There are thousands of training programs out there on the inter-web and tucked away in coaches clipboards, all aim for one thing, an improvement of running times and/or distance. Personally I feel one of the most useful activities is often over looked, that is lining up with fellow runners with a bib on your chest and pushing yourself to breaking point and beyond.
Racing serves many purposes but the main one is to help cement the fact that are improving and give you your next goal to work towards, people, if you are a runner you must have goals, no goals you morph into the dark side and start ‘jogging‘ or worse get taken by the lycra posse and you find yourself sitting in cafe’s discussing the best way to shave your legs while drinking a frothy, light, soya frappacino with extra crème, ye gods !!
Goals do not even need to be faster or longer, as we mature they may be just to get within a certain time or distance of a previous PB, it doesn’t matter what the goal is it just needs to be there. My old friend Jon ‘TB’ Phillips resets his goals each season and chases ‘season bests’ which works as you have a new baseline each year and this is then adjusted after your first race. PB’s can also be chased but with a ‘within X seconds/minutes’ if have moved over the top of the PB hill and are travelling down the other side and back to the pack, literally.
Time and distance really aren’t the measuring sticks of course it’s still good old fashioned ‘pain time’ and how long you can stomach it. I’ve mentioned before I feel the elite athletes train as hard as us , well probably a tad harder of course given all their free time, but the real difference is their ability to spend more time in the ‘pain box’, tucked up in the foetal position ! As we age the body of course degrades and performance suffers but mentally I believe we find it harder to justify the ‘pain time’, I feel there really is a finite time we can spend in the pain box and when you’ve used it up it just gets too hard to open the door, so you loiter outside pretending to try the door.
Tim Noakes ( https://thenoakesfoundation.org/prof-noakes ) also adheres to this and reckons the top elite athletes only have so many world class marathon times in them before they can no longer reach the dizzy heights they once scaled. Runners like Alberto Salazar pushed themselves beyond what their bodies could cope with and ultimately ended their own careers prematurely. Salazar’s competitive decline is often attributed to the stress on his body from the famous “Duel in the Sun” with Beardsley. Salazar recounts falling into a “more-is-better” mindset which led him to reason that if 120 miles per week yielded a certain level of success, then 180 miles (290 km) or even 200 miles (320 km) would bring even better results. This intense and grueling regimen of such extremely long distances led to a breakdown of his immune system, and he found himself frequently sick, injured, and otherwise unable to continue training.
So why spend time in the pain box at all ? Because like all good things you need to work for them. You want to run faster, or longer, you need to put in the hard yards because distance only gets you so far, excuse the pun. Distance is a big part of improving due to the cardio improvement gained even on slow long distance runs but adding pace (and pain) is the icing on the cake or was that the cherry on top? You get the picture, distance is the foundation of improvement , while pace, and pain, are the finishing touches. This is where the bib on the chest comes in. You can push yourself in training but to really go to that next level you need competition or a PB to attack, you never run as fast as you run in competition.
What happens with no running goals ? Eventually I feel you would stagnate and one day find yourself dressed in lycra in a coffee shop , clip-clopping around in your funny cycling shoes and generally annoying all other patrons. This is not a good outcome for anybody bar the local bike shop. My friend Ryan is experiencing this feeling at the moment as he struggles with the daily lunchtime run. I worked with Ryan for many years and he did not show the smallest interest in running, actually any exercise really. Since I moved on he has found himself and running, lost a load of weight and I’ve even ran with him on many occasions. Lately though he has struggled with the weekly lunchtime runs and started to find the pace and distance are stagnating, along with his interest. His runs are all at a good pace for his current standard and he pushes himself but I feel he is stuck in the ‘not easy but not really hard pace’. This pace is dangerous because he is not giving his body time to recover , as there are no real slow recovery runs but he is not pushing himself to gain the cardio benefits of time in the pain box. Thus over time when you start to see little improvement you lose interest. I have challenged him to run a 5k time trial once a week and measure progress. I feel just adding this one run to his weekly schedule will be enough to maybe get the competitive juices flowing and move him towards putting a bib on his chest.
Of course the current parkrun explosion is a perfect place for young Ryan to wet his competitive urges. ( http://www.parkrun.com/ ). Started in the UK in 2004 with 13 runners it has morphed into a free weekly event attracting many thousands of runners, globally. Here you can go and race (although it’s not about racing more about participating but they record your times online) with other like minded runners and have your time recorded and available on the internet, giving you a target for next week. The mood is relaxed and inviting compared to the more intimidating ‘proper‘ races. It is built as a stepping stone to initially attract people back to running and then to prepare them to move on to the more competitive arena of paid entry and longer distances. I have a smorgasbord of parkruns available in the Perth area, at last count more than 16 I think and climbing. There’s even a parkrun ultra where a bunch of crazy runners start at 8am on Saturday morning and run each parkrun in the Perth area, transported between each one by bus. It takes nearly 24 hours and I can’t imagine the aroma on that bus towards the end of the event, it would be challenging I suspect. Luckily this year it clashed with Rottnest so I missed it but there are rumours they may move the date next year, I’d better getter my Brut deodorant ordered as this event sounds right up my street, literally. !
This weekend was one of my most successful races of the year, historically, for podium finishes. Over the last three years I have managed second place each year and slowly improved my times. Of course when the distance is only 4k I’m not expecting big improvement. The City Beach 4k is one of two distances offered with a ‘big brother’ 8k option , which is the normal chosen distance. I justify the shorter distance as it is normally a week before the 6 inch ultra ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/ ) and those extra four kilometres may make all the difference in a weeks time. Truth be told it’s more about chasing bling and the quality of the 4k event is not as high or deep as the longer version. As I advance in years I’m always keen for one more podium, or medal, and these smaller distances offer that opportunity.
Not to say a 4k is a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. As I have always maintained you suffer the same amount of ‘pain’ in short distances just magnified exponentially to match the amount of time running. Imagine a ‘pain box’ water tap, in shorter distances the tap is fully open and ‘pouring pain’ , while over a marathon it may be drip feeding ‘pain time’ over the longer period, to match the distance. The end result is its going to hurt and this is magnified by the race pace, which for a 4k is just about an all out sprint from the start.
So I lined up on Sunday with the Nike Vaporfly 4% on ready for the all out sprint at the start. I wasn’t disappointed and set off like a scolded cat slotting in behind the leader for the first 500m’s before deciding the pace was far too pedestrian and moving to the front. This is another reason I love the City Beach 4k as most of the runners are pacing themselves for the 8k so it gives me some time at the front of the pack , albeit normally briefly. I managed to get to the first kilometre marker in the lead in a time of 3mins 9 seconds, which was far too fast but as it’s the first kilometre it felt right. Of course the ‘chickens come home to roost’ in the second kilometre when the legs start to complain and the mind starts to realise there’s three kilometres to go and, at the current pace, this is undoable. Add in a hill and this kilometre becomes pivotal to success at this distance.
