Saturday, February 06, 2010

Pair Running

After the double workout on Tuesday and Wednesday I took a day off running and drove to Killarney in the morning for a pool session instead. It didn't quite work as intended because it still left my quads feeling rather tired but another easy day on Friday sorted out that problem. In years past I have always noticed that my HR on short easy runs drops on an almost weekly basis as I get fitter. I can see the same thing happening again right now. My HR on those easy runs keeps going down, and I see this as a very good sign. I am getting fitter.

The other way to test your fitness is at the other end of the speed scale, by running a race. All of a sudden Killarney has become a Mecca for runners; after last autumn's 5k series there is another one being organised right now, with a 5K race every Saturday in February. Luck was on my side, because at the end of last year I could not do Saturday races because we had to go to Cork for Lola's CTY classes. This spring Shea opted for the one course taking place in Tralee. This enabled me to drive him to Tralee for 10 o'clock, drive to Killarney just in time to sign up for the race and run it, and then head back to Tralee to collect him. The timing is a bit tight, and I was 5 minutes late today because a tractor held up the traffic all the way to Farranfore, but it is manageable. And I sure prefer to be able to race! For the next few weeks I'll keep concentrating on the long, slow runs in training to build me up for the ultra and run a race every weekend as my speed workout. Since the only time I'm ever able to hit 5K pace is running a 5K race, this may well be the best speed training I'm ever going to get.

Anyway, I made it to the start line in time, but of course it was delayed by the customary 10 minutes. The route was essentially the same as the Killarney summerfest one, except that we started inside Killarney National Park itself rather than on the road outside. This meant the road did not have to be closed for a few minutes but I was a bit concerned that things might become a bit crowded at the start on the rather narrow path. Luckily, as it turns out, I started out far enough in front for that not to be an issue. If some crowding took place behind me, I can't tell.

3 guys took off right from the start, and a gap appeared between them and the rest of us. And that rest of us was headed by me, which was a rather unusual position to find myself in. Right next to me was the figure of John Foley, who I had run side-by-side with for the first 3 miles in Farranfore a week ago, and history was very much repeating itself.

The temperatures were about 8C with no wind whatsoever. I had been a really foggy morning but that had lifted just in time for the race and conditions were absolutely perfect. What caused a slight problem were the walkers on the path. While almost all of them moved to the side as they saw us coming, 2 fellas refused to move even an inch and I ended elbowing one of them as I edged past, John probably doing the same to the other one on the other side. I murmured a not-so-friendly description, and John concurred.

The course was measured in kilometers and they seemed to pass reasonably quickly, though I avoided looking at the Garmin while racing, because I know from experience that looking at those figures isn't helpful during a fast race. The three amigos at the front slowly disappeared from view, John and me made up the next two positions, and I kept hearing steps behind us. Every time I thought the next guy was gaining I upped the effort; this kept repeating itself a few times until, somewhere during the second mile, we went up a small hill and a runner all clad in red (who I know by his face but not by name) managed to pass the two of us. John upped the pace to keep in step and for a short while I was afraid I was going to lose contact, but then I managed to push on again and kept right in touch.

Shortly afterwards a runner in white moved past us as well. In fact he passed us at such a pace while looking extremely smooth and relaxed that I wondered where he came from. Was it a fast guy who had missed the start by a minute or two? Nevermind, for a short while I managed to hang in his slipstream and that brought me past John and Red, and while John managed once more to up the pace and remain at my shoulder, the other guy dropped back a bit (he told me afterwards he was saving himself for Mallow tomorrow).

By now we were heading towards the finish. The course is very flat for most of the race with each climb no more than 10 feet or so, but the finish is brutal if you have left everything on the line already. As we passed the 4km marker I tried to up the effort once more, but each time I gained a bit John would respond, and each time he gained a little bit I would do the same and we were still locked in place. By the time we approached the final hill, with maybe a quarter mile left, we had spent virtually the entire race side-by-side, never separated by more than half a step. As we pushed up to the line for a second I thought I had the better of him as he seemed to fall behind but it was just an illusion and once more he managed to pull level. And then, over the last twenty steps, he proved to have what I don't, namely a finishing kick and for the first time in the entire race there was daylight between us as he crossed the line in fifth place with me coming home a second or two later in sixth.

