Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Things We Do for Fun

After much deliberation I eventually decided to run 12 miles on Friday, and to run them as a progression run. The first 4 miles were very easy, which eventually turned out to be 8:02 pace. The middle 4 miles were at a better effort and came up at 7:42, though quite a bit of that was uphill., The last 4 miles, still net uphill came out at 7:03 effort, which isn't bad, but I ran them at a higher level than marathon effort, I think, and of course they came out a good bit slower than my goal pace. Never mind.

A parcel arrived during Friday, containing two new pairs of shoes, including a pair of Nike Lunaracers. I had been using a pair of Lunatrainers for a while, and was keen to give the racers a shot, after my previous racers had reached the end of their useful life. I took them out for an easy spin on Saturday, to test if I could wear them on Sunday. The run was fine, the shoes felt good, and I was on for the race.

My recent race preparation includes 3 easy miles in the morning, and I got up reasonably early on Sunday. I managed to wait out a hail storm followed by very heavy rain, and managed to squeeze in my run between two sets of truly nasty conditions. I set off in good time, the weather seemed to improve a bit on my way to Cork, and met Grellan and his neighbour, Pat. Grellan was kind enough to give us all a lift to Ballycotton. The wind there was blowing rather strongly, it was biting cold, and we knew it would not be a particularly easy day. After plenty of waiting around, we went for a warm up. With 15 minutes to go, Grellan went to the start line, but a call to nature delayed me for another 5 minutes. This turned out to be crucial. By the time I approached the start area, a wall of people blocked my way from way back. I followed two more guys who were pushing their way towards the front. Eventually, there were no more gaps to squeeze through, and I was stuck well behind where I wanted to be. I could see Grellan and Brendan well ahead of me, but there was no way to get closer.

The start came soon enough, and it took me 30 seconds to cross the line. The first minute was ridiculous, I was squashed in the crowd, and could not run properly. There were so many others around me, and dozens of morons who had started way ahead of where the should have been. Eventually a few gaps appeared and I managed to speed up. By the half way mile I was pretty much at the pace I was hoping to do. I expected Brendan and Grellan to be so far ahead of me that I would not see them again until the end, but was very surprised to catch up with Grellan just before the first mile mark. We exchanged a few words, and eventually I pulled slightly ahead. As I passed the one mile marker, a guy shouted out the times, and I passed just after 7 minutes. Unlike last year I remembered that I had crossed the start line after a delay, and my net time was just a bit slower than 6:30. By now I had a reasonably free road, and the second mile is the most downhill one, but I did start to notice the strong headwind. It was at that point that I noticed a guy in a white singlet with green and black striped across; we seemed to trade places regularly, as we sped past dozens of slower runners who had started ahead of us. Mile 2 went by in about 6:15, giving me an average pace of 6:25 so far. The next mile continued in much the same way, but the wind really started to bother me. What became clear very quickly that I was slower than in Mallow 2 months ago, but faster than in Ballycotton last year.

I took a drink at the first water station, and must have slowed down, because that's where I lost contact with the guy in the striped singlet. I wondered if I should keep up, but I was already pretty much at the edge. This became very clear when all of a sudden I felt rather odd. It's like my heart just went into overdrive. I was a bit worried; I've had tachycardia before, but never during a run like this. I changed the view of my Garmin to display the heart rate, which came up as 172, certainly not very high. This seemed to reassure me enough to basically forget about it and continue with the race.

With the headwind so strong, I found it basically impossible to keep up the pace. The average pace started slipping, until it reached about 6:30 by the halfway mark. I was still passing people, and eventually I caught up with a group containing Mary Sweeney, a local running legend. I started drafting behind her and her fellow runners. I felt I could have run a tad faster, but it did not seem worthwhile the extra effort in the wind. By the halfway mark we would turn out of the wind, and then it would be coming from behind. I could hardly wait, but until then I was content to sit and wait. Eventually we turned a corner, where Mary got her customary ovation from spectators. I mentioned to her that it must be great to have so many fans, which she agreed on, and then I was ahead and on the way towards the finish.

I heard a runner approaching from behind, and was absolutely convinced that it was Grellan. However, when he drew level it turned out to be someone else, though Grellan later confirmed that he was very close behind and actually saw me looking around. This was just about the only runner who had passed me for a long time, though I think I managed to re-pass him later on. At about the 6-mile mark I took my secret weapon, a gel. This seemed to have worked well in Mallow, and I tried to replicate this. While I was waiting for the boost to kick in I passed the 10k mark in about 40:20, which was slightly disappointing, about a minute slower than in Mallow.

