Saturday, July 31, 2010

Too Fast For Me

The main reason why I had done quarter-mile repeats on Wednesday was Friday’s race. I didn’t want to completely disgrace myself on home ground and did not want to show up completely unprepared, and Wednesday’s workout was a last-minute attempt to get the legs used to running at that speed again after weeks of 9-minute miles.

On Thursday morning I figured it might not have been such a great idea because my quads were very sore. How one can run 48+ extremely hilly miles over the weekend without problems and then suffer from 2+ miles of speedwork is beyond me, but apparently that can happen. Things had improved a bit, but not much, by Friday morning when I did a 4-miles wake-up run, by now rather worried what a race in that state might do to my legs.

Kilgobnet lies well off the main road between Killorglin and Beaufort and even some locals would have slight troubles finding it on a map. Nevertheless, it has hosted a 4-mile race for many years. The turn-out was in line with previous years, I guess about 60 runners, with maybe a dozen walkers. It was also hosted by “my” club, Star of the Laune, though in all honesty I do nothing more for them but wear the singlet from time to time and pay my fee once a year. Still, Anthony, Michael and me looked splendid together in out bright orange shirts.

The race might be small but it is fiercely competitive and the standard is very good. A decent sized group sped off from the start, and even though I remarked to John that we would catch some of them before the end, I knew that the majority would be out of reach. Phil caught up with us and he and John eventually and slowly pulled away from me, just as I caught up with Anthony. Then Michael came along, and for a few strides I was the last of the club’s runners, but I managed to pull ahead of Anthony. Michael, on the other hand, ran like a man possessed and it came as a major surprise that I had no chance whatsoever of keeping up. A glance at my Garmin told me I was doing 5:40 pace, suicidal pace as it was and speeding up even more was definitely not on the cards. All I could do was watching his bright shirt slowly but surely disappear into the distance.

After about a mile I caught up with Seamus, which is what tends to happen in all short races – he pulls away at the start and eventually I catch him. I lost my place again when a yellow singlet went past me, but after about 1.5 miles I got one place back going down the only real incline of the course where I managed to pass Humphrey. After all that jostling, we finally had a settled field.

About 1.7 miles into the race, just before the spanking new bridge that reminds us of the heady days of the Celtic Tiger when the government thought nothing of spending 1.5 million Euro on a bridge over a miniscule river that gets used by a mere handful of people (but it’s a very nice bridge indeed, that’s for sure), the race turns left again, and oh sh*t, I was heading straight into the wind without another runner that might have served as a shield anywhere near. Actually, the wind was not strong at all but it was definitely noticeable and all we could do was push on regardless.

I managed to avoid looking at the pace or HR field of the Garmin, figuring (correctly) that I would not like to see the numbers, but I could not resist temptation to sneak at the distance field every now and again. When I thought we must be about halfway through, it said 1.8 miles. When I thought it must be close to 3 miles, it said 2.5. None of that was good news, and the fact that I kept looking at it was a bad sign of my increasing desperation. A blue shirt caught up with me and for a moment I thought it was Seamus again but it was a young lad, passing me like I was standing still. For a bit I tried to hitch a ride but he was going much too fast and there was no way I could have matched his pace. 2.6 miles into the race I thought that if this were a 5k, this is where I would have to start my drive for the finish and was glad that I could stay at the present pace instead, but of course I was well aware that this was a rather short-sighted view of things. Shortly before the 3 mile mark we turned left again and things got even worse because the road went uphill now, only very gradually but enough to multiply the torture. Twice I could hear footsteps closing in one me and twice I managed to pull away again, even though even a miniscule increase in pace multiplied the perceived effort. The third time the footsteps came close I heard two different rhythms. Just great, being passed in the last mile is bad enough; having two runners catch up is even worse! A runner in a green shirt (the eventual winner of the M45 category) went passed but the other runner (Humphrey, as it turned out) faded again and I ended up in the middle between the two of them as we slowly got pulled apart again. As we got closer to Kilgobnet the yellow singlet seemed to fade ahead of me as I started my kick for the line. Unfortunately I had been in the red zone for so long that there was nothing left in the tank to increase pace by much, and even though I managed to maybe halve the gap there was no way I could have caught him, and I crossed the line in 24:27. That was 15 seconds slower than my PB, but that had been set 2 years ago during a summer of speed work, and with my present Ultra training this was better than I could have hoped for. The average HR had been 180 and for the last mile it had gotten stuck at 185 for long, uncomfortable spells, so it definitely was not for lack of trying.

Did I enjoy it? To be brutally honest …. no, not really. I loved the socialising and banter both before and after the race, but the 4 miles of the race itself felt too much like hard work and I’m not used to running at almost 6-minute pace any more. My mile splits tell a story of a less-than-ideal pacing strategy, fading with each mile, 5:47, 6:07, 6:14 and 6:16, as I clearly paid the price for trying to keep up with some faster runners early on.

Michael had finished in about 23:30, easily winning the M50 price, an absolutely astonishing performance and he was rightly pleased with it. I missed out on the M40 price to Phil (just as well, seeing as I had been passed by both the winners of the M45 and M50 categories), but managed to win a spot price in form of a pink rain suit which just happened to fit Lola very well, so the rest of the family were more than happy with my evening. After the race I stood there and chatted for a long while, including today’s winner who was very nice and modest about his abilities, pretending to be impressed by my training for the Ultra. As much as I enjoyed the running scene, I think for the actual race itself I feel more at home at Dingle.

29 Jul
5 miles, 41:40, 8:20 pace, HR 134
30 Jul
am: 4 miles, 36:20, 9:03 pace, HR 129
pm: 7 miles, including:
   Kilgobnet 4-mile race, 24:27, 6:07 pace, HR 180, ~15th place


  1. Short races are great when you finish them and a quick exit into the nearest bar is always a good idea to take in some 'pain killers':]

  2. Here here to Rick on the "pain killers!"

    It's good that you were only 15 secs off a PB - shows your base fitness is high. And yes, if you'd run a 6-flat first mile you probably would have got the PB. Never mind. Short fast races like that are good training - even if you don't enjoy them ;)

  3. Thomas I couldn't agree with you more - the fun at short races is all at the finish line. At least with marathons and ultras the onset of pain is so gradual you accept it far more easliy. If I could pull a time like that on ultra training i'd be well pleased with myself.

  4. I have the same feeling of desperation when I notice I'm constantly looking down at my watch. :) Great time with the ultra training you've been doing.