There was no way I was going to repeat my first kilometre time and dug in for damage limitation concentrating on the 2k marker, and the half way point up ahead. In the meantime I was passed like I was standing still and assumed that this would now be my fourth year in row for the bridesmaid award. No problem, I had more pressing issues at hand with the normal meltdown heading my way with another two kilometres ahead of me. People always assume that because the distance is so short how bad can a 4k really be ? I tell them to look at 400m runners and see the pain etched on their face as they round the last bend. It’s all relative, trust me. The 4k is all about hanging on from 2k onwards when you have used up most of your available energy and you are fueling on vapors with the preverbal head-gasket about to blow. This year I managed to finish both the last two kilometers in 3minutes 20 seconds so was happy enough to finish in 13:17. You always feel you could have done more but Jon had videoed me crossing the line and watching myself ‘stumble’ across the line (and that’s being generous!) I realised I was well and truly spent.
The best part of the morning was the lead runner , who had left me for dead, was actually doing the 8k race which allowed me to claim the plaudits and a win, after three consecutive second places as I mentioned earlier. The 8K winner did set a new course record so I wasn’t totally disgraced in the fact he could have ran through the start/finish line, made his speech, took some breakfast and still won both events quite easily. In my defence he looked half my age, minimum, and we’ll see if he’s still playing at the front of the pack when he’s fifty.
A few of the lads actually ran before the 8K and then entered and ran the race as a tempo. Mark L. started in the middle of the pack and , after running 13k pre-race, put in a sterling effort to make the top 10 of the 8k passing many runners and being past by none. (according to Mark and not yet substantiated.?) He was feeling so good he went for the Mike Kowal coffee and cake combination which, in Mike’s absence, they seemed to have up’d their game and the cake was of biblical proportions. I’m not sure the ‘if the furnace is hot enough it will burn approach’ works for this portion of cake but Mark was happy enough to risk the extra few pounds, come 6 inch race day, to devour the lot ! Being that Mark weights about as much as an Kenyan runner with bulimia he can afford the extra weight me thinks, although the proof will be in the pudding (excuse the pun) when he attempts Goldmine Hill next Sunday morning at 4:30am at the start of the 6 inch ultra but that’s a story for another day……..
Last weekend I ran the West Australian Marathon Club (WAMC) Deep Water Point 15k ( http://www.wamc.org.au ) and ran a PB time, albeit I’ve only ran this race once before in 2012. My 2012 time was 55.14 and good for a second place finish. This year I ran a 53.37 which was a big PB but only good for a fourth place finish and yet again the ‘first finisher with no medal’; got to love 4th !
What did I take from this race, sometimes a PB can be disappointing. The race itself is a two lap course giving runners an option to pull the pin early at 7.5k. I myself have taken this option before when faced with a 5th place finish in the 15k race or a 3rd , and a medal, finish for the 7.5k. Too good to miss , I get to stop running, squeeze out of the ‘pain box’ and also get a nice shiny medal. There is a small feeling of guilt as you watch the 15k runners continue on their merry way but this is more than made up for at the presentation ceremony with a nice medal hung round your neck, or is it ?
This year I needed to run the full distance to complete my eight races needed to put my hat in the ring for the WAMC age group awards. With this in mind I set off at 10k pace, which is the norm for this ‘in-between’ distance. This resulted in arriving at 7.5k in a world of pain with the opportunity yet again to claim a 3rd place in the 7.5k race . Running in fifth two of the four runners ahead of me had ‘bottled‘ and took the 7.5k ‘medal’ option. Instantly I was on the podium and looking good for a third place finish. I had scanned the start line and recognized no threat to a medal placing bar the two runners now ahead of me. This allowed me to settle back in the ‘pain box’ that is racing and start counting down the kilometres towards the finish.
Racing is painful, there is no sugar coating this. Putting on a bib loosens the central governor and can allow you to possibly take a step up to your next level of running. This comes at a cost, trust me. I love running and I love racing but both ask you to pay , in different currencies. For running generally you pay with time normally, time away from your family and friends (unless all your friends are runners like me.) , early mornings, late nights and normally a general feeling of ‘fatigue’ with the odd niggle and twinge thrown in for good measure. Racing is a different world completely, with racing you pay in ‘pain’ , a single currency that demands total attention. The more pain you can endure the faster you are going to run. This was a conversation I had with Steve Monaghetti after the Perth Marathon in 2016 . I asked him why the elites were so much faster than us ‘normal runners’ , he replied they could stomach more pain, that was the main reason. Got to love racing.
So as always I have digressed from my original story. If you remember you left me cruising along in third place generally happy with life and contemplating another shiny medal. This was about to change very quickly at the 13k mark when, from out of nowhere, I heard the pitter patter of not little feet but a runner behind me. Initially I though maybe it was a really 7.5k runner who had miraculously found a second gear with a Usain Bolt like finish, clutching at straws unfortunately. It was a 15k runner and he was in a far better way than me, so much so his 13k split was 3.22min/k, faster than my first kilometre, I was in trouble. Mentally as soon as I heard him on my shoulder I was ‘goosed’, after 5k of suffering in the pain box (and trust me I was in deep!) the only thing that had kept me going was the shiny medal, this was now to be taken away from me. He could have heard me deflate like a balloon as he cruised past and accelerated away to take my medal.
A PB time was no consolation compared to missing out on the medal as these opportunities, at my age, will soon disappear. I treat every podium finish like my last. No worries, onwards and upwards, the PB is a good sign moving forward and maybe next time I’ll treat myself to the odd backwards glance to check for young triathletes bearing down on me, perhaps.
I’ve been recycling some of my posts that I first wrote at the start of this blog when the only readers was my family, well Mum anyway. The one below describes my last race victory, and probably ‘my last race victory’. It also has a good article on reasons to put on a bib and race. Last weekend the magic bib got me a PB and although, at the time, I was disappointed on missing out on the podium now it has give me some confidence for races and challenges coming my way.
10 miles is a long way to go after chasing 5k runners.
Today I put on my race bib for the first time since the Masters marathon three weeks ago. I normally allow four weeks before I race after a marathon but this race is special as I won last year, mainly because none of the normal suspects turned up. The WAMC (West Australian Marathon Club http://www.wamc.org.au ) Founders 10miler (16k) is one of my favourite races in the calendar and I have placed in it on two previous occasions with a win last year. The opportunity to defend my ‘title‘ was too good to pass up so after a day off yesterday I set off to the event.
Some people recover quicker than others when it comes to racing marathons and as I mentioned earlier I’m a four week man normally. This is inline with a day per mile going with the imperial system of measurement, so about 26 days. Other people like Tony ‘The T-train’ Smith use the same imperial system but substitute the day for hours so he can recover in about 26 hours. He is one naughty runner !
This event also includes a 5.15k as well as the 16.1k race. This always make the start interesting because you are never sure who you are racing until after the 5.15k runners dart for the finish line instead of ‘manning’ up and continuing on for the full distance. (I need to be careful here because I have been known on a few occasions to be tempted by bling and take the easier option when faced with a podium for the 5k or a top 5, with no medal, for the longer distance. I admit it , I have a bling problem…)
As expected the start was quick as a number of 5k runners set off at their ‘suicide’ pace and I joined them with the goal of staying as close as possible to the leaders incase one of them decided to continue after the finish line and go long. I didn’t want to leave myself with too much to do to catch them. This works great in theory but of course the fly in the ointment is you normally end up going through 5.15k just behind the leaders and way too fast for a 16k race. As expected this is what happened and I went through the 5.15k mark in second place at 17:35, must admit it was tempting, run through the chute for a nice shiny silver medal and all the pain ends or carry on for another 11k curled up in the foetal position in the pain box.
