Before beginning my slight step-back week, I had planned to finish week 2 of training with a bit of fun as part of my promise to myself to enjoy my running more in 2012. So I had scheduled in the new trail race, the Altidore 10k in Kilpedder, as part of my regular Saturday “Out and Back” workout.
It seemed perfectly suited, with 