weekend. He had to skip his last section due to the pain.

    I crashed on the trails about 4 weeks ago and strained my ribs. They are still hurting but the sharp pain is gone when I breath deeply.

    I too like to pick out the folks ahead of me and take em down. Generally I'll catch up and fall in behind them for a few paces to recover before I move on. We call them "road kill".

    Great run but you can and will do better!

  13. Fantastic, the PR is huge for a 5K - maybe you should add lifting concrete blocks to your workout ;-)

  14. Holy crap, that is flying! Nice going! Congrats on the new PR, that is some serious speed.

  15. Thomas,

    Awesome results. Pain is good. I never ran a 5 k before. I will in a few weeks when I go to Transplant Olympics. I will keep your race report in mind. Just hold on to the pain for as long as we can :)

    I will pray for Maia.