Funnily enough I was reading the Lore of Running by Tim Noakes yesterday (The bible of all things running.) and the chapter on Training the Mind. (Remember I didn’t run yesterday so what else is there to do but reading about running?) This went into detail about how the mind can be trained during competition. Paragraph headings like dominate from the start, allow for the unexpected, concentrate and focus, give a maximum effort and perform up to expectation. All easy to read while you wait for your daughter to finish her dancing lesson but when you’re racing at maximum effort and in a world of pain it’s not so easy. I did recall this while racing and it certainly brought at least a smirk to my face, not sure I ever really smile when I’m racing short distances.
Right, where were we, of yes at 5.15k and in the lead as the only runner infront of me was a 5.1.5k runner and had scuttled of to collect his gold medal. So it was just me and the lead bike ridden by my friend Ross who I run with on the weekend. Ross is a good lead bike in the fact he knows just to ride, let runners know I’m coming and avoid any type of conversation with me as , like me, he knows when you’re racing it’s all about concentration and pain mitigation, conversation does not come into it, ever ! Luckily for me , like last year, none of the usual suspects turned up so I was able to record another victory, which at my age is cherished. This would be my third for the year but only my 6th ever top finish so it really is a wonderful feeling.
So what did I take from the run.
- Nothing makes you run faster than a race bib pinned to your chest. I understand this comes with a price, the nerves pre-race, doubting your ability, training and the pain you know you must go through to be your best. All these things are part and parcel of racing and need to be embraced and overcome. When you cross the line and achieve your goal all these are forgotten instantly and the ‘runners high’ that takes their place justifies everything that comes pre-race. You will also use more fast-twitch muscles in these race situations with is another big benefit.
- You need to be realistic pre-race and set yourself goals determined by past experience, current training workload and pre-race training runs. Every race cannot be a PB time so adjust your goal accordingly. You may not need the goal A, B or C option that comes with longer races but still give yourself a range of what could be called ‘acceptable’.
- Do not start the race at suicide pace and then expect to finish strong. Doesn’t happen unfortunately. As described above my splits were not ‘one for the ages’. They varied by around 20 seconds a kilometer which is not ideal. Ideally I should have started about 10 seconds a kilometre slower and this would helped to towards the end of the race. I knew I had started too quick but experience allowed me to roll the dice so to speak in an effort to give me a good buffer to second place. This would have been enough to probably make them settle for second early and not make an effort to catch me. This is more racing tactics but even in the middle of the pack you are racing people and this little tip may help gain a few places. (Assuming the suicide pace start doesn’t morph into a suicide pace finish which has the opposite effect.)
- Enjoy the experience of racing as these times are the litmus test of your training and can be a great confidence booster and also give you renewed energy once you get back into the ‘slog‘ of daily training. You will find a spring in your step (after a few recovery runs) after a successful race and this can be carried forward to the next one and beyond. I certainly use races as justification for all the hard effort I put myself yourself through in training, coupled with the benefit of point 1 of course.
- Sometimes a good race can move a runner to a new level complete with new expectations and goals. Yesterday my mate Gareth ran a 10 minute PB and was elated with the whole experience. I have mentioned Gareth before in my posts as the ‘runner who treats running as something he does in-between injuries” , to see him so animated after such a great run sums up the feeling only a race can give you when you achieve something you thought beyond you. Gareth has been on the cusp of breaking through his current ‘expected times’ on a number of occasions but has been thwarted by injury, maybe yesterday was the start of his rise to greatness. If nothing else the run would have given him the confidence to move forward and I guarantee he’ll be ‘champing at the bit’ to get running post-race.
Had to end with an article I found on the subject of racing that probably sums it up better than my ramblings. So to sum up racing in a few words ‘just do it’.
BY CLINT CHEREPA
The race is the beauty part. The time you put it all together is the race,” said noted running author Dr. George Sheehan. And, whether you run one kilometre or 50, racing is exhilarating.
Many run so they can race, but some are leery of the endeavour. Let’s delve into why racing comes with benefits.
Nick Walker, a runner for 15 years and owner of Frontrunners store in Langford, B.C., says racing helps connect people. “We find a lot of people through races who are new to the area,” he says. “Racing gives people a goal and purpose. It encourages them to get out and go.”
Keith Iskiw, a runner from Kingston, Ont., says, “No other sport allows both beginners and professionals to share the same arena. The excitement, tension and joy shared between people makes the race events fantastical.”
Alan Brookes, race director of the Canada Running Series, says racing gives people at the front a platform to develop athletic careers and gives amateur athletes a chance to race head-to-head against age-group categories and clubmates. New runners get a sense of achievement in their new, healthy lifestyle, with benchmarks, rewards and encouragement.
“When I participate in an activity, I like to do it well. I don’t have to win. I just have to be satisfied that I gave my best effort,” says Jerry Kooyman, a runner who has competed at a national level, running in a couple of Canadian Olympic trials. When he hits rough patches in training, the prospect of a race motivates him to train and set goals such as achieving personal bests, winning medals or beating other successful runners.
Ken Parker is the founder and coach of the Ottawa Athletic Club Racing team. He is also a co-founder and race director of Ottawa’s National Capital Marathon. Parker is no stranger to racing; his marathon personal best is 2:42. He feels racing encourages discipline and enticed him to study running to optimize training. “It made me focus on a goal and get organized to do what was required to achieve that goal,” Parker says.
Walker, a former University of Victoria track athlete, says racing keeps him honest and modest. It keeps his competitive edge honed and says shorter races can be great preparation for longer challenges. Walker recently won the Island Race Series Sooke 10K and the Merville 15K, races he ran at 3:17 and 3:20 pace as part of the preparation for his first marathon in Vancouver in May. “I try to have a fun outlook,” says Walker. “But I take racing more seriously. I still like to push hard.”
Race-day fears are normal. After more than 40 years of racing, Kooyman says in the back of his mind he worries about injury during a race and fears that he will work hard during the race, only to be out-kicked at the end. Still, he keeps racing, leaving his fears in the dust of his race-day speed. Iskiw’s advice for hesitant runners is to remember we are built for competition, and that deep down we all have a drive to win and the only way to satisfy that hunger is through competition.
Your first 10K may not tell you much about your progress, but after a year of racing, a runner can gauge success.
“Progress may initially be measured by weight loss and increased mileage, but once I get beyond those basic measures and get into a regular training program, the most reliable measure of progress is improved race times,” Kooyman says.
Races open themselves to runners of all levels. A racer can compete even if he is at the back of the pack. A suggestion from Brookes is: “If you’re really nervous, start right at the back, run the first half easy, then count how many people you pass in the second half or the number you pass the whole way.”
Competition helped Parker. He says: “In the marathon, I ran against the clock and ignored other runners for the most part, using them only toward the end of the race when, hopefully, I was passing them. In track races, I used the head-to-head competition to race harder. Fast times would come as the result of racing a strong competitive field.”
