Sunday, February 21, 2010

Not So Fast

As soon as I got up on Saturday I knew that the race would not go all that smoothly. The quads were still sore as a combination from last Sunday's race in Bantry and the subsequent 20-mile training run on Wednesday. Recovery was clearly taking longer than would have be ideal.

I had the same routine as for the first race of the series a fortnight ago. After a short run in the morning to wake up I drove Shea to Tralee for his CTY classes and then headed towards Killarney just in time to sign up for the race. The mountain before Tralee was covered in snow and Tralee's pavements were covered by a thick layer of ice, and I doubted if the race was going ahead at all. However, the closer I got to Killarney the clearer the road became, and Killarney itself was ice-free.

After a decent warm-up we gathered at the start line and were off just a few minutes late. The fast guys took off in front and I was a few steps behind John, who I had shared the entire last race with. Today I was never quite able to draw level, but I kept in close contact. The other guy around us was Pat O'Shea, who always seems to be running just a few steps ahead of me whenever we are in the same race. The fact that Pat is in the M55 age group serves as a humbling reminder to myself. The first mile seemed a little bit easier than last time, and at some stage I went past Pat in pursuit of John. This has happened before, for example in Farranfore at the end of January, but he always manages to pass me again. It was deja vu all over again when he emphatically went by at great speed somewhere during the second mile. I took the opportunity and hitched a ride. Had this been a 2.5K workout at 5K pace I would have done well, but alas, it was not. Things became increasingly painful and difficult, and I was simply unable to keep up with John and Pat. Slowly, very very slowly they pulled away from me and as much as I fought to keep in touch it was all in vain. Wheezing badly I passed the 4km marker, highly tempted to pull up and jog towards the finish but also thinking the the torture would be over in less than four minutes, and surely I would be able to hang on for that long.

I have raced a lot on this course in the last few months and know it very well by now. I was looking forward to the last left turn that would bring us out into the open and tried to once more increase the effort. But as hard as I tried, and I tried pretty damn hard, I could not prevent John and Pat from moving further and further away. The finish is the same killer hill as always and I really struggled to keep going. I had no idea what my time was, but when Pat went through the finish I could see a timer, saying 18:10 or so, and I knew that I was slower than last time. I finally crossed the line in 18:24, 10 seconds slower than a fortnight ago but as fast as anything I have done last year.

I was totally, utterly, completely spent. I staggered a few steps and then lay down on the floor in the middle of the road, spreadeagled, breathing heavily, unable to move. I must have been there for close to a minute, and eventually revived sufficiently to move again, rolled over and slowly returned to the vertical. At least I did not have to wonder if I had given everything I had.

The mile splits tell their own story with 5:43, 6:00 and 6:16, and if you compare them to last time (5:44, 5:58, 6:08) then the pattern is very similar, a steady slowdown after a fast (too fast) start, but I was a bit slower over the last mile this time round. The average HR was 180 according to the Garmin, but if you look at the chart it went over 180 before the first mile and never returned. In fact, it gradually grew up to a max of 186, which is very close to my absolute maximum.

It was only after the race that I remembered the old rule of recovering one day for each mile raced. There were never enough races around here for me to violate this rule in the past, but today I was at the start line only 6 days after the very hilly 10-mile run in Bantry, and my legs were not entirely ready for another go. I was so exhausted afterwards that I could not even write a race report later on, but a good night's sleep did wonders and I'm much better today. I'm even looking forward to next week's final race of the series. With a recovered set of legs I might have an outside chance of bettering my PB, but next week's training won't be all nice and easy. I've still got an Ultra to run in the not-so-distant future.
19 Feb
6 miles, 50:51, 8:28 pace, HR 131
20 Feb
10 miles, including:
  Killarney Gneeveguilla 5k, race 3 in series
  18:24, avg. HR 180. 8th overall, 1st M40
21 Feb
am: 6 miles, 41:38, 8:19 pace, HR 135
pm: 30+ minutes swimming


  1. Maybe a few easy days are in order to get the legs fresh again, don't over do it, sometimes less is more:]

  2. p.s. maybe cutting down on your carbs [ sugars] might be part of your problem, you might be running on empty!

  3. Well done on the race given how hard the previous week had been. I love the part about knowing you'd given it all :) I don't run short distances much these days but when I do my goal is simply to puke at the finish line - but have not quite got there yet - obviously not trying hard enough...!

  4. That's pretty good Thomas. If you could tone down the first mile to 5:55 or so you'd possibly leave more in the tank for the second half. Congrats on the 1st M40 prize!

  5. hey i think the 5k in killarney is short unless you are running some kind of wordld record for the last 172 metres. if you're garmin is correct for 3 miles then the race looks about 60 metres short.