RACE: National 10k

National 10k – Analysis Blow-by-blow
While I was struggling with my own run yesterday, many other IMRA runners were out including our ladies team: Sharlene Bell, Deirdre Ni Chearbhaill, Emma Walsh, Eva Fairmaner, and Tressan McCambridge. On the men’s Barry Minnock had virtually secured the Bronze when he got a stitch midway and had to settle for 4th. James McFadden won the team Bronze with his Letterkenny team and had a storming debut in 32:02 and there were solid runs as well but well-known hill runners Rathfarnham’s hard-hitting Brigadiers (along with Barry): Peter O’Farrell, Turlough Conway, Adrian Tucker and John Farrelly, North Laois’ PJ Carroll and Martin McDonald, Tallaght's Niall Coppinger, and local man Keith Daly running for Donore.

Apart from the Crusaders hill running ladies Bronagh Ni Bhrian and Mags Greenan from Clonliffe, Mary Jennings from Waterfprd, and Zoe Melling and Donna Mahon from the feminine side of Rathfarnham.

The Route
Yesterday’s route had a climb that ate into you as the two laps progressed. Average ascent grade was only 1.2% but maxed at 3.6% with only -1.1% average descent. Elevation gain was 58metre.

The route was poorly policed and some runners reported issues with cars not taking proper care of the runners but otherwise organisation was good and the facilities around Claremont Stadium quite sufficient.

The Start – From 0 to 1km
A gun send us on our way yesterday and I had placed myself well a fair bit upfront and close to the curve. Maybe this contributed to a slightly speedy first kilometre which I passed in 3:30. There was much less pushing and shoving than at many races, and I don’t regret my decision to give the “fun runs” a wide birth and having run mainly in specific AAI events this year.

The route starts on a slight downhill and then levels out. I should have factored this in as I became a bit careful on the following kilometres, thinking I’d run too hard, working up a lead of 15 seconds on my projected finish time.

Cautious Phase – Kilometre 1 to 3
I felt endlessly comfortable at this stage as I had put the foot of the pedal a bit trying to get back to steady 3:45min/km splits and coast of the 15 second lead I had. However, the lead I had built was on a downhill and from the end of the first kilometre it was all uphill until about kilometre 2 when a short downhill made way for another climb that lasted until the end of the 3rd kilometre.
I overcompensated and ran these two kilometres in 3:54 and 3:50, cutting my lead to 1 second! I had crossed 3000m in 11:14, 1 second slower than my race in Ashford over this distance.

Going for the PB – Kilometre 4 and 5
At this stage there was a nice quiet back-road before turning back towards the stadium for the end of the first lap. From kilometre 3 to 5.5, you have mostly a gentle downhill to support you, and I was trying to increase speed to gain that 5k PB I had been hoping for.

My gamble to record my times in 200m split backfired, however: It was simply too much information to process effectively on the road and if I had had kilometre splits to work with, I think I would have made better decisions out on the road today. Well, lesson learned!

In the end, I just about scraped it, though, running the first 5k in 18:45 and knocking 3 seconds off my 5k PB. This wasn’t so bad, I had run the 4th and 5th kilometre in 3:43 and 3:48, leaving me at exactly “0”. All I had to do was replicate this on the final 5 kilometres and I gave Aoife the “Thumbs up” sign as she photographed me. I was still feeling good and thought I’d run a negative split without too many problems.

Wheels coming off – Kilometre 6 to 8
That I was in trouble was not immediately apparent. A Tallaght runner had passed me out several times during the race only for me to reel him back again, and while my 6 kilometre was a steady 3:47 (on the uphill bit), I ran a shocking 4:03 for kilometre 7 (I wasn’t aware of this at the time). All I remember is the wind blowing up a good bit the second time we climbed the outside of the loop, but it shouldn’t have mattered.

