I had heard about the upcoming 10k race in Tralee before but completely forgot about it again. When someone mentioned it again on Tuesday I decided rather impulsively to sign up. I did not go into it with the greatest of expectations. I haven't done speed work in ... how many months? I can't even remember. I haven't come close to running 6-minute miles since Ballycotton, back in March, and of course I had all those recent marathons in my legs.
The logical thing would have been to skip running on Saturday morning but I really did not want to miss the group run, and when I remembered that I was training for an ultra and that this 10K was just a little bit of fun I decided that I would do the morning run as planned and add the race as a second workout. Therefore I already had 12 miles in my legs for the day as I was standing on the starting line, but they felt good nevertheless.
There weren't a lot of familiar faces around; I did recognise a few and had a couple of chats, but the majority of Kerry runners had other obligations, apparently.
At the start I took off with the lead pack, but of course the top guys soon started drifting away. I was initially in seventh place but that turned into sixth within half a mile as one guy had obviously started at a rather ambitious pace and was already starting to pay the penalty.
Having said that, before I had finished the second mile I was wondering if the same applied to me as the suffering started rather early for my liking. The top 4 guys were already far ahead, even though I kept seeing them on the long straight stretches. One runner in a black top was closer but kept steadily pulling away from me. I could not hear any footsteps behind, but since I never looked back I have no idea how far back the next runners were.
The course was marked every kilometre but I missed the third one, which played a few nasty tricks in my head until I reached number four. At that point I was wondering if I had run the first 4k at my 5k race pace and if I was in for a disastrous second half.
I took a gel at the water station between km 4 and 5. That's purely a psychological ploy to give my brain a boost. You don't need a gel for 10k but I find it tends to lift my spirits if I'm struggling.
Whether it was the gel or something else, the runner in front stopped pulling away though he was a good bit ahead of me, enough to make the idea of catching him sound rather fanciful. He did run into an unexpected problem at an unmarked junction and clearly slowed down until he heard a shout from one of the marshals. I passed the same junction a few seconds later, and to be fair to the organisers it was quite obvious to follow the road straight before a right corner, but when running at full tilt the brain doesn't always work very well and one can get confused very easily (believe me, I know), so it would have been better to mark the route and/or put an extra steward at that point, just to be sure.
Anyway, he was still a good bit ahead and we were now on a very, very, very long and very straight upwards drag. I could see the leaders far away in the distance and it really was quite discouraging to look up such a long hill, even if the climb was rather gradual.
Now, normally I am a bad uphill but strong downhill runner. I always lose ground on the climb and win it back on the way down. I eventually realised that for once I did not lose any ground to the black shirt ahead; in fact I was pretty sure I kept inching closer, giving me tons of encouragement. Around the 7k mark we finally reached the top and turned left and true to form I got closer and closer to my prey and soon caught up. I toyed with the idea of taking it easy and staying on his shoulder but instead did the right thing by keeping the momentum going after passing him and opening up a gap.
Then I saw the one thing I really did not want to see, namely another hill. For some reason I had been convinced it would be all the way downhill to the finish, so to see the biggest climb of the day right in front did nothing for me. It was mostly the fear of getting caught that kept me going. I pushed hard, as hard as I could, legs and lungs screaming for mercy.
I was still ahead when we finally reached the top and from then on I pretty much knew that I would not be caught again. A steep downhill was tricky on tired legs and the last k seemed to drag on forever but I eventually passed the 10k marker, though the finishing timing mats were another 20 meters ahead. I had 6.29 miles on my Garmin, which probably means that it was an accurate course (something that's not always the case). I finished in fifth place in 38:46.
I race 10Ks so rarely that I didn't even know if that was a PB or not, but of course it was not. I was happy enough with my time and even more so with my performance. I had pushed hard all the way and fought hard to overtake that one runner. I managed to resist temptation to look at the Garmin and never looked behind me, two little things that I take as small victories.
My main goal was to have a bit of fun, which I achieved. It's not a bad 10K time for someone purely concentrating on ultra running at the moment. I got the legs moving at a fast pace, maybe activating a few dormant muscle fibres that could come in handy in two weeks' time.
Results are here.
- 23 Jun
- am: 11+ miles, 1:29:21, 7:58 pace, HR 138
pm: Tralee Solstice 10k, 5th place, 38:46, 6:14 pace (6:09 on Garmin), HR 176
- 24 Jun
- 8 miles, 1:00:59, 7:37 pace, HR 148