Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Clash

For the second night this week I hardly slept last night. I got not much more than 3 hours of sleep, and spent the rest reading and watching a DVD. I sincerely hope this will not turn into a regular occurrence.

The race started unusually late at 3pm, which gave me the opportunity to eat lunch at home before setting off. It’s quite some trip to Ballydavid, it’s almost at the tip of the Dingle peninsula, and it took me nearly 75 minutes to get there. The scenery is stunning, but unfortunately the weather was not cooperating. Very low clouds obscured the mountains, but you could still see that it is an awesome setting.

I met a work colleague there, Micheál, who was working as a volunteer at the start area. He told me he’d fancy me to win, but one look at one guy warming up told me that that was far out of reach. If that guy in the green shorts would be racing as fast as he was warming up, then the rest of us would be fighting for the scraps.

Word was going round that the course would be a bit short. Micheál had asked me last week if runners would be upset if the course was short, which I had confirmed. Instead of lengthening the loop they seemed to have decided to tell everyone in advance. I guess that’s one way of dealing with the issue, but as far as I know it worked from the organiser’s point of view. I don’t think anyone got upset.

We started a few minutes late, which seems to be customary around here. You get used to that kind of thing. The guy in the green shorts took off like a rocket, a pack of about 15 runners formed behind him, and I was lagging a bit behind in a second group. Both groups included a few kids sprinting all out, and the last of them dropped at about half a mile. I looked at my Garmin, and we were doing about 6:10 pace, which is already a lot faster than my 10k PR pace. Despite this I was wondering if I should try and catch up with the front pack, which didn’t seem to be moving faster than I was. But I was already running faster than planned.

Should I stay or should I go now? Should I stay or should I go now? If I go there will be trouble, and if I stay … Fuck it, I’ll go for it.

The plan had been to suffer as much as possible, and gunning it out with the top 10 guys was the best way to ensure that. I gradually moved closer to the runners in front, but by the time I reached the end of the group it had already broken up. I could still see all the runners in front to me, and I was tenth. I overtook one runner. Ninth. Then one guy shot past me at incredible speed, which I immediately decided not to match. Tenth. And we were still only one mile into the race. It became apparent that this would be a tough run, the course was really hilly, and the wind was blowing strongly. It was also raining, but that was the least of my troubles. I managed to close the gap to another runner and went past. Ninth. “Well Done” he said, “not done yet” I replied. We passed a group of spectators, and one girl shouted “Yeah for the first lady”. *Chauvinism alert on*. "That’s one runner I do not want to be overtaken by", was my only thought. *Chauvinism alert off*. Around the two-mile mark I managed to go past another runner. “Well Done” he said, “not done yet” I replied. Eight. Half a mile later there was one more for the road kill. Seventh. I checked my watch when I passed the 5km marker, and it said 19:01, which would be a 5k PR, but this was only seconds after the Garmin had beeped to signal mile 3, so I don’t think the markings were particularly accurate. The race became smoking fast at that point, and I felt good, right at the edge of my abilities. I was chasing the guy in front of me (the guy who had overtaken me earlier on), and I seemed to be getting closer. He kept looking back, and I knew he was worried about me. I could not resist looking back myself, but the runners behind me seemed to have disappeared. There was no danger of losing my place. The fourth mile went by in 6:07, and my average pace dropped to 6:15, way ahead of PR pace. Unfortunately, we then turned almost 180 degrees, and I realised why it had felt so easy, the strong wind had been at our back, and for the rest of the race we would be fighting a very strong headwind.

The road also started climbing again, and at that point I made the mistake of looking at my Garmin. Until then I had felt in control, but when I saw the heart rate of 186 I immediately tensed up and running started to feel really tough. The guys subscribing to the central governor theory would have had a field day. Nothing had changed physiologically, but my brain seemed to have reset my threshold, and I slowed down by a few seconds per mile and couldn’t do much about it. I remembered about the plan of suffering as much as possible, and put in a few surges, which really hurt badly, but the guy in front edged further away. With 1 km to go we reached a hilltop, we could see the tiny village of Ballydavid right in front of us, and the rest would be downhill. I tried to relax and push hard at the same time, which seemed to work because the last mile went by in 6:04, which is faster than fast for me, even if it was slightly downhill. I crossed the line in 37:46, 7th position.

Now remember that the course was short, exactly 6 miles according to my Garmin. I can’t claim a PR of 37:46, but calculating the same pace over an exact 10k course gave me a time of 39:09, which I will now claim as my new 10k PR, albeit with an asterisk. I would definitely have broken my 10k PR from last year, and it felt unfair to let all the good work I did today go up in smoke.

I wasn’t celebrating loudly, but I was really pleased with the effort. I really had given it all, and I had come home in a very good position. Arthur Lydiard had said you can’t train hard and race well at the same time, and while I had definitely been training hard recently, I raced as well as I could today. That will do for the moment.
12 Jul
6 miles, 51:33, 8:35 pace, HR 138
13 Jul
9.3 miles, including:
Ballydavid 10k, 37:46, (equivalent to 39:09, claiming as new PR), 7th overall

Weekly mileage: 58.5


  1. I think you're entitled to claim it as a PR. Great effort out there!

  2. Great race, well earned p.b. and top 10 place, have to give the brain training book a look over sounds interesting. as for looking at your pulse meter and slowing down, well i guess its why F1 drivers don't have a speedo, if they saw how fast they were going they would shit them selves for sure!

  3. Congratulations on a good race. You're obviously going well.

    BTW are you going to post your marathon training plan? or if not would you be willing to email me a copy? I'd be interested to see what you doing to try and break that 3hr barrier.


  4. Here's the link with Renato Canova's training methods:

  5. That's one hell of an effort - central governor or not.

    Well done!

  6. Way to go, Thomas! You gave it all you got out there and definitely entitled to the PR. I imagine it will be broken again and you will be able to remove the asterisk.