One look at the Garmin showed me that I had a very good race in 18:14, my second best ever over the distance and only 7 seconds behind my PB that I had always thought of as a once off that may never be repeated. By now it certainly looks to be within reach, and maybe I can go below 18 minutes this year, not that I have any intentions of training specifically for a 5K.

The Good: I managed to push my HR up to 188 on the final hill. I didn't even know I can reach that figure in my old age.
The Bad: My mile splits were 5:43, 5:57 and 6:08. I need to learn to keep on pace.

After chatting to a few runners I had to get going, do a cool-down and head towards Tralee to pick up Shea. He forgave me for being late, and he'd had almost as good a time as me.

Unfortunately I'll miss tomorrow's 10 mile race in Mallow, but leaving the family behind for both days of the weekend is not on the cards. There's a 10 miler in Bantry next week that I will do instead of the 5K in Killarney because we happen to be in Cork that weekend, and then it's back to Killarney for the last 2 races of the series.

4 Feb
45 minutes swim
5 Feb
6 miles, 50:51, 8:28 pace, HR 131
6 Feb
9+ miles, including:
 Killarney 5K, race 1 in winter series
 18:14, HR 180, 6th overall


  1. Heck of a race report, Thomas! That was a great read, you painted a great picture. Well done on the race, sixth place is fantastic!

  2. You're hr was climbing and yet the pace was slowing. Must be close to the limit? Nice to have speedwork while training for an ultra!

  3. What happened to the short posts? Epic fail there, but a pass with 18:14. You're close to the holy grail of amateur runners - a sub-18 5k!

  4. You're certainly coming on form Thomas and you endurance training has in no way blunted your speed. 18:14 is a great time. I can see a breakthrough coming down the line.

  5. Yes your coming into top writing form and you're racings not bad either! What ever your doing seems to be working well so stick at it :]

  6. A great race Thomas. You are in great form. It is interesting to observe the way you reacted to the circumstances of the race. You accelerated for most of the first quarter mile. Despite going slightly uphill you reached almost 5 min mile pace – this acceleration put you in a tactically strong position at the head of the pack following the three leaders, but probably undermined any prospect of a PB. You then maintained a steady effort, with slowly rising HR and your pace responded to the gradients until about 2.1 miles, which is the point were I presume that White passed you. At that stage you were descending and you played to one of your own strengths by accelerating down-hill. You managed to put Red out of contention, though you weren’t able to shake-off John. Between 2.5 and 2.7 miles both you and John took it relatively easily. Perhaps you were both eyeing-up the final hill that was ahead of you. Your HR actually fell a little. However in view of the fact that your HR was still in the range 183-184, I suspect it did not actually feel like much of a respite. Slowing at this point cost you about 5-8 seconds and was the thing that finally killed any prospect of a PB. It also allowed John to recoup enough strength to get the better of you on the final hill. It is interesting to wonder what might have happened if you had really pushed yourself between 2.5 and 2.7 miles. I think it is likely that you did the right thing by allowing yourself a brief respite before the final hill, but if your goal had been a PB, it would probably have been better to have started a bit slower and then maintained the pace throughout the final mile. However, for someone racing for the purpose of maintaining some sharpness while training for an ultra, it was an impressive performance, and tactically it was almost perfect. If you did decide to make a sub-18 min 5K your goal, you could almost certainly do it. But first of all there is the Connemara Ultra and then maybe a sub-3 hour marathon to think about.

  7. I'd like to echo what "Canute1" said because it would take me too long to think and write something so well ;)

    You guys really raise the bar in the blogging stakes and now your doing it on the road as well.

    Geez from now on I'm going to have to think before I write and look over my shoulder when I run ;)

    Great 5K Thomas