Sunday, August 03, 2008

Ah Well!

Until Friday I had never raced in the evening, but there is a first time for everything. Because I wasn't entirely convinced if the 4-mile race would go ahead at all I had done my scheduled mile repeats on Thursday, and as a result I had rather heavy legs all day Friday, which made we wonder if I would be able to race at all. Following the pattern I discovered for the Killarney race, I ran 5 easy miles in the morning, but that didn't do much to shake out my legs. I did feel a bit better after cycling home from work, but I knew I would not be at my very best.

Kilgobnet is a very small townland near Killorglin, the roads there are like a labyrinth with a complete lack of signposting, but I managed to find the place, and there was indeed a race going on. I signed up, and checked out the opposition during the warm-up. Three or four guys with zero bodyfat left me in no doubt that I would not run for the prizes, but I figured I would not be far behind in terms of places.

At the start the RD explained the race course at length (“because there was some confusion last year”), and then we set off. I was surprised to see a rather big group steaming ahead, and I was basically leading the second group, in about 15th place. I thought about increasing the pace, but I was already running at 5:40, the same suicidal pace I had started out in Killarney, and that had been a shorter race. After half a mile I found myself just a few steps behind Ann-Marie Costello, the same position I had been for most of the first half of the Killarney race. This time she seemed to slow down earlier, and I went past. I immediately lost my one gained position though, as a guy in an Amsterdam marathon shirt edged ahead of me. Together we passed first one runner, and then, on a short sharp downhill section we steamed past another one. The pace difference between myself and that guy was so big that I almost bumped into the back of him, so quickly did I catch up. If I had accurately counted the runners ahead of me it meant that I was now in 13th place, about one mile into the race. For the next mile I followed about 10 steps behind the Amsterdam fellow, unable to catch up, but not losing any ground either. After the halfway mark I first wondered if the gap was closing, and eventually I knew it was, and around the 3-mile point I drew level and with a short burst of energy I managed to put some distance between us. The fourth mile was ever so slightly uphill, which I found extremely draining. My legs were very heavy at that stage, and I truly regretted every step I had taken during yesterday's mile repeats. My head wasn't entirely in its right place; instead of concentrating on pushing as hard as I could to follow the mantra “suffer as much as possible” I spent too much time feeling sorry for myself, and wondering about the effect of said mile repeats. Nevertheless I was determined to keep my hard-fought for place in the field. Catching up with the runner ahead was sadly out of question, the gap was way too big.

I'm painfully aware that I do not have a finishing kick. In fact, the race in Killarney two weeks ago was the first time that I had managed to catch a runner at the line, and that had been helped by the fact that it was a steep uphill finish which had worked in my favour. Therefore I try to run very strongly with half a mile to go, rather than rely on a non-existing gear right at the end. However, it is mentally very tough to put an extra effort into a race at a point where there is still quite some way to go on very tired and hurting legs. I did increase the pace, but not by quite as much as I could have. I was still confident that the Amsterdam guy was beaten, but with about a minute to go I could hear his footsteps getting closer. I pushed some more, and I could see the finish ahead, when all of a sudden he went passed me like I was standing still. I wasn't exactly running slowly at that point (5:06 according to the Garmin) but he steamed past me like a rocket and crossed the line a few seconds ahead of me, before collapsing in a heap. I congratulated him on an unbelievable finish, and had to be content with 13th place in 24:12, on a course that was possibly very slightly short.

Ah well. The race was much more competitive than I had expected; I had known from the start that I would not run for the podium, but I did expect to be in the top 10. On the other hand I was surprised I managed to run as fast as I did the day after a set of mile repeats, but I know I could have run a little bit faster over the last mile, which might have gained a few seconds, possibly one place, and definitely an extra ounce of suffering.

Following my normal routine of following fast runs with a long run I set out for 18 miles on Saturday morning. It was a gorgeous day with the sun shining but not too hot. Since I had two consecutive days of fast running in my legs I gave myself the option of bailing out after a loop around Caragh Lake (15 miles). On the other hand, if I felt well I would try to speed up to 7:30 pace at the 11 mile mark, and if I felt really good I would push the pace to 7:00 for the last 3 miles. All the way through I felt better than expected, and I duly increased the pace at both points. Both fast sections were similar in that I was slightly below pace for most of it but managed to finish with a strong last mile that pushed the average past the target mark.

I had very tired legs on Saturday, to nobody's big surprise. We spent most day on Valentia Island with Niamh's family. Her parents are celebrating their 40th anniversary today, and the entire extended family is gathered there. Since the house is rather crowded we're driving the 25 miles back and forwards, to spend the days on the island but sleep at home. The weather has been nice so far, and since they all get along well it's a good way to spend the long weekend.

I managed to sneak in 10 miles along Caragh Lake this morning. During the first half I followed a runner that, by pure chance, followed my normal running route, and he ran at just about my pace. I managed to catch up with him during the fourth mile, but turned around at my normal 5-mile point. The run was a good bit faster than planned as a result, but I took it easier on the return leg. It made me wonder if I would be able to become a faster runner if I had a group to run with at times, rather than churning out thousands of solitary miles each year instead.

1 Aug
am: 5 miles, 41:10, 8:14 pace, HR 137
pm: 7 miles, including:
4 miles race in Kilgobnet, 24:12, 13th place, HR 176
2 Aug
18 miles, 2:20:52, 7:49 pace, HR 147
miles 11-15 in 29:52 (7:28 pace)
miles 15-18 in 20:52 (6:57 pace)
3 Aug
10 miles, 1:16:57, 7:41 pace, HR 144

Weekly mileage: 78+


  1. Great race and a great week of running.

    Just imagine what you could do if you focused on a 5k as your goal race - train, taper, the whole deal.

    Mna you have made incredible gains over the past couple of years!

  2. 4 mile races are always hard, i always get a dreadful feeling of wanting to pull out as my mind screams at me to slow down in the first mile!
    hoping the things i've learned from the brain training book will help me in the chorley 4 race next week!
    think you would have done under 24 mins on fresh legs [ good effort all the same].
    YES JOINING A RUNNING CLUB WOULD BE GREAT FOR IMPROVING YOUR RUNNING EVEN MORE! it helps so much to have someone to train with, lot more fun!

  3. Thomas, another great race! You're coming into your own now. Great report.

  4. congratulations thomas nice race.

  5. Sounds a great performance Thomas. I'm sure running in a group would help bring your times down. I had my best ever spell of running when 5 of us at the club were running at a very similar pace, and every training run turned into a battle. It hurt at the time, but we all got the benefit when it came to racing. Ian

  6. "13th place in 26:12"? 24:12 sounds right - that's 3:45/km which, in my book, is really moving. Nice race.

  7. That's an excellent result Thomas, especially on tired legs. You're making significant gains during this training cycle. PB's all the way to Dublin for you.