Thursday, July 26, 2012

Silver lining

This post was going to be all about the Fingal 10k I ran in Swords last Sunday; and in a way it is. But there's a lot more to it than that. I'll backup a bit first...
Last year I was doing races about every 3-4 weeks and training a lot in between. This meant that I had an easy week just before a race and an easy week just after it to let my legs recover. Then I would get back to the "hard road" of training 70-80k a week. That worked fine and I got ever more comfortable at faster speeds, but I was mainly working on endurance, not speed. So my shorter races never got much faster, just easier (which sounds a bit strange).
Then I had an almost total break for 3 months (due to injury) and got back to it again in Feb this year. The first few weeks were really tough, especially when the realization of how my aerobic fitness had dropped sank in.
But I kept at it and told myself I would be mainly concentrating on 5k-10k races, with one half marathon (in September). I devised my own training programme and stuck to it, but allowed myself to take a day off if I felt that not running would be better than running when tired. That way I don't feel guilty about not doing an unproductive run.
My training has been going really well and I can honestly say I have lost count of the times I've broken a PB this year. (Some recent ones are listed at the bottom of this page)
And now, the bit you've been waiting for...the wheels fell off essentially. On the build up to the Fingal 10k, I had done 3 races (Dunshaughlin 10k, Irish Runner 8k and South O'Hanlon 5k - with a PB in each) and taken a week's family holiday in the south of Portugal in the previous 4 weeks! Those 3 races were within 11 days, so I wasn't getting much in the way of productive training in *and* recovery. Then during the trip to Portugal it was between 32-35 degrees every day, so any (short) runs I got were all pretty slow. Add in that I was drinking beer or wine every day on holiday, which I almost never do at home, means I was ill prepared.
So we flew back to Ireland on Thursday morning, I did a speed session that evening (I already knew my preparation wasn't up to it) and a cross training session on Friday. Saturday was a rest/family day with the race on Sunday.
I prepared as usual the night before the race and got all my kit ready, got a good night's sleep and got up at 7:30am to have my pre-race brekkie. All well so far. The family came along with me to this race, as the kids love the Pavillions shopping centre where we parked the car.
This was the second in the Dublin Marathon race series and I'd mentioned online that I would be running all four of the races in my VFFs. Time to put my feet where my mouth was! I did a little over 1k warmup and some dynamic stretching. There were only two waves for the start, sub 50mins and over 50mins. My PB going into it was 45-ish, so I hopped into the sub-50 wave. I met a few club mates before the start (and one during the race), so it was good to know I could compare notes with them after.
It was a warm day, about 18 degrees and very humid. When the race started, we headed out along the main street of Swords and onto the dual carriageway to loop back around the town and eventually back into the main street running down it the opposite direction.
The first 2k or so I was busy overtaking people and finding my rhythm, but I settled down after that. I usually go out too fast and then have to slow down, but this time I went at a comfortable pace but never seemed able to go much faster. I'm not sure if it was due to lack of longer runs, or speed work or just lack of quality training combined with the humidity on the day, but I just wasn't able to get into "the zone". There was a water station at about 5.5k (with cups, not bottles) and I already knew the race wasn't going well, so I took a cup of water and walked while I drank. I threw the reminder of the water over my head and got back running.
For the rest of the race I kept a steady pace, but never looked at my garmin unless it was to check the distance. The course was pretty hilly, which is a weak point with me, as where I live is pancake flat!

Anyway, I held it together for the remainder and tried to speed up a bit for the last section on the length of the main street. A club member was taking photos with about 200m left (I don't have it yet) and I got a look at it afterwards. He said I didn't look like I was pushing myself and I think he was right.
Here's another photo taken probably at the 7k mark

So my finishing time was 47:04. I was disappointed initially, but given my lack of decent preparation I think it's an ok time.
I met up with the family just after the finish line and my OH told me that the front runners had salt streaks on their faces from the sweat, which you wouldn't normally get in a race in Ireland!
Silver lining? Well I was looking back at my training plan and have decided not to take on any more races until the 16k in about 4 weeks. That should let me at least build up to where I was. After that there's another month to the Dublin HM, so no more races between those two either. And yes, I'll have to build up the time and distances in the VFFs for those too!

Keep running,


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Race report - South O'Hanlon 5k

I did this race last year and loved it, despite it *heaving* with rain...until I'd finished it...of course. So when I realized it was coming up again I just had to sign up.
I'd done an 8k race in Phoenix Park on the Saturday in the VFFs and had a bit of tightness in the calves still, even after getting out on the bike for 30k to loosen them out. But I still felt pretty good.
The weather was perfect, 18 degrees, blue skies and a slight breeze, just right.

In the photo are Tom, Anne-Marie, Jacinta and myself, all sporting our new club t-shirts too. 
I was the only one from our club who had done this race before, so I told the rest that there were "only two small hills". I may have *slightly* played down that aspect...Ah well!
I had decided to run it in my VFFs and told anyone who wanted to hear that I wasn't going for a PB, I just wanted to beat last year's time of 23:33.
Anyway, we got our bib numbers and t-shirts and did a couple of laps of the car park as a warm up. Then we just had time to empty the bladders before jogging the 800m to the start line. I did my usual dynamic leg stretches and chatted before getting in place about ten people back from the line. Almost 400 took part, which is the largest crowd in the race's 25 year history. Right on time the gun went off and we were away into the evening sun.
For some reason I didn't do my usual panic ridden, shit-off-a-shovel start and kept it to a good, manageable pace (must be getting old!). The course is almost entirely a left hander, winding around the back roads not far from Navan, Co. Meath. A good few people overtook me, but I've learned not to let it bother me. I'm not racing them, I'm racing me.
I saw one teenager running in heavy runners and heavy woolen rugby socks, knee length. His feet must have been pretty warm and toasty (and very, very smelly)! The distance was ticking itself off nicely and I found it easy enough in the VFFs. There was a water station at the 4k mark, but I kept going.
Around this time I caught up with a woman who was roughly my age and keeping a good pace. I wasn't trying to stay with her, but I did decide that I was going to overtake her. Just to give me a goal to increase my speed at the end. With about 600m to go I gained on her, she noticed and pulled further ahead. I was really struggling with the pace now and breathing was getting pretty tough.

Here's a great pic of the final few hundred metres

With about 100m to go I pulled up alongside her and noticed her trying to push away but not being able to. I just pushed in front by 5-6m and crossed the line in 21:48, a new PB!
I got a bottle of water and waited for my clubmates, who all gave out to me about the "two small hills" :-)
So now it's back to training for the 10k coming up in Swords on July 22nd. Hope to see you there!


Irish Runner Episode 15

In this episode I talk about my recent races, the differing weather in them and my training.