Monday, December 14, 2009


Last week's race had not gone badly but there were a few things I was not happy about, most of all my lack of racing enthusiasm. I was determined to put things right this time.

First of all, I did not tire myself out by swimming for an hour beforehand. I don't know how much of an effect this had on last week's race, but it sure was not the ideal preparation. Accordingly I left the house later today but would be away for longer; however, Niamh had given permission.

Maybe the mug of strong coffee half an hour before the race had an effect. I felt wired when I signed up, but the effects, if present at all, may well have been purely psychological. But I stood at the start line determined to better last week's time. The course was the same again, but the weather was different. It was icy cold, my car thermometer displayed 0 degrees C, but with the lack of wind it felt warmer than that in the bright sunshine.

Right at the start I took a decision that might have made the difference. Last week a group had slowly pulled away from me, and I ended up leading another group of runners a few meters behind. I was not going to let that happen again and held on to the end of the pack for dear life. The top runners (especially the eventual winner who took off on his own) pulled away, but my group wasn't too far behind. Eventually I got a grip on proceedings and managed to pass a few runners. I'm sure I was not speeding up, but others were slowing early and I made up a few places. Just one runner passed me, but he nearly threw me off my stride in surprise because he wore a massive backpack that obviously did not stop him from doing 6:00 pace. I wasn't going to let anyone with a bag big enough for a polar expedition show me up and managed to stay reasonably close. He dropped off his bag at the 1-mile point, very close to the eventual finish, and turned from backpack-guy into blue-t-shirt-guy, but remained a target nevertheless.

The second mile sports a big hill, but at first the climb was very gentle. I surprised myself by closing the gap to some runners ahead (including the leading lady) and even overtaking them without pushing stronger than before. Only two guys stayed with me, including Mr blue t-shirt, but as soon as the real climb started I immediately lost contact, no matter how hard I tried. I even lost a place as one guy strode past me looking annoyingly comfortable, and the three of them formed a group, with me about 12 steps behind by the time we finally crested the hill. I hoped, and expected, to at least close the gap on the downhill, but try as I might I could not quite manage it. With about a mile left I tried to find another gear but there was nothing to be found, all I could do was keep going. Eventually blue t-shirt seemed to tire, fell behind the others and I managed to close the gap.

He was still a step ahead of me when we took a right turn to cross the last bridge across the little river, which was my signal to finally start my kick for the finish. It was high time because I could hear steps approaching from behind and knew that if I did not move now I would lose a place rather than gain one. With the effort level full in the red zone I finally passed the blue t-shirt after trailing for two miles. I could hear both him and whoever had been closing in on me and really worried about being passed again. Fear can be a surprisingly effective motivator and the sheer horror that I might lose a place or two ensured that I did not let up by even an ounce. I didn't quite manage to reel in one more runner but I flew up the final hill towards the line with the HR at 187, a zone that I hadn't touched in ages and didn't even know I still could reach. I saw the clock at the end and knew I was way ahead of last week. My watch read 18:36 when I crossed the line.

I was really happy with the 24 seconds improvement, which was way better than expected. I'm sure last week's race had given the legs a boost, but the biggest change was in my attitude, with me being willing and prepared to hurt. The average HR during the race of 179 is my highest ever, I think. I wonder if I could have a shot at my PR after a few more weeks of training, but the races series is now over and 5Ks are in fairly short supply during the winter, so I will probably not get the opportunity.

Talking about the race series, they gave out prizes at the end. Since I had missed the second race I did not expect to even qualify, but as they counted the top 3 out of 4 I was in the results after all. Still, having come in 10th, 18th, and somewhere around 10th again [update: 13th] in my races I didn't have high expectations. BUT, when she stumbled over the name of the fourth placed runner, a certain “Thomas Boo, err, (pause)”, I realised that I had struck some unexpected loot. I have no illusions about being in the real top 4 - a few of the fast guys must have missed some races, but you take what you get and 4th place in the race series is what I got. The goodie bag contained a technical t-shirt, socks, a bag and a drinks bottle and was very appreciated.

After giving out prizes for the fast runner (and me), they also gave out awards to a few runners of the fit-4-life group as well as the biggest improver, which was a great touch. All of the women honoured this way were taken by surprise and clearly chuffed about being rewarded like that. It really seemed to make their day big time. It was a great idea – rewarding previously idle people who had taken charge and run not just one race but an entire series of a sport that most of them most likely had felt out of reach beforehand. Others should take note, and a big thank you has to go to the people from Feet First who organised the entire race series (and there is more to come).

12 Dec
5 miles, 42:37, 8:31 pace, HR 144
13 Dec
9 miles, incl:
  Killarney Feet First 5k, Race 4
    18:36, HR 179, 13th place

4th overall in race series !!!

Weekly mileage: 53


  1. Great job...I know you know this, but all the running calculators show that with an 18:36, you should be gunning for that sub-3...but, you've decided to become ultra-man for now. But with that type of speed, should you ever return to the marathon circuit (unless you wait till you're "really" old), it should once again become your quest...(spoken from someone who is in relatively the same boat as you re: 5K and marathon times...)

  2. I just had a feeling you were going to do well. Nice effort!

  3. Great result Thomas. Beat my PM by a few seconds. Just catching up on previous posts - thanks for the Ultra thoughts. I'll certainly do a trial ultra session over the break to see what mmight work for me.

  4. Sounds like your 'mojo' has returned Thomas. Nice race. Impressively high HR.

  5. Good race Thomas and well done on your 4th place overall.


  6. Well done Thomas. Any 5k in the 18s sounds fast to me. Don't forget to declare that loot in your next income tax return ;)