Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Midsummer Nightmare

“You might go surprisingly well (as long as it's not an afternoon run after a day of walking)”, Ewen had said. Right he was too, especially about the second part. We'd been to Westminster, the London Eye, Greenwich Park, Greenwich Observatory, the Planetarium (where I very nearly fell asleep), and then at some friends' house again. It's not the ideal preparation for a race, I guess. I also had a humongous lunch, but that was 6 or 7 hours before the race, and I though I'd be ok by the time the race started.

I got the 185 to Dulwich, a bus I had taken countless times in years gone by. I signed up for the race, did a warm-up with some strides, a few minutes of strong running and stretching, and then – highly unusual for a runner from Ireland – the race started on time.

Oh yes, and I was not wearing my Garmin. When I got ready for the race I was about to put on the HR strap, and then changed my mind and decided to run “freely”. I'd had a few experiences during shorter races recently where I thought that reading the information about pace and/or heart rate was counter-productive, and today a simple stopwatch would have to do.

The race was marked in kilometers, and I reached the first marker in 3:40. I wasn't able to tell my pace in minutes/mile but I knew it was pretty fast (5:54 pace, btw). The field had more or less settled, but I was able to gain a few places every now and then. Somewhere around that marker a runner from Orpington passed me. His vest was so yellow that at first I thought it was a race steward, but he would serve as a pace bunny for the next part of the race.

The course was in Dulwich Park, and at first we did 1.5 laps around the park. I reached km 2 at 7:21, still on the same pace, which was good. At that point I managed to work out that 5 times 3:40 is 18:20. I would have been very happy with that time, but maybe the mere fact that I was able to work that out at that time was a sign that I was not pushing with all I had. I still went past a few runners, but my yellow pace bunny kept slowly pulling away from me. At that stage we left the park and did half a loop on the outside. It included running past a pub, but I managed to resist temptation to stop for a pint. I had lost contact to the Orpington runner, but the sound of footsteps and breathing told me that I was at the head of a small group, and they were obviously pacing off me. I reached km3 in 11:30. How on earth had I managed to lose 30 seconds in one km? I guessed the markers were off, but without my Garmin I could not tell with absolute certainty.

Then we went back into the park, but this time running the other way. We actually passed a few stragglers still on their initial loop in the park. It was slightly uphill and against the wind, and I had the feeling of standing still, a bit like in those nightmares you sometimes have when you're running and running without getting anywhere. I lost no less than 3 places, as all those guys that had been pacing off me went past. The Orpington runner apparently struggled even more because I managed to close the gap, but he was still a bit ahead of me. I did not check my split at the last marker, at that stage I was merely pushing with all I had, breathing heavily and hurting a lot. The course went downhill again, only slightly, but enough to make running much, much easier. I managed to regain my 3 places, and then I pushed even harder, pulled up to my yellow clad friend and went past. There was a big gap to a group ahead, and I visualized a bungy rope pulling me ever closer to those guys. Remarkably, I gained another 2 or 3 places, but as the finish came closer I heard some footsteps approaching from behind. Determined as I was to hold off that guy he went past me like I was standing still, and then I lost another place to someone following in that guy's slip stream.

I only saw the seconds on the clock, and when I passed the line in :24 I thought I had done 18:24 and was very pleased. Then I checked my watch again, and to my horror saw a 19 at the minutes field. Good God, how slow have I become? To be more than a minute slower than my PR, and almost 50 seconds slower than less than 3 months ago on a much hillier course, is almost inconceivable. Should I give up running and start collecting stamps instead?

Lydiard said you can't train hard and race well at the same time, and since I have undoubtedly trained very hard recently, racing well is not on the cards. Still, this was slow, and it is in line with the disappointing result from the 10k in Killarney last month, as race result I had hoped would be a once-off. But I am committed to my training and will see it through until the end. If the marathon will be as disappointing I will know what not to do next time. Until then I'll try to keep in mind the fact that I'm training for a marathon in September, not a 5k in June.
24 Jun
13 miles, including:
Dulwich Midsummer 5k, 19:24, 6:14 pace


  1. Hard luck on the race. Try not to worry too much about it after all you're on holidays and a day of walking is not a great race preparation. Also you won't find many training schedules that recommend running >100miles the week before a 5k race. Enjoy the holidays & keep focused on the goal...Dingle

  2. Like Bricey said, hard luck. That said, I wouldn't be too hard on yourself. You did just run 100+ miles last week, and... you walked London.

    Believe it or not, I think the sightseeing I did in the days leading up to London ’07 was a huge factor in my disappointing race. If nothing else you managed to get a very solid w/o while on holiday, take it for what it is, rest up and then get back out there. Oh, and mark this down as an isolated incident but promise me you won’t overlook the event if more occur, i.e. no getting sick or overtraining. Enjoy your remaining time vacation!

  3. Ditto,Like the guys said!
    I had some of my worst ever x/c races in my build up to London but thinGs came around a few months laster with my second ever fastest 20 mile RACE [ just 10 sec slower than 5 years ago] then quite a good marathon!
    i WOULD ALSO RECOMMEND READING 'HEALTHY INTELLIGENT TRAINING' by Keith Livingstone, I learned alot about LYDIARD'S oringinal training program from this, such as i the base stage; each week inc 2 runs of 10 miles at marathon pace, a hilly fartleck and legspeed session as well as the 22 mile hill run and all the easy aerobic running in between!
    Keep positive!

  4. Sorry for being so accurate in my predictions Thomas.

    You've only just hit 100 miles, and have been on a hectic holiday, so I wouldn't worry about one dud race. I wouldn't be surprised if you bounced back and ran low 18s for the next one.

    Garmins can be wayward in built-up areas anyway. 3:40 for the first k seems OK. The last 3k is strangely slow though, at 4:01 pace - maybe the tiredness catching up on you.

  5. this made me remember our play back in highschool! haha anyway, just keep the fire burning! Youll do good if youll take double time in your preparations! : ) goodluck on everything!

  6. Well done on getting to see all those sights in one day. Most people would put the feet up after a days sightseeing but then again you're not like most people. Except perhaps that you also have a body with limits and running a 5k after a tiring day is not going to get you near PB pace. As you say the goal is Dingle and i'm sure your preparation for that race will be slightly different.

  7. Sorry to disagree with all the others, but I think you pushed the training up way too fast after Boston, and your "systems" are still somewhat compromised because of it. I think it could linger onto Dingle, and I think you were right when you surmised, "I'll know what not to do next time". It's a fine line, of course, you don't want to be lazy all Spring and Summer after Boston, but you needed more of a physical and mental break than you gave yourself. Just my opinion of course...

  8. Thomas, you can improve your aerobic fitness or your anaerobic fitness but not both at the same time together. Your training plan, currently is focussing, correctly, on getting in a good aerobic base before you peak before the target Marathon so you cannot read very much into performance in a short race that the training you are doing is not appropriate for. The objective measure is your heart rate - if you can complete a workout of the same intensity and distance with a lower heart rate than last year (which is what you stats indicate) then you are improving as a runner and you will see the results in Dingle.

  9. At last our 5k times are converging. You are only 15 seconds faster than me. Keep up the high mileage....

  10. There's no doubt you were not rested for this race but that was in the cards from the get-go seeing how you're on vacation. A great learning race but not a benchmark.

  11. Still a great effort and nothing to sneeze at. It's like anything as you move towards your goal there will be some good and bad. You are still making amazing progress towards that sub 3 which I know is gonna happen!