Whether it was the gel or something else, but I started feeling better. By mile 6 I had thought that there must be easier ways to get a mug, by mile 7 I was doing a lot better. The average pace had become faster again, to 6:26. That mile contained a few downhill parts, and on each of those I flew past a few more runners. This is something I have always done. I gain on the downhills, and I used to lose on the climbs. By now I have worked on my climbing strength; I am still able to run the downhills better than most, but I'm now able to keep my position on the uphill sections. Anyway, at one point someone I had just overtaken said something like “I'm going to hitch a ride”. I wasn't able to respond, but didn't mind the company. He didn't manage to stay with me for half a mile, though.

One of the guys I passed was the runner in the white singlet with the green and black stripes, who had pulled away from me 4 miles earlier. That little victory pleased me no end.

The 8 mile marker came earlier than I thought. Normally that's a good sign, but it was also the beginning of the section that I dreaded most. The 9th mile is a bitch, with a steep uphill, and several more smaller ones. However, I could smell the finish, and I had a new target, namely to beat 65 minutes, not just on chip time but also on gun time, which would be about 64:30 chip time. I was still on target, but with the climbs ahead this was less than assured. I gave as much as I could, and I still managed to overtake a few more runners. This was where I had caught up with Brendan last year, but I knew very well that I would see no sign of him today. But, I managed to keep on pace, and that was all that mattered to me.

With one mile to go, I thought our places were pretty much settled, but I heard footsteps approaching from behind. I managed to hold the guy off for a while, and the even higher effort meant I gained another place. But I could not prevent the runner from passing me eventually. With about a quarter of a mile to go I thought I could not possibly gain another place, but I started running like a madman. To my surprise I gained on the guys ahead, and managed to pass not just one but two other runners. The only one of that group who stayed ahead was the guy who had just overtaken me, and I crossed the line at 64:48 on the clock, with a chip time of 64:19. I was a bit disappointed to be over a minute slower than in Mallow. The congestion at the start certainly cost some time, but not enough to make up for the time difference.

One guy came up to me, thanking me for pulling him and his friend along. You're very welcome, mate, but in all honesty I was only looking after myself today.

Results are here. (Looks like a lost a place since the first, unofficial results. I used to be 199th, now I'm 200th)

Grellan came in half a minute later. He thought he had broken 65 minutes, but the official results have him at 65 on the dot. I wonder what he said when he saw that. Brendan, on the other hand, had a chip time of 61:39. Wow! Congratulations, mate! Richard caught up with us and took some photos. Looks like we had some fun.

6 Mar
12 miles, 1:31:29, 7:36 pace, HR 149
incl. 3x4 miles at 8:02, 7:42, 7:03
7 Mar
5 miles, 39:40, 7:56 pace, HR 145
8 Mar
17+ miles, incl:
Ballycotton 10, 1:04:19, 6:25 pace, HR 172
199th out of 2398

Weekly Mileage: 80+
Edited Monday morning to get rid of the worst of the grammatical violations. Writing a race report at 10 o'clock at night does not yield brilliant prose, apparently.



  2. Yes i was a little surprised about the 65 but I still managed that PB. Your last mile must have been very fast. Well done on holding me at bay.

  3. looking good for Boston. I'm sure if you hadn't been ill you'd have smashed your Mallow time. Well done

  4. Great race Thomas. Plugging that time into McMillan, gives you a 3:00 marathon on the nose!!

  5. that race start describes every race I run in nyc unfortunately - used to getting jammed up in the crowds...

    good race in the wind! looking forward to tracking you in boston soon!

  6. Good report Thomas. Even if it wasn't a PB for 10 miles it was a course PB, which is more relevant. Sounds like atrocious conditions.

    Your downhill speed will really come to the fore in Boston, as long as you don't lose too much on the ups. Well done.

  7. I'm fairly sure I spotted you in your last 400m or so - I couldn't see the clock from where I was standing to guage your time though. Great report and good running in the conditions.

  8. Great run Thomas. Must be getting excited with Boston so close and running strong!

  9. Great run Thomas. You're well on track.

  10. Thanks Thomas, I hope I'm back on track. this morning I miss the boat. Spring forward 1 hour always kills, I hope I adjust before its to late. I'll have to make it up tonignt.

    Your training is going well