Sunday, January 11, 2009

Turbo Charged

When you’re new to racing you are pretty much going to PR in almost any race. Eventually this settles a bit, but for a while you are still in with a good shot at a PR at each race. This is exciting, and it’s easy to stay motivated. I’ve now been running for 4.5 years, and PRs are definitely no longer guaranteed. But from time to time you still manage to surprise yourself.

I slept really badly last night, and this time I blame the Full Moon. I often have troubles sleeping at that time of the month. Eventually I managed to doze off, but 6 hours later, at 7 o’clock, the kids woke and that was the end of the rest for me. I made the best of it, and after they had been fed and settled in front of the telly, I sneaked out for an easy 3 mile run, which has become my preferred way of starting race day.

I left for Mallow shortly before 10 and got there in good time. They were expecting over 500 runners, but the weather had turned nasty just in time for today’s race and I doubted they would be able to get that sort of number (I was wrong). The wind was at gale force strength and the rain came and went; but, as I said to Grellan and Brendan when I met them at the race HQ, I have run in worse conditions. My goal was to go under 65 minutes, 6:30 pace.

After a good warm-up we assembled at the start line. Grellan insisted he would be slow today, and wanted me to play rabbit for him rather then the other way round. I still thought he was kidding when the gun went, and we set off. After the customary weaving around the idiots who start way too far ahead we settled into about 6:20 pace, and I remarked to Brendan how it never ceases to amaze me how that pace can feel like jogging in a race when I am unable to hit it at training. Grellan was right at my shoulder at the first mile marker at 6:31, very much on pace. The course had been slightly uphill and got a bit steeper as we continued on, right into the headwind. The conditions were blustery, but so early in the race it didn’t bother me yet. We got our rewards from the elements after about 1.5 miles when we turned sharply left onto the main Cork road and had the wind at our back on a nice downhill stretch. I like downhills, and I always make up plenty of places, and accordingly I increased the pace noticeably. I passed Brendan, and a few other runners, and I kept trading places with an older gentleman, who Brendan later identified as Denis Carroll, whom I knew from looking at race results. Anyway, the pace dropped dramatically on that stretch. While the second mile had taken 6:32, the third was a blazingly fast 5:52, but with a 100 feet elevation drop as well as wind assisted. I felt great, and somehow managed to carry the momentum onwards even as we turned into the Killarney road, and left the downhill behind. The rest of the race would be fairly flat.

I kept passing plenty of runners with a 6:13 mile, and by now I was pretty sure I was going to get a substantial new PR. The wind started to become an annoyance again, and running on the shoulder of another runner didn’t seem to help, but I felt too good for that to really bother me. I never looked back and had no idea where Brendan and Grellan would be, but expected them to be a good bit behind. Imagine my surprise when Brendan suddenly appeared at my shoulder. I could only remark “I didn’t expect to see you here”, and then he was gone, leaving me in the dust. We continued westwards past the race course and a 6:25 mile brought me to the halfway mark at around 31:40, way ahead of schedule. Shortly afterwards we turned off the Killarney road, and the rest of the race would be on small country roads, something I’m rather familiar with. By now I was behind a trio of master runners, one of them Denis Carroll, and another one looking familiar from previous races. I kept as close to them as I could, and together we made up a couple of places. I felt good, but my left hamstring started tightening at that point. It has never really recovered from the Connemara Ultra last year, and tends to tighten up towards the end of races. Having said that, I don’t think it’s slowing me down.

Mile 6 at 6:24 was still reasonably quick, and I passed to 10k mark in about 39:15, which was faster than my 10k race on New Year’s Day! Of course I knew already that I was having a really good race, but that really drove home the message. At that point I decided to start the drive home. Despite the pace I was feeling reasonably comfortable, and it was time to go into the uncomfortable zone. I drew level with the trio ahead of me and started pulling away. Two of them responded, and we battled for another mile, which included a hill that explains the 6:30 pace, despite the increased effort. Eventually one of them fell back and the other one pulled ahead, and I tried in vain to keep up.