Through his racing, Parker learned that anything worth doing is worth doing well and that success does not come about by accident. A progressive runner never stops learning. Introducing racing into your running program provides a platform of wisdom. You learn more about yourself, and running in general. The race and people involved provide the anecdotal evidence. The question lingers, “Why not race?” If you are hesitant to toe the starting line, take Kooyman’s words to heart: “You don’t know what you are missing!”
On the weekend I ran the Rottnest Marathon for the 11th time, marathon number 43 (61 if you include ultra-marathons). Rottnest Island is about 20k off the Perth coastline, a small island that is stunning as it is brutal. ( http://www.rottnestisland.com ) The marathon itself is a 2k initial loop and then a 10k loop four times, sounds like fun eh? Add in 3 good hills on each lap and some serious heat and you have the recipe for a brutal test of ‘mind over marathon’. The weekend didn’t let me down this year with some serious heat to contend with from the outset as the WAMC, (West Australian Marathon Club) who organise the event ( http://www.wamc.org.au ) , start the race at 6:45am to account for the marathon runners who like to get up really early and add a 45 minute ferry journey to the pre-start logistics. Personally I can think of nothing worse then playing Russian roulette with the ocean conditions and hoping for a smooth crossing after training for 6 months minimum . Call me old fashioned but I’d prefer paying the cost of at least one nights accommodation on the island so you’re guaranteed a good nights sleep, and a nice leisurely stroll to the start line, rather than risk a George Clooney inspired ‘Perfect Storm’ crossing. Both years since they started the early ferry option the crossing has been bearable but it’s just a matter of time before runners are ejected from a hell crossing, losing about half their body weight in vomit, straight to the start line of a brutal marathon, that is really going to hurt trust me. Anyhow, I digress, back to the start.
This is the 24th running of the Rottnest Marathon and as I said earlier my 11th. I’ve ran 8 of the last 9 only missing last year as I chose to race the inaugural half-marathon as I had the World Masters marathon 2 weeks later. I felt quite a fraud running only two laps as my fellow runners battled four laps in some hot conditions. Luckily this year was more of the same, maybe even a bit hotter, so it was my turn to run the ‘man’s distance’. (please note this is not a slant on women but I can’t think of a better description at the moment?) After a minutes silence and some powerful bagpipe music for a fallen runner and a good friend, Andre Bartels, we set off. My friend Zac was determined to try and run around the 2hr 45minute mark for the marathon which, given the conditions, would be a winning time but also a bid risk, given the terrain and heat combination. Zac set off at an incredible pace which I matched initially but always knew that time was out of my league and was happy to let him disappear into the distance before we even got to the first last proper after an initial 2-3k loop. I was joined by another runner aiming for a podium , Matt McNally, and together we moved onto the first lap proper.
Whenever I run Rottnest my main goal is to finish top 5 as they hand out medals for the first 5 and also win my age group. If I do that Rottnest has been a success, anything better is a bonus. Over the years at Rotto’ I have placed 2nd, 3rd, 4th , 5th and 6th so I’ve been reasonably successful. (Note; this is mainly due to Rotto’ being a small field due to the testing conditions and the logistics of having to stay the night , before the early ferry option the last couple of years.) This year was my first in the 50-59 age category so I was confident of an age group win, well more confident than being the oldest in a 10 year age group window. Anyhow I was more than happy sitting in the top 3 moving along around the 4min/k pace I was hoping to sustain throughout the four laps. As I have said many times on this blog, in a marathon the person who slows down the least wins, this was so nearly true as I will show later in this post. After the first lap Matt up’d the pace and I was happy to let him go, in a marathon you run your own race and what will be , will be, there is no point staying with another runner who is running quicker early in the race as it will end in tears. This goes back to my the runner who slows the least wins previous quote, this is doubly true for Rottnest because of the heat and the terrain, make a bad decision early on in Rottnest and that last lap becomes even longer and the hills even steeper, trust me on this I speak from experience.
So after crossing the start/finish line I moved on to lap 2 alone, sitting in third place. The half marathon had started just before I had arrived so I instantly started passing the slower half marathon runners. This continued for the whole of the second lap which was, truth be told, uneventful. I continued to maintain my 4min/k pace while struggling with the oppressive heat which was of course rising by the minute. Toward the end of the second lap I passed the halfway point which is always a relief and I always picture myself ‘touching a post’ and then returning from where I had come. This is a mental ‘pick me up‘ and always seems to help with the next 10k or so until I move too ‘finish mode‘ at 32k onwards. I went through the finish line again for the second time and made some ground on Matt who was initially only a few hundred metres ahead. Coming out of the settlement I put in a spurt and got to within 50m of Matt but then decided the pace was unsustainable and let him go, returning to my 4min/k pace.
The third lap on Rottnest is the defining lap of the marathon. The first two laps are to prepare you for lap three where it all comes together or falls apart. Today was going to be my day and I was determined to reach the start of lap four with something left in the tank. Head down I continued to pass half marathon runners while seeing no one in front of me fro the marathon and not looking behind. The cardinal sin of racing is to look behind you, it only ever encourages your pursuer, if you get the chance of a sideways glance while you turn a corner all good but never directly look behind you. Truth be told I had no idea who was behind me and how far they were behind me, I was happy enough in third place behind two very good runners who I considered more than good enough to keep ahead of me. Moving through the start and finish line for the penultimate time , moving from lap three to lap four , I was encouraged by the announcers who informed me Zac had been passed by Matt and looked like he had blown up spectacularly. Remember earlier I said Zac was aiming for 2hrs 45minutes and this was a dangerous tactic, it seemed the heat, pace and a possible stomach virus had combined to derail his day. This was confirmed a few kilometres later when I passed him quickly on the salt lake, he was not in a good place with 8k to go, it would be a long 8k for Zac.
So I was sitting in second place which was more than I could have hoped for at the start of the day, better still I had got to lap four in good shape and could still maintain my 4min/k average which meant I was now lapping some of the faster half marathon runners. This kept me honest as there was always a ‘bunny’ to chase ahead. I worked hard maintaining my pace as with 6k to go I knew if I could keep running I would be good for a 2nd place finish. My running buddy Luke , who was second last year with a 2:52 finish, told me he had walked a few times on his last lap the previous year and I suspected he’d do the same today as the conditions were more brutal than 2016. If I didn’t walk I reckoned he wouldn’t catch me. (This was actually how it panned out with Luke taking 3rd place and admitting to me afterwards he had walked like the previous year. I suspect next year he won’t walk that last lap so I’ll need to raise my game again, the joys of competition! )
The last lap was a test of course and this was soon to become even more so when I spotted Matt coming back to me just before the last hill at Longreach. All of a sudden my ‘happy with 2nd‘ changed to ‘I could win this‘, remember the person who slows the least wins, I had put myself within 10 metres of first place, with less than 2k to go. Unfortunately Matt had something left in the tank and as soon as he breached the hill he set off at 3:50min/k pace and left me , again. I continued to move along at just over 4min/k pace but had no sprint finish, it was to be another bridesmaid run at Rottnest, albeit a lot closer than my last second place in 2013. In the end 25 seconds separated myself and Rottnest victory, after over 2 hours and 48 minutes of racing. my finish time of 2hours 48 minutes and change was more than I could have hoped for and a 2nd place another massive bonus but what could have been…
The marathon itself was brutal of course but satisfying in so many ways. Got to run my 2nd fastest Rottnest Marathon at my 11th attempt, age group win and a podium finish. All my goals ticked. Add in the fastest last lap of the field and I’ve taken some confidence into my next race mid December, the trail ultra marathon that is the 6 Inch Ultra. ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com ) This bad boy can make Rottnest seems flat if the conditions turn on you, but that’s another post for another day. Last thing , can’t leave with a Quokka photo. This is my best from my week on the Island.
