Monday, March 07, 2016

Ballycotton Return

Obviously, Thursday's workout was followed by 2 easy days,. That would have been the case in any situation but with Sunday's race in Ballycotton on the horizon, it was an absolute no-brainer.

I had a bit of a diversion on Saturday with the Kerry Athletics awards night. My club, Star of the Laune, had been kind enough to nominate me for an award and, lo and behold, I was picked for a special merits award. In fact, they gave me just about the biggest pot they had on that table. It was a very nice evening, and who would not be honoured to receive an award like that - the only downside being that we had to leg it once the entertainment started in earnest as the next day's drive would be long and the race would be hard.

I've done some local races but nothing what I would call serious in the last few months, and Ballycotton felt like a step up again towards "real" racing. The standard there would be frightfully high and I was nowhere near top shape, so expectations were muted all along. Considering my very modest 39:10 in a 10k on New Year's Day, 63 minutes seemed the best outcome possible, and that felt optimistic. However, there is something about Ballycotton that always makes me race faster than I think possible and so it proved once more.

I woke on Sunday morning with a sore throat and a sore left hamstring, neither of which filled me with confidence that this would be a particularly good day. However, I would neither of which put m off my race.

2 miles. Photo by Graham Nudds
I have run this race on many occasions and this year was the first time I encountered a serious organisational glitch in the massive queue for the drop-bags. Every single runner in that queue had to share a small part of the responsibility for turning up later than advised but it was moving ridiculously slowly and that needs to be sorted out for next year.

Because of that, my own warm-up was very short, no more than 5 minutes, and then I really had to make it into the start area. In the past I have gotten stuck there with 20 minutes to go, so I was actually pleasantly surprised that I managed to squeeze all the way to the "under 58 minutes" sign. Obviously I was not going to run under 58 minutes but I have learned from bitter experience that lining up according to that sign would have been a bad mistake - as it happens, I still started too far in the back, as I do every year, and spent much of the first mile weaving around slower runners ahead of me on a very narrow road. Business as usual, really.

Photo by Alan Bannon
With a recent 10k pace of 6:19 a similar pace for a 10 mile race seems suicidal but I felt I dialled into the effort very well, hard but comfortable. For pretty much all of the race I kept gaining on groups ahead of me, would then sit in the back for a minute or two to catch my breath before pushing ahead again to repeat the same process with the next group. For the first 2 miles I shared that tactic with a runner dressed in black, before I managed to get a look at him; hang on, I know that guy, that's John. He pulled away from me after 2 or 3 miles but I caught him again between 5 and 6, gave him a pat on the back with some encouraging words but he didn't really take the hint and didn't try to hang on as I chased yet another group.

Photo by Joe Murphy
The last 1.5 miles were as tough as ever with a bit of climbing to do on very tired legs but I surprised myself by being able to hang on to people I had a minute ago thought of being too fast and I even managed to pass and basically out-sprint an entire group of 5 or 6 runners right at the end, which is basically unheard of for me.

The official (chip) time was 1:01:52, which was over a minute faster than my supposed best-case outcome, so I was very pleased with that. My sequence of finishing further ahead in the field with each subsequent race has come to its inevitable end, though. In fact, 145th is a fairly modest placing for someone who has finished 101st and 103rd 2 and 3 years ago. Still, it was 9th in my age group, which isn't all that bad even for a senior citizen. I did meet a proper fast old man during the walk back to the car when interrupting Gary Condon's cool-down for a minute to have a brief chat.

I never even noticed the sore throat in Ballycotton and the hamstring did not bother me once I was a minute into my warm-up.

I was more than happy with my time as well as my own running, feeling I had paced myself very well and pretty much squeezed the optimum outcome out of myself today. This week's mileage is lower due to the lack of a long run, and next week will be low again as a week of recovery is in store with the Tralee marathon this Saturday, even if that is primarily yet another training run.
4 Mar
5 miles, 41:23, 8:17 pace, HR 136
5 Mar
6 miles, 46:23, 7:44 pace, HR 144
6 Mar
13+ miles, including:
   Ballycotton 10, 1:01:52, 6:11 pace, HR 171
   145th place, 9th M45
7 Mar
5 miles, 41:06, 8:13 pace, HR 138
Weekly Mileage: 59+


  1. Great going Thomas; what type of time are you thinking of in the training marathon?

    1. I don't know yet - I might decide as late as mile 1 into Tralee!

    2. Yeah, if, by chance, you feel great on the day of Tralee, and if it's a good-weather day, it may well be worth just going for it...

  2. Excellent racing, Thomas!

  3. Well done, I think the rain running up to the start might have contributed to the onrush of late runners, when I bagged my clothes there was only 1 person handing out bags and 1 person writing the number down, in past years in the 'field' (now houses!) there were 3-4 sets of baggers. I only finished about 30 minutes after you :)

  4. Great performance Thomas, suggests the high background stress hasn't dented your speed too much.

    How does the HR of 171 compare to your previous Ballycotton races?

    My own experience is that in the last year the HR I can manage in shorter races has gone down as my fitness and age have gone up. My last 5m trail race I my average HR was 167 despite putting my all into it. A couple of years back I used to average high 170's for 10k's, and marathon's up in the high 160's. Perhaps I just need a bigger adrenalin kick to get my HR back up. My max HR I see in training has also gone down, 3 years ago I could hit a max 193, now I really have to push it to see a HR over 180. This drop can't be all down to ageing...

  5. Excellent race and report Thomas - well done. Sub-62 is quick, but wow - what a competitive race!