At the weekend I entered the City Beach Cup 7.5k at , surprising enough, City beach, Perth. I have never ran a 7.5k race before and it obviously sits between a 5k and a 10k so pace is a difficult thing to dial in . Do you run it fast your 5k pace and then hang on for the last 2.5k , which doesn’t sound a lot but trust me when your legs are gone running another 2.5k is not fun! Alternatively do you run at 10k pace and then finish strong ? Add into the mix this was my first “fast” race since my calf injury in March this year and I was entering a world of unknown. In these situations setting a game plan pace is important because you need to make sure you give yourself the best chance of getting a goal time. I have talked about this before but even us ‘older’ runners can get carried away with youthful enthusiasm at the start of a race, which always ends badly.
Truth be told I was entering this race as part of the West Australian Marathon Club age group category competition, where the best 8 clubs runs are taken into account and the fastest winner of each age group is presented a trophy at the end of the year. I had ran 4 races before my injury so needed 4 more to have a chance. This was number 5 with my next 3 planned for later in the year. The criteria is your average pace over the 8 races, then race distances and finally head-to-head if two runners cannot be separated. Because this was one of the smaller distances it stands to reason I could get a good average pace. This race was thus more about a fast finish rather than any thoughts of a top 3 finish. All this changed of course on the start line….
As with all clubs runs we tend to know our main ‘rivals’ who we complete against over the year, as well as the ‘top gun’ runners who disappear into the distance as soon as the race starts. For some reason when scanning the front of the line-up on Sunday there was only two other runners who I would consider quicker than me. My running buddy Zac who has progressed so quickly this year , and continues to (oh to be in my twenties again when ever race is a PB and training seems so effortless.) , would run unchallenged to victory by well over a minute, and another runner I have had many good battles with over the years , Rob, who would prove too strong in this race. Bar these two it looked like there was a chance of a medal, which as I’m now 50 is an opportunity I always think will be my last. With this in my mind when the gun went off I went off like a scolded cat chasing Zac and all thoughts of pacing discarded instantly. I’m not even sure I had a game plan, just run fast for as long as possible and see what happens. This was to prove my undoing as the first kilometre sailed past in 3mins 13seconds, way , way to quick. It was a Scotty to Kirk moment with the famous ‘She’s going to blow’ quote ringing in my ears as the second kilometre came up in 3mins 40seconds. In my defence there was a slight hill but not enough to justify a 30 second delta compared to the first kilometre. This was me blowing up in spectacular fashion.
So onto kilometre 3 which was luckily a downhill section because I was hanging on for dear life. Zac and Rob started to move away and I prayed there was no one close behind me or my podium goal would have evaporated. I managed to ‘steady the boat’ so to speak and dig in for a few kilometres before finding a second wind, in the broadest sense of the word, and finishing in a semi-respectable sub 27 minutes (26:51). Funnily enough this was the goal before the races but the manner I achieved it could have been better executed. I had turned what was to be a pacing race, to get a run on the board, into a suicidal start and a very painful last 15 minutes with ‘engine close to blowing a head gasket’, not ideal.
What did I learn ? 7.5k is a long way when you are finished after 1k. What should have been an enjoyable pacing run turned into a ‘near death‘ experience by ignoring all I preach on this blog, not for the first time of course. I have mentioned this on many occasions about ‘old dogs and new tricks’ and it seems it still rings true. On the bright side the calf survived the beating and I managed to grab another podium, which I know will be harder and harder to achieve , so all-in-all a great day.
What should have been the right approach? If I had ran the first kilometre at 3min 30-40seconds I would have been better placed to attach the hill rather than crumble into a mess , I could then have used the down hill third kilometre to prepare for the second half of the race and finish strong, compared to finishing like a weak kitten with a cold ! What could have been ? Will I learn from this experience, probably not. I have plans of a park run 5k this weekend and already I’m thinking start slow, finish strong, make the last 2k your fastest, accelerate into the finish etc. All great ideas but when that starter pistol goes off its all forgotten like a Donald Trump tweet and it’s ‘on for young and old.’ I know I’ll get to the first kilometre in sub 3 mins 20 seconds red-lining all the way with legs and lungs about to explode , faced with 4 more kilometres that will testing and a finish that will be as painful as always. Would I have it any other way ? Probably not, I understand Proper Pacing prevents poor performance but sometimes a Steve Prefontaine approach is best.
This weekend was one of my most successful races of the year, historically, for podium…