Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Bonus Race

This week has seen me almost pretty much out of action after Sunday’s race on Mangerton Mountain. Every single day from Monday to Friday I would get up and the first thing that came into my mind was “this hurts”. As I recovered the pain became more and more manageable, and on Saturday morning I could finally do the first step without wincing.

Five days of easy running did nothing to alleviate my fears that I might be losing fitness before the Dingle marathon, but there was nothing I could do about it. I had vague plans of doing a workout once my legs were up to it again, but each day the decision to run slowly was a no-brainer. With my legs finally turning the corner a weekend speed workout seemed like a good idea. Then I remembered on Friday that there would be a 5K in Killarney today. Surely that would give me a much better workout! I wasn’t entirely sure where the start would be, but with Niamh’s help I found the name of the hotel where the registration would be. Thanks honey!

The promise of doing the weekly shopping as well gave me a free pass, and off I went for the 3 o’clock start. I failed to take into account the fact that the cycling Tour of Ireland was reaching Killarney today, and the town was heaving. Eventually I had to leave the car in a place where it wasn’t supposed to be and hope it would not be clamped in my absence. I got changed there and ran the 1.5 miles to the start – this would be my warm-up as time was running out. I was really surprised by the number of runners, especially taking into account the cycling event; I guess there were about 250 participants.

Anyway, we assembled at the start barely 10 minutes late (that’s really early around here) and took off. Right from the start a big number of people sprinted past me. I could only wonder if everyone had gone mad, because at least half of them were clearly running way ahead of themselves. I settled in fairly close behind the 2 leading ladies at a rather aggressive pace.

The course was the same as for all the summer fest 5Ks in July, and I know it pretty well by now. It is very flat apart from the short but cruel climb right at the end, and certainly well suited to a fast time.

The legs didn’t feel too fresh; I could clearly tell that the recovery from Sunday had not been complete. But I did not want to use that as an excuse and pushed an aggressive pace. By the time the first mile had passed I had overtaken a whole lot of the early sprinters, and the second lady was soon caught as well. I could see the first lady ahead of me. Back in July she had beaten me by maybe 20 seconds, close enough for me to have ideas of ending up ahead today. But she maintained a consistent lead of a few seconds.

The first mile had passed in 5:46, blinding fast for me, though I only saw that afterwards as I managed not to look at the Garmin for the entire race. At the start I had resolved to really put a massive effort into the second mile, because that’s where I always slow down. Accordingly I put in some surges and always tried to give a maximum effort. Despite the ever-increasing discomfort I managed pretty well. Retrospectively, this is the part of the race I am most happy with. I closed in on a couple of runners, but the leading lady was still a few seconds ahead, but a pace of 5:52 is the fastest second mile I have ever managed.

By the time we got into third mile the effort started to tell and I started wheezing. There just did not seem to be enough oxygen in the air to support the effort. I didn’t give up, but I did slow down a bit, want it or not. The last mile is slightly uphill, but that does not entirely excuse the slow-down. The leading lady overtook a runner and I managed to slowly close in on him myself. With the finish drawing nearer I tried the old imagine-a-bungee-rope trick again, but it seemed to have lost its elasticity and the only thing that drew me closer was to fall into a pace that felt like an all-out sprint. When the final climb started I was still about 10 steps behind, but suddenly I could tell that I was getting closer. He must have been suffering even more than me. Inch by inch the distance was melting away, but the pain in my legs was increasingly reaching boiling point. I was even wishing for him to start his final kick so that I could abandon hope of catching him. He must have known that I was there; I was just a step behind him when, with maybe 10 seconds to go, I got my wish – he sped up, I had nothing left to respond with because I was already maxing out, and he beat me to the line by about a second.

It was only here that I looked at my watch and saw my time of 18:19. I was more than happy. It’s 12 seconds behind my personal best, but that had been a once-in-a-lifetime effort that I have never been able to even come close to – until today. Now it suddenly seems within reach, though not this year, because the marathon in 3 weeks will put a stop to all that running at 5K pace.

Looking at the mile splits now I can see that I was within reach of a new PB until the last mile, where I slowed down to 6:12. Having said that, a look at my heart rate chart tells me that there was not much I could have done. The last quarter mile was a true maximum effort when I tried to gain one more place in the field. It may have been in vain, but it gave me a better finishing time and the knowledge that I had tried as hard as I could. With 3 weeks to go before Dingle it served as a booster, both for the legs and the confidence.

Of course I missed the cycling race, including Lance Armstrong and Mark Cavendish’s amazing sprint finish, but you can’t have everything. At least my car was still there when I got back.
20 Aug
9 miles, 1:09:40, 7:45 pace, HR 142
21 Aug
10 miles, 1:17:01, 7:42 pace, HR 142
22 Aug
11 miles, including:
 Killarney 5K, 18:19, 5:56 pace, HR 177


  1. That's a great result Thomas, especially with Mangerton still in your legs. McMillan will swop you a sub 3 hr marathon for that time.

  2. nice result on 'tired' legs. That time is faster than my PB!!

  3. You're a mad man, still, congratulations on the race, well done. Rest, recover and focus on the remaining few weeks. Good luck!

  4. Nice p.b. and proof yet again that ' miles make champions'

  5. Excellent race Thomas. Great sign that you're in 5k PB shape. I'm impressed that you avoided looking at the Garmin too!

  6. Trying to get information on the Kerry running scene is almost impossible. I'm new to the running and had been looking for a race in Kerry for many weeks (and couldn't find one advertised). The Kerry race results are never published either. I think there is defintiely a niche in the market for a "Kerry running blog".