Footnote: Rereading this post it sounded like the run itself was maybe too easy. Thinking back on the event I realised I may have left out a few details which may help readers in their battle with the marathon distance, because people it is a battle. My target was a sub 2:50 time which was why I set the pace around 4min/k average pace to give me a few minutes in the bag for the inevitable pace pressure of the third and fourth laps, I say ‘pace pressure‘ I mean fatigue and general ‘I am knackered , why the hell do I do this‘, type thoughts. The first 10k were uneventful but there were thoughts of stopping as early as the end of the first lap. Running behind Matt he had opened up a lead and, as I was slipping away, I suddenly just wanted to stop running knowing what was ahead, that being 32k and heat, hills and pain. I feel sometimes the pressure I put on myself by doing this blog and the bravado I sometimes seem to portray can be a double edged sword. Sometimes the fear of failure is greater than the sweet smell of success and what I fear most is slowing down, in-fact I know that to be true. Being advanced in age I realise that I cannot be expected to hold my position at the pointy end of the field ad infinitum, each race may be my last competing for podiums. This is why I probably race as much as I do, the sands of time are dropping through my racing egg timer, how much is left? At halfway I was in a beer place than 10k previous but the third lap was a test and although not as bad as the first lap there were thoughts of pulling the pin.
So far in my career I have never DNF’d a race and this alone has kept me honest on a number of occasions when the urge too just stop has been compelling. I always feel that once you DNF once it will become an option moving forward in all your races and easier each time. This is my personal feeling so please do not take offence as sometimes a DNF is the right thing to do. I know a number of my friends who have continued when they should have stopped and this has resulted in chronic fatigue sickness which they still struggle with, basically they cooked them themselves and it really is game over. Luckily I have never reached that point but unfortunately being the stubborn bugger I am know I will probably continue on to the finish and pay the consequences. Rottnest was not to be that day but believe me I suffered with all the runners but also succeeded with all the runners at the finish. That’s the thing with marathon running, ask a runner in the last 10k if they will do another marathon and most will say no, probably not as politely. Ask them 24 hours after the finish and you will get a different answer, probably. This is why we come back for more, the euphoric feeling when you cross the line, there is a runners high and trust me it is worth the pain and so much more.
Two more points before I sign off this war and peace post. (I hope somebody actually reads this ?). Rottnest proved yet again that marathon running is as much mental as physical. Of course you need to train and trust in your training but mentally you need to be prepared to ask yourself some tough questions. Anybody can run a marathon but to really appreciate a marathon you need to race it and by race it I really mean race yourself. You set yourself a target time and it is all about you putting yourself though hell and back to get that time, to do this and achieve your goal is what a marathon is about. Once you have experienced that feeling of achievement as you cross the line you will be hooked and want to do it again and again, trust me. I saw so many runners at Rotto battling through 4, 5 and even 6 hours of racing when stopping would have been the easier option. These runners really deserve the accolade, medals and trophies , these battle longer and harder than the elites who finish hours earlier and are sipping gatorade and giving interviews while they toil on. It is a privilege to watch these runners race themselves and cross that line victorious in their one-on-one battle with themselves and the marathon distance. That’s why the marathon is such a personal goal, it really is you against yourself and it just makes you a better person, period.
Last point, I promise. Everybody talks about a marathon as a 42.2k foot race over in a few hours, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A marathon is 6 months (minimum) of putting your life on hold and sacrificing everything you hold dear including family, friends, time, sleep and diet. To do a marathon justice you need to put it ahead of everything and the last 42.2k is just that, the last long run in a multitude of long runs. A marathon is Saturday night running round a dark park in the wind and rain when all your friends are in the pub or sat down watching TV in the comfort of their lounge. It is waking before the birds and struggling out of a warm bed into the cold morning, normally alone, and exercising when your body and mind tell you to stop. It’s about missing those morning tea’s with your work colleagues and those Friday night drinks as you have a long run planned Saturday. It really is about sacrifice but somewhere along the line it changes from being sacrifice to being the ‘norm’ and dare I say you even start to enjoy it. When this happens you become a ‘marathoner’, when every run is like the first and you’re excited about your next goal be it a 5k , ultra or even just a tempo session, this does happen eventually. I’m typing this excited about my next training block as I prepare for a 10k in a few days and then two shorter races before my next ultra in December. I’m as excited about my next run as I was about my first many, many years ago, I hope this feeling never changes…….
Right, enough typing, I’m going for a run.
The title of this post may elude to the possibility I have actually ran a perfect 10k. Unfortunately I have not and today was another example of poor pacing but luckily sheer stubbornness , as always, got me over the line. As the Rottnest Marathon is two weeks away I decided discretion was the better part of valour and avoided the Fremantle half but instead ‘downgraded’ to the 10k instead. I have ran the Fremantle half on numerous occasions , including last year where I was leading the event with 3k to go before being cruel overtaken by two runners to finish 3rd. (I actually felt great just before I was cast aside by two quicker runners and was working on my victory speech. Probably why I was taken by surprise, that and I had nothing left in the tank for a sprint finish, c’mon people I was 49 , at that age we’re glad to be near the front , no mater at the front leading….it was nice to dream , albeit briefly, of Fremantle glory.) So back to the 10k.
After my last race where I was completely cooked by k2 in a 7.5k race, mainly due to my friend Zac and his blistering start, I decided this time I would go out and run myself into the race, maybe even a negative split. Of course this went out the window as soon as we started and yet again I was running with Zac, although this time he was running the half . This was my plan, surely if Zac was running the half I could keep up with him for 10k. Nice in theory but unbeknown to me young Zac was going to run a blinder and this included the first 2k @ 3.19k/min pace. So yet again I was cooked early in the event, thanks Zac, again ! I was actually able to sustain a good pace to 5k which I hit in sub 17minutes, actually quite respectable. The second half of a 10k is a painful experience and this one didn’t fail to deliver. I managed to hold onto 2nd place (Roberto Busi, our local gun-runner, was running a tempo 10k and finish in just over 32 minutes, oh to be that good. He is Italian , if that helps?) until mid way through the last kilometre where I was caught and passed, so third it was and a good time 34:35. Actually , for me, a very good time, my second fastest ever, so very happy.
I credit the time to my Nike Vaporflys 4% shoes, people these really are that good. If you are serious about your running you need to buy a pair, we all have two kidneys and really only need one; you’ll probably be faster without the weight of the second kidney and you get to sell it for Nike Vaporflys 4%; which will also increase your pace; people it really is a win-win situation. Apparently there is a market for quite a few organ parts that are saleable, without doing long term damage, I’ll let you google it but it you can’t afford the $350AUS fee for the shoes then it’s off to the surgeon’s table you go, quick smart, before everybody buys a pair and we all lose the advantage off being an early adopter.