I could see Brendan quite some distance ahead of me, probably too far to catch. But I remembered the race in Ballycotton last year when he visibly started suffering towards the end. He had pace to burn but not the stamina to keep it up until the end, and with that in mind I started giving chase. The rest of the course was very level, and the increased effort started being reflected in the pace; it took me just 6:10 to reach the 8 mile point. It was clear that Brendan was having a much better day than in last year’s Ballycotton because he was picking up runner after runner, who shortly later got passed by me as well. I drew level with a guy in a red singlet who obviously didn’t like being passed because he responded with an impressive surge that took him away from me again. I drew closer again, and again he surged away. And once more. By now we had reached mile 9, again in 6:10. I’m rather persistent, and when I drew level for a fourth time he had nothing left to respond and finally I managed to get away from him. By now we are just half a mile from the finish, and I was maybe 10 steps behind Brendan. But now he started kicking for home himself, and with my legs aching badly from the last 2 miles’ effort I soon realised that I would not be able to catch him. On the opposite, he drew away from me as he started chasing a runner in front of him. I managed to gain one more place, and on the last hill towards the line I could hear steps approaching from behind, which made me squeeze the last ounce of strength out of my legs. I could see the clock approaching 1:03 and tried hard to stay under it, but crossed the line exactly at 1:03:00, which probably means they will round my final time up to 1:03:01 (update: correct). The last mile took 6:01.

Still, this was a PR by 3 minutes, and even though my old PR had been soft I would have been happy with a time 2 minutes slower, and certainly did not mind being beaten by Brendan by 8 seconds. Grellan, who arrived 3 minutes after us, remarked that McMillan’s calculator would probably have this as my best race ever, which I confirmed after returning home. Brendan was always the one with the natural pace, and now that he started building his endurance he is going to have a fantastic year ahead of him. My own prospects don’t look too shabby either, and if I can manage to build on today’s effort a sub-3 marathon might indeed be on the cards for 2009. Grellan is behind in his training, but I know that by the time Ballycotton comes along he will be tough to beat. Roll on the year!
10 Jan
6 miles, 47:44, 7:57 pace, HR 141
11 Jan
am: 3 miles, 25:08, 8:23 pace, HR 137
pm: 13.5 miles, including:
     Mallow 10 mile race, 1:03:01, 6:18 pace, HR 176

Weekly mileage: 87.6

Race Results: Brendan 63rd in 1:02:54, Thomas 66th in 1:03:01, Grellan 114th in 1:05:51


  1. Well done again Thomas on a great race. You were certainly on form today whereas I only ever felt comfortable in short fits and spurts - then again I was not expecting a better time just an easier ride.

    You are very generous in your last comment - I hope I can provide more of a challenge in Ballycotton.

  2. Thomas, Great race and impressive PR. Well done. Things are certainly looking good for Boston!! It's nice to read about how you were tracking me all the way. I was too afraid to look back as I knew you weren't too far behind!! Today's race had everything wind, rain, hills and battles and fast times!! Great fun.

    There are some pics on the eagle AC website including an overhead of our group about 1 mile into the race. I might nab some for my race report later once domestic duties are over!!

    Good luck with your ongoing training and see you in Ballycotton...

  3. MAYBE YOU SHOULD BE KNOWN AS THE 'werewolf' from now on!
    great race, great report!
    keep on getting those miles under your belt!

  4. Great run – a just reward for the work you have put in, and a very sound foundation for the events ahead.

  5. Hey guys - sounds like a great race. congrats Thomas on the PR and a very nice time!

  6. Wow! I'm astounded with your turbo power. Nice race and report!

  7. Congratulations on your pb and excellent run today. That should give you lots of confidence for the year ahead and especially Boston.

    Well done and a great report!

  8. Excellent Race when you can PR! I'd have sub-60 minutes in mind with that result in hand. Good luck!

  9. Of course I'm taking all the credit, for firing you up using Grellan as bate ;)

    Great PB Thomas. The perfect start to the year.

  10. Congratulations on the run, well done. You must be happy with this in your preperation for Boston, keep it up!

  11. Turbo-charged is right, well done! Great report too, you had me on the edge of my seat till the finish line.

  12. If you had wind anything like what we had in Dublin yesterday then I don't envy you at all! I was thrilled to have the day off running, curled up in front of the TV, bliss.

    Congrats on a new PB. Now's the hard part... to beat it in Ballycotton.

  13. Great running Thomas, it must feel great that the hard work has paid off! It is strange how race pace feel s so much easier in a race than training. I wonder is it psychological or testosterone or both?

  14. Very nice, Thomas! Always great to read a race report with a strong finish.

  15. Great race Thomas! Your progression in 4 1/2 years is nothing short of amazing.

  16. wild applause!!! I can't believe there are people faster than you! i was on the edge of my seat the whole time!