Second race of my cross-country came up today: Finishing my second-highest mileage week of the year on the day, I was naturally again curious how much the aerobic training would allow me to do on the day.
There was more at stake, though, a 12-man Crusaders team has been put together for the 10k Dublin Seniors next Sunday and I’m on it! Today my team mates were hill and marathon runner Shane O’Rourke and trackster Gary Park. Plenty of familiar faces dotted the line-up including Mt. Leinster winner Tom Hogan among the favourites, Brian Furey and Sli Cualann chief Bill Porter. Stephen Tyrell, who had beaten me in the first trail race in Wexford at Little Sliabh Bui, became visible at the rim of my eye at around 400m, but I managed to pull away and we didn’t cross paths again in this race.
Gun went and I went off with the main field in front of me. I hung onto Shane for the first kilometre while Gary broke a hole. Suddenly he appeared from behind us, his shoe-lace having come undone. I hadn’t realised that we had gone off very fast in 3:26min/km and thought people were accelerating rather than me slowing down when Shane broke away. Shane kept a steady 03:31min/km pace for the full race to finish in 21:50 for the 6.2k course (about 400m longer than the Phoenix Park course from the Dublin Novices and slightly harder due to heavier grass and stronger winds).
Niamh, who had just finished her own ladies race cleverly picking off people all the way with a good pacing strategy, and Aoife were watching with some depredation “you were so far down and all looked in trouble”. Well, Crusaders may not be natural cross-country runners, but at least today all three of us proved to be smart runners:
I wasn’t losing any places, so despite the fact that I had unknowingly slowed down to 3:42 for the second k (and would run kilometre 3, 4, and 5 in 3:54, 3:53, 3:53, I’m nothing if not consistent), I felt in good spirits passing out 2-3 runners every lap and losing not a single place in return for the remainder of the race.
Shane had broken a 400m gap on Gary and looked like coming in as the leading Crusader. But as the 4-lapped course turned into the specially designed finishing strait in the middle of the field, Gary suddenly burst out of nowhere to overtake Shane and both finished around the 21:50 mark. I couldn’t see who’d won it but Tom Hogan had managed to come home third.
I kept eating away in the meantime without upping the speed much, my final kilometre was slightly faster (3:48) and on the second lap I had overtaken Bill Porter to record my first victory against the seasoned runner who had finished just ahead of me a month ago in the Lakeside 10k. A group of six or seven runners lingered ahead of me for the next two laps. It didn’t feel like I was catching them but suddenly a runner would appear in front of me to overtake. Late I realised that the group ahead were “bleeding runners”. Eventually I caught up with a Rathfarnham runner and another runner in white who both must have been the remnants of that group. It took a little more effort to accelerate past but there was no major fight back showing just how strength-sapping cross-country terrain can be.
Coming up the hill for the final 170m, I didn’t feel like I had any sprint in me but I did manage to click it up a gear as I chased a Tullamore Harriers runner (he held steady) and take the stretch in 32 seconds (3:08min/km). I was reasonably happy with this finish as a lot of it was uphill, but when I do my sharpening training for next season I’ll work specifically on activating a sprint from high speed as I seem unable to do so in races. On the good side, had I slowed down just a bit I could have done a few more laps.
The lessons in these races are incredibly valuable in designing the 4 weeks of anaerobic and 4 weeks of sharpening training that I will use before next year’s cross-country season and the County Seniors will undoubtedly add more to the drawing board.
There’ll be a short race report coming up on Mud, Sweat and Tears with the full results later.
The endurance training is doing the work it’s supposed to: It leaves me slightly jaded and without that extra “kick” but today I ran 16kph on rough terrain without ever truly struggling for air. All my available paces are turning aerobic. Waking up this morning I’m not particularly sore and ready to do a 2-hour run.
After the race I did five laps of Aoife’s dad’s field, nicely wet and uneven. Once done I logged in my results: 7.99 hours run and 88.33km run as against my target of 8 hours and 95km. A bit down on the kilometre side but with body still adapting to this unfamiliar load and this including running on grass in my Vibram, on dark trails and steep hills, it’s not as bad as it looks.
And unfamiliar territory looms ahead: Glossing my eye over the last three weeks shows that this week was my second-highest volume this year, the week before was the third highest and the week before again (when this experiment started) the fourth highest.
Ahead lies almost undoubtedly my hardest running week so far: 8.5 hours and 100km. Sunday looms the Dublin Seniors (where I could well finish last, but such experiences are good to harden the soul). Hard week, testing race: Bring it on! My goal: To not disgrace my club and to attempt and break 40 minutes for a 10k cross-country course with about 85k in my legs for the 6 days previous. This should be realistic as my half-marathon pace (99% aerobic) is 4:00min/km (40 minute 10k). The caveat: The combination of tiring muscles with rough terrain.