Of course I am joking about the kidney thing, there are other easier methods, maybe a go fund me page ? ( https://www.gofundme.com ) or ask a friendly Nigerian to send a cry for help email to half the worlds population, somebody will probably bite ? Of course all of this doesn’t help with the Nike Vaporfly 4% harder to find than the Tasmanian Devil. Nike seem to have got the supply and demand just right, i.e. no supply and massive demand, equals nice profit margin for Nike. I can’t imagine they cost that much to produce and I’m sure the labour used by our caring multinational will be paid minimum wage , at best, bless ’em. Anyway I digress again, this post is about running a perfect 10k not Nike and it’s morals.
So to run a perfect 10k you need to start at a pace just below what you think your average pace , overall, should be. Hold that for the first 2-3k and then accelerate up to your overall pace for the next 5k before a finish ‘spurt’ above your overall average to make up for the slow start. How easy is that to actually achieve, nigh on impossible. You’ll go off at your 5k pace and then at 5k realise the error of your ways and lock yourself in the pain box in the foetal position enjoying the ride for the last 4-5k and trust me people that doesn’t sound like a lot but in the pain box time can sometimes feel like its stand still. ( I wonder if it hurts more with two kidneys or one ? )
Ways to improve, read this post and learn by my mistakes, something I never do and also run more 10k’s, it really does help if you run the race more often, funny that ? Today I was 15 seconds off my all time PB set last year and as it’s only my second 10k of the year so I am pleased with the time but maybe not the pacing ; although I never really blew-up but my last kilometre was 3:32 compared to my first of 3:19, they should be closer than that for a perfect pace.
Funnily enough another running friend of mine , Clement, had his appendix out last year and never ran so well afterwards. He is well into his fifties and ran a 73 minute half at a World Masters event, taking out his age group by minutes. Clement swears blind his appendix ruptured but after his form post-operation I’m not so sure, maybe I’ll get back to my google search, if only I had some ovaries……
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.
There are certain races that a runner learns to love over time as they are filled with golden memories. For me , as I race so often and in the same place (Western Australia) I have a few of these. They would include the Rottnest Island Marathon (you really need to click on this link, Rottnest is just one of the most beautiful places on earth. http://www.rottnestisland.com/ I’ve ran ‘Rotto’ 10 times and have loved every minute. ), the Perth Marathon, the 6 inch trail ultra ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/ ) and the Chevron sponsored City to Surf Marathon.
This morning after a bumper week of training last week , for a weekly total of 13k, I entered the City to Surf Marathon for the 9th time. This race to me is special for a number of reasons. It was the first marathon I first broke sub 3 hours in 2009 in it’s inaugural year. I have ran two of my fastest marathon times on the course (2013 my current PB of 2hrs 41 min 14 seconds and last year 2hrs 41min 41seconds) , finished top 10 on numerous occasions but best of all won $6,000 once as the first Australian (even with my English dulcet tones) to finish. I am also one of the last 26 runners to have ran all the previous 8 iterations of this race. (see below)
As I have mentioned before runners love numbers, be it your PB time, number of marathons ran, average pace, distance, VO2 max, cadence, numbers of runs a week etc. the list is endless but one of the biggest numbers runners love is ‘streaks’. To be involved at the beginning of a major city marathon, even better in your home town, is priceless and a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is why, even with a calf tear less than 8 weeks, out I am determined to run the ninth Perth City to Surf. (I say ‘run‘ , it may end up being a lot less than that by the time I get to ‘heartbreak hill’ at the 40k mark?)
I worked with Chevron from 2007-2015 and during that time suspected I was being kept on as the ‘poster boy’ for the event as I always seemed to be the first Chevron marathon finisher and normally attracted a bit of media attention. Most of that was mainly aimed at the ‘look at the old guy finishing the marathon in a semi-reasonable time’ angle more than anything else. Not many balding, bearded, mid-life (I hope?) runners at the front of the pack so might as well interview this one ? I have been lucky enough to make the papers, local TV and even You Tube on occasion, much to my kids disgust. Apparently watching your dad on the TV doing press-ups after finishing a marathon is not cool. Actually I seem to have this issue with anything I do funnily enough. (and you can imagine how the Elliptigo is going down at the moment in my house ? http://www.elliptigo.com )
There was also the time in 2013 I was nearly ‘first woman’ after running with the lead woman the whole race and then , in the sprint for the line, I was forced to slow so she could take the tape. The beard would have probably given the game away if I had crossed ahead of her and took the tape. At the time I was working for Chevron and reasoned my contract would come under some pressure if I was seen on local TV barging past the first woman in an effort to save a few seconds. Truth be told this was actually my PB run and I still maintain this act of chivalry cost me a few seconds, whether I could justify it cost me 1 minute and 15 seconds for a sub 2:40 is difficult.
Other notable events over the years is one of my favourite photos of Jon barking orders at me in 2010 about 10k into the race. My Garmin watch had died at the start so mentally I was shot before the first step. My plan was to stay with Jon and this group to he finish and grab another sub3. It was about this time I gave up and got dropped like a bad habit. I ended up running alone for the next 30k and finishing in 3hours and 3 minutes. With a fully functioning Garmin I’m convinced I could have gone under 3 hours. Jon was moving into his prime at the time and I was no match for his endurance or speed. Also note this was before the ‘speed beard’ was added to my arsenal and I don’t think I’ve ran over 3 hours with the beard ? (for female readers I would recommend growing a speed beard or any beard really, probably not going to help you attract a ‘life partner’, or maybe…? ) Also notice it was about this time Skins first came out and me and Jon were convinced of their magical properties. I even wore a pair to a 10k once ! We both decided that if the Africans didn’t wear them then we wouldn’t either in the end. Still good for injury prevention on training runs and recovery of course. ( I still remember the first time Karen encountered me wearing skins to bed , for recovery purposes you understand, it was a once only event, I think she nearly died laughing.)
Even got to meet the great Steve Moneghetti at one of the photo shoots for the event when he was the ambassador in 2014. There is a slight resemble, feature wise, as he is also blessed like myself, just needs a beard of course but when it comes to running performances he in a different league, actually a different planet. A genuine nice guy though which is something you find with most good long distance runners. I reckon it is because they’ve been through the same pain we have albeit probably harder , longer and faster; and they are better people for it. This goes for all long distance runners, as a whole they are normally nice people.
There was also the time Mike ran the course and at half way ‘blew his hammy’, he then couldn’t remember his Wife’s mobile number so had to wait until she returned to the family home before calling her and asking to be picked up. Unfortunately for Mike his Wife was the wrong side of road closures and it took her over three hours to get to him. He could have limped to the finish quicker and at least got a finishing medal and probably saved an hour or two hanging around. There was some good karma last year when I got him a free entry and he ran , with very little training, and got his medal he missed from his last failed attempt. The marathon god giveth’ and the marathon god taketh; away.