I regained some composure running 3:50 on the downhill of kilometre 8, but think I was being too conservative at this stage. Turlough mirrored my thoughts after: “I just didn’t know how hard I could run without blowing up with about 3 to go”.

Once I saw the 8 kilometre mark, I thought to myself “just one rep to go” (thinking of my 4x2000m session a few weeks back at 10k pace), and this spurred me on. I had been running harder since kilometre 7, and now geared up again. I had lost 25 seconds, could I get them back?
Another bonus, I was unaware of: I had crossed 8km and 5 miles in 30:25 and 31:50 respectively, breaking my PB for the 5 miles by 50 seconds.

The Run-In – Kilometre 9 and 10
I outsprinted quite a few runners on the final bit which is always good for the head. I plugged the 9th kilometre in 3:46, not good enough to catch back, before running the final in 3:36. I still had another 100m to go at this stage according to my Garmin, which I sprinted in 17 seconds despite now struggling a bit with the familiar stomach cramp, at least it had waited this long!

In the end, the clock read 38:26, my effective time according to my Garmin was 38:09, but neither matters. I lost a bit less than a minute on my time.
My official finishing time of 38:28 earned me 147th spot out of 325 runners. For comparison, such a time in the Great Run a few weeks ago would have made me 120th out of 7895 runners, such was the class of the field here (also in the Great Run there are walkers, of course, with the last runner coming in in 1:53:38. The last runner in the National 10k, Philip Cogavan did 1:07:52. He was almost 9 minutes after the second-last runner).
That the lack of crowds helped people's performances could also be seen. Sharlene, for instance, improved her time from 46:56 to 43:26. A 3:30 improvement in two weeks! Perhaps its the club jersey giving wings...

I believe three things cost me yesterday: A too conservative pacing strategy, not enough awareness of what was happening with my splits and too little aggression on the downhill. I have to blend a little bit more guts and spirit into my cool and calculations, yesterday I had too much of the latter and showed too little of the former, and this left me with a bit of “Runner’s Guilt” after, that I could have sucked a bit more pain. Particularly my comfortable first 5 kilometre bugged me. I’m sure winner Sean Connolly of Tallaght AC wasn’t comfortable at any stage.

3 PBs in one day, the 40-minute barrier laid to waste, and yet some disappointment is how I can describe my status best. The goal for this year I’ve estimated as 36:25 in order to keep on track for a realistic progression towards 33:00 within 5 years. One thing to consider is also that I will make my final attempt at 33:00 in a track race, not a road race (I estimate I could have gained a further 30 seconds yesterday running on the track).

This means I need to knock an additional 1:44 off my 10k time this year. This can be achieved by mainly by increasing my training pace from 3:45min/km for long reps to 3:38min/km for long reps which I think is achievable this year. At the same time as my intensity training draws to a close over the next 3 weeks, repetition increase in length from 2000m to 3000m, making training increasingly race specific. Once racing season begins in earnest, the reps drop back to 400m but the speed increases drastically (its key here to keep up a relatively high volume of slow running or risk sacrificing endurance for speed at an accelerated level).

33:00 is a complete different story, although 5:09 seems realistic to knock off in 5 years (it’s “only” about a minute per year). Looking at yesterday, though, you can see that many runners who’ve run at a high level for years still run 34 or 35 minutes, while others (such as James McFadden) can sweep in and run 32 minutes after only a few years of training. So clearly, there’s a genetic element to certain speeds and it becomes more unforgiving to fight against it the quicker your target pace gets.

It is possible that we all have a wall that we cannot breach. Such defeatist attitude will not do any runner any good, though, so until the proof becomes incontrovertible, I personally will keep working at it. And after all, if, say, 3:25min/km was my genetic barrier, I can always increase the time I can maintain it, so no reason to despair!

Other Pluses
I’m not too knackered today and am seriously considering doing Howth. If anything, I also lacked sharpness today and I miss the hills, the mano-a-mano feeling that it engenders and the restarting the competition with my team mates Richie, Rob, and Jason.