I suppose when I say I'm "strongly considering" to do a race I just as well say "I'm going to do a race" as it proved almost a foregone conclusion this morning that I'd do the Ashford 5k which also doubled as the Wicklow County Road Championships meaning many good runners were out and some celebrities (a certain "Britton") were in attendance.
There were many IMRA faces to be seen, Hugh McLindon and wife Martina both ran (Hugh overtaking me on the final 200m) as well as Tony Collins, Tim Grummell, Hugh McKenna and Martin Francis, who all, needless to say, finished ahead me, Tim narrowly missing the hoped for 17min but doing well with 17:15. Martin deserves the greatest amount of praise though, as he had raced the day before! (if ever there was an evergreen runner!)
WMRA representative and AAI coach Ryan Montgomery also watched from the sidelines before he was due to head down to today's Enniscorthy 10k were also Cormac O'Ceallaigh is racing today, something that made his absence from the local Wicklow Circuit less conspicuous.
The route was nowhere near as flat as advertised but was a well-laid out route, if not very spectacular, through three round-abouts out and back from Ashford town.
Route did not matter, however, while my hamstring was better, my legs didn't have any speed going after the many hill runs this week, and I didn't produce the speed I should have at the stable intensity I was racing at.
This was interesting as it confirms the research done showing hill running (particularly downhill) will cause a temporary loss of muscle power for 10 days after. A good lesson to keep in mind, when I prepare for an important road race in the future, I must stay clear of the hills for the week before at least to ensure proper leg power for the flats.
I got caught up a bit far down the field in the start and worked a bit to hard to get in position, but got off in a solid 3:41, already 4 seconds down on the 3:37min/km I would need to run to do the projected 18:03 (I was planning a sneaky sprint to put it below 18 minutes).
My preparations had been alright with a mile warmup some dynamics, 1 stride, but unfortunately slightly too heavy food over the weekend, and I felt that. For the mid-3k I slowed down to 3:54-3:56 pace and I knew there would be no new PB today. I was keeping steady pace, though, so tried to keep it that way in an attempt to make a good training session out of the race.
Gradient on the route was a gentle 1.8% on average but short sections went as high as 8.3% and the route had a small 49m climb. Hitting the final stretch, three runners overtook me and I didn't have a sprint in me (or was this a mental block?) but still managed to up the pace once again to 3:45 to finish in 19:15. So I'm 27 seconds slower than two years ago, fantastic!
This is, of course, and oversimplification and my average heart rate was only 183 and I left the race feeling the strength in my legs I should expect with my focus on that area currently in training. I'll be working more on speed in the coming months, but my focus will only really move to that area in August when I start preparing for the cross-country season. With the hill running coming up, strength will stand me in better stead than speed.
That the day wasn't right either can be seen from the result compared to the 3k in Rathdrum where I delivered 3:29 pace which is a Training Pace Level of 24. Today's 3:50min/km average is only a TPL 28. Both still well ahead of the 33 I'm training at for the moment, so no need to call in the doctor's just yet.
This results only transfers to a slightly sub-40min 10k, however, so I need to watch my training closely in preparation for April's National 10k.