I have so many more City to Surf stories but will save them for a rainy day when I have run out of things to talk about, assuming that is possible as with each passing day running you are blessed with new experiences, adventures and memories. This is why we run and this is why we are what we are…
Well after yesterdays post it was time to practice what I preach and run a controlled 10k , win my age group, finish high up the field and not get ‘chicked’. Four objectives to achieve, well I managed two, which is nearly a famous song by Meatloaf; or was that 2 out of 3 ? The ‘run a controlled race’ went out the window in the first 3k with a tailwind and runners to chase. Of the four objectives this was always going to be the hardest to achieve. I am well known for sprinting from the start quicker than Usain Bolt and paying the price down the line. Today was not going to be a change from the status quo. In my defence there was a tailwind and I had erred on the side of caution and put on my new racing shoes of choice, the Saucony A6’s . These boys are light and new so there was an extra spring in my step. Add to this a 3 day break from running due to circumstances beyond my control and it all added up to a suicide pace first 3k, feeling ‘on top of the world‘.
Unfortunately as I explained yesterday when you go out at your 5k pace things start to fall apart at 5k, the tank has been emptied and your halfway through the race. Today we had the added bonus of the wind moving from a tailwind , encouraging you to run faster and caressing you forward, into a headwind with an attitude, joy ! Chuck in the ‘O’ I’ve done it again feeling’ and it was time to assume the position in the pain box a few kilometres earlier than planned. Then at 7k things started to get very ugly when Linda Spence, remember I mentioned Linda yesterday, cruised past me with another runner both looking very relaxed. I hung on for as long as I could but I was now in the ‘I’m never going to run a 10k again’ mode. (Remember yesterday I mentioned I go through this conversation with myself around the same time every 10k I run !) So that was 2 objectives out of the window and I was going to have to work very hard to fulfil the remaining two.
The headwind was brutal for the last few kilometres but I managed to hold my position in the field and even managed to pass a couple of runners towards the end of the race. I found my second wind, which again I mentioned yesterday when the central governor is switched off with the finish line in sight, and set of in pursuit of Linda. I’m not sure is she was just teasing me but I managed to close within 10 seconds and finish one place behind her for second female (and first female with a beard?). Age group victory and finish high hip the field , tick. Not sure how high but I suspect I may have sneaked into the top 10. Finishing time of 35:13 which is a bridges course PB but as they change the course every year not sure it counts. Last year we ran the opposite direction and I managed 35:50 so progress of sorts, I think.
So another learning experience and what did I learn. ? As always the 10k really starts at around the 6k mark. This is where you can either maintain your pace or even step up to the finish. In this case it was ‘hang on and survive‘ (the normal for me.) but the conditions played a part in that. (Did I mention it was also quite warm ?) The tailwind, new shoes and rest pre-race lulled me into a false sense of security and this explains the 3k pace, of course at 5k I was done but I did manage to handgun and not lose too many positions in the final part of the race. This was probably due to my ‘pig headed refusal to quit’ rather than training but I suppose this is the one benefit of age, you have resilience as well. I’ve attached the Strava ‘tale of the tape‘ below and as the caption explains the tailwind and headwind played a part in the splits, it wasn’t that bad really ? Although there really is no defence for the first 3k but as the title of this post suggests , ‘old dogs and new tricks‘ are a hard thing to master.
Finally the highlight of the day I suppose, on the way home we managed to sneak into a new Yelo ( http://yelocornerstore.com.au ) at Subiaco. Same format so it was coffee and muffins all around. In the picture you have Mark Conway who ran a huge PB of just over 37 minutes. Mark is on a Matt Fitzgerald plan and it is working big time (in Matt we trust! http://mattfitzgerald.org ). He is at the stage in his running career where every race is a PB and it really is a wondrous stage of any runners career. Next to Mark C. is another Mark, Mark Lommers who is training for the Boston Marathon and will certainly run his first sub 3 marathon. Again Mark is in that stage where every run is faster than the last and every race a PB. Even Mike, next in line in the photo, is chasing PB’s and we have high hopes he will break the West Australian Marathon Club ( http://www.wamc.org.au ) age group record, 55-60 , for the upcoming Perth Marathon. Then you have me who is just trying not to slow down and that is enough. Four runners at different stages of their careers united over quality coffee and muffins. It really is a thing of beauty and this goes back to one of my posts earlier about the social side of running. On the way back from the presentations (remember I did manage an age group win) we had Mark C. in so much pain laughing he had to stop running. This continued for most of the cool down and onto the coffee and muffin race debriefing. This part of running is as important to me as the race itself and, truth be told, as you start to slow it becomes more important.
Right that was the bridges, more time in the pain box than I would have liked and my first ‘chicking‘ for three years but overall a success and a stepping stone for next week when I saddle up and get to race the marathon that just about destroyed me in 2014. Look out Bunbury the BK running machine is on its way and this time it’s personal…..
In Western Australia there are a number of iconic events in the West Australian Marathon Club calendar that attract a large field of the states best runners. ( http://www.wamc.org.au ) Tomorrow is one of them, the bridges 10k. (There is a 5k but c’mon, when there’s a 10k option the 5k really is just an appetiser, and not a very good one at that, maybe a pumpkin soup compared to the Surf ‘n’ turf main course.) The bridges, and the name suggest runs alongside the Swan River in Perth and crosses the river twice via two bridges, giving you a point to point loop course. Flat the whole way bar the rise on the Narrows Bridge it is built for a good time and a run that I run probably 20-30 times a year minimum.
Last year, as this year probably, my main objective is not to get ‘chicked’ (beaten by a woman) as Linda Spencer, a Zatopek runner in her time, runs this race and at her best will beat me hands down. Last year I ran with Linda for the first two kilometres at a pace far faster than I wanted to go but luckily she dropped off and I managed to sneak in before her. We’ll see what transpires this year ? Truth be told there are a number of women runners in Perth who are making great improvements under various coaches and my days of finishing ahead of them are numbered. As always I will go down fighting and, while I still can, keep them honest.
A 10k is a good indicator race before a marathon which I happen to be running next week. I go by the ‘mile a day to recover’ rule and being the 10k is about 6 miles I should be recovered by next Sunday for the Bunbury Marathon. ( http://bunburyrunnersclub.org/3-waters-marathon/ ) I certainly need to be at my best as this marathon destroyed me in 2014 and put me in a running slump that lasted well over a year. This was in stark contrast to the previous year when I won the event. (My one and only marathon victory and one I will cherish to the end….) My plans for Bunbury will be to initially try and keep my average sub 4min/k and finish sub 2hrs 48mins but if the conditions are ideal I may be persuaded, on the day. to go a tad quicker. It is really a starter race to the main course ,which is Perth in June this year. Bunbury is known for bad conditions ranging from winds to heat to humidity, the three things all marathon runners try to avoid. I’ll talk more on ‘bunners’ in a post later in the week as I move in taper mode, this will at least give me more time to spend blogging.
Right back to the Bridges 10k. I’ve said on just about every time I’ve ran t’his 10k will be my last’. It is a race that can put you in the pain box early if you go out too fast and unlike a half or a marathon doesn’t really give you enough time to work into it. A 5k is all about speed and worst case scenario you’re only go to blow up with maximum 3k to go (and that take’s some doing to blow so early !!) , in the 10k if things goes awry early you can be looking at a true 5k pain train and believe me 5k is a long way when you have nothing left in the tank. It also asks some serious questions at around the 6-8k mark and you need to dig deep to answer these before finding that finishing burst for the last kilometre. (Why doesn’t that ‘burst’ happen at 5k ? All down to the central governor I suppose?) So many people ran a 10k at 5k pace, which is find for 5k of course but then they wonder why the wheels have fallen off and there’s still 5k to go.? Funny that.
So how do you run a 10k successfully ? I think the best advice is to run a lot of them, like all things practice makes perfect. Last year I think I ran five 10k races with each one easier (relatively speaking.) than the last. I even managed a couple of sub 35 minute efforts, which was always the dream, so was happy to tick that one off. My advice would be to start at slower than your 5k pace and then build into it and finish strong. How easy was that to type? I am actually smiling to myself while typing this because I know tomorrow when the guns goes off I’ll be sprinting with the leaders for the first kilometre and regretting it at the second, while they continue on their merry way and smash 32 minutes, making it look easy, bless ’em. Meanwhile I’ll be staggering to 5k and opening the ‘5k to go pain box’, jump in, assume the foetal position and close the door behind me.
Tomorrow will also be , probably, the last outing for my weapon of choice lately, the Adidas Takumi Sen 3 racing shoe. These bad boys have got me through three marathons, numerous half marathons, 10k’s and a load of park runs. Over 400km currently (thankyou http://www.strava.com ) but they are now well past their sell by date. The shoe is expensive (and if anybody finds them on special please email me!) but like all things in life you get what you pay for and these are worth 2-3 minutes over a marathon compared to the normal training shoes like the Asics Kayano. (I consider the Kayano more of a boot than a running shoe truth be told. I use to wear these shoes believing all the marketing hype about protecting your foot with their magic gel, about a kilogram of the stuff ! and raising the heel so much you’re virtually tipping over. Not for me people but as with all things running it is personal and this shoe may be right for you but I’m a less is more , when it comes to runners and wear those bad boys down to the bitter end before changing. We were built to run without shoes so, to me , all the shoe does is protesct you from the nasty objects on the concrete. )
Right that’s if for Saturday, I’ll be back tomorrow and post the race details ,which will of course involve lots of questioning myself, time in the pain box and maybe even me getting chicked. Wouldn’t have it any other way…. as you were.
This weekend I ran one of my favourites half marathons, the Darlington half. Favourite for a number of reasons but the main one being the finish. The first half is 11k uphill initially and, being a point to point , there is a 10k downhill for the return. (For the more intelligent amongst you there is a small loop section which explains why its not a 50/50 split between up and down.) So if you get to the turn around with something left in the tank the final 10k is normally the quickest. It really is built for the holy grail of running , the negative split, often talked about but rarely achieved. At Darlington to positive split is actually harder than a negative split with gravity as your co-pilot you are normally caressed home. This year we even had a head wind up the hill to make sure it was negative splits all around !
So back to the race. We drove to the start in Jon’s new BMW and this certainly set the tone for a fast start. Jon is certainly a young man on a mission behind the wheel of a weapon of mass destruction that is his 330d . Please note I do not advocate speeding but if you do indulge it might as well be in a German sports car. So to the start line. The Darlington half starts downhill for the first 100 or so metres and then it’s 11k up, in different degrees of ‘hard’; i.e. hard, very hard, very very hard and this is surely classed as a wall hard !! As always I started way to fast and found myself sitting in 4th place after the first kilometre with another runner who I knew. We settled into the hill climbing part of the half and a stiff headwind, which meant we took turns at the front. Truth be told I think Chris took more time at the front than me but I played the ‘I’m 50 and so, being older, am entitled to sit behind you longer’ card. I’m not sure if this is proper running etiquette but in my mind it worked and I was more than happy to take it a read this was the way. Darlington is always a struggle initially as you race up a 10k hill. You feel you should be running faster than you actually are (according to your Garmin or GPS watch. Sometimes technology can be a curse!) but know you need to save something for the return journey. There is more ‘pacing‘ involved with Darlington as the race really is two different races in one; one a 10k slog uphill and then a ‘run as fast as you can without falling over‘ return 10k. The 1k in between these two races is flat and serves as a divide between the two seperate terrains.
Myself and Chris ran past the half-way cone (well I think it’s about 11k?) together and then started on the 1k in-between flat part of the course, pre-downhill. This also gives you an opportunity to see who is behind you without looking around (as we all know a cardinal sin in racing is looking behind you, never, never do this !) I noted that there was a group of 3-4 runners who were closer than I would have liked and all would be gunning for me on the downhill section, joy, just what you need when you’re knackered and still have 10k to run. (albeit downhill) I up’d the pace in a desperate attempt to put some distance between me and the chasing pack and started on the downhill section with a ‘spring in my step‘ as gravity and the tail wind combined to push me forward. The next 5-6k’s were eventful only in my continued effort to pull back 3rd place, a young man I could see was slightly slowing giving me renewed hope of a top 3 finish. (My best Darlington finish was 5th in 2014 and this becomes important with 2k to go…)
Unfortunately the faster I ran I was still unable to bridge the gap to 3rd and about 18k into the race I resigned myself to a 4th place finish as Chris had dropped off a tad, probably a by product of dragging a 50 year old up the hill earlier. This was going to come back and bite me as, at 19k, I heard footsteps behind me and my friend Luke went past after checking all was good. Luke, being probably 25 years younger than me , was cruising home and had left his dash for the line as late as possible. I moved back to 5th place, which given the race so far, I would have been happy with. Alas, not to be, another runner probably half my age (and then some) went past me with less than 1k to go and down to 6th I tumbled. All in all a 1:19:16 and 6th place was a reasonable hit out for the day. it was my second fastest finishing time on my 6th Darlington half.
What did I learn from the race ? Yet again I struggled at the 5-10k part of the race and felt better for the second half. Not sure if this was gravity and tail wind assisted but it was certainly less painful than the 16k race a few weeks earlier. I still feel I am struggling a bit with my form at the moment but I’m managing to hang on to some respectable times. I have 3 weeks to my next race which is a 10k so this will give me some focus to concentrate on shorter, faster training runs and maybe drop the odd double day; what will I do with all my free time I wonder ?
On a side note Darlington was also witness to a World Record as young Tom Alexander ran 1:24:22. You may wonder why it was a World Record, well Tom is 10 years old. ! He beat the current World Record by nearly a minute running a notoriously slow course . I personally reckon it is at least 2 minutes slower than a flat course, thus young Tom has it in him, on a flat course, to probably put 3 minutes on the 10 year old WR . Now that is impressive. As well as worried about being ‘chicked’ I know need to worry about being beaten by a 10 year old, life as a runner can be a stressful one.
So it was back with the boys this afternoon on the 10k recovery. Mike and Jon enjoy this run as they seem to recover better than me. I struggle to keep up with them as they discuss the race and I hang off the back cursing getting old and recovering like a 90 year old. I personally put this down to leaving very little in the tank after a race where as I sometimes think Jon enjoys the social side of racing a bit too much. Mike was chastising him for striking up conversations with strangers while racing and must admit this is not something I have ever down myself. Give Jon his due he did finish like Usain Bolt but I feel this had more to do with the free breakfast , including muffins, rather than the finishing time. Priorities Jon, priorities !! Once we dragged Jon away from the free breakfast it was back to his BMW and his best Lewis Hamilton impression on the way home. I did feel sorry for Mike in the back trying to eat his croissants and fruit as we went round corners faster that the space shuttle reentering orbit ! Oh well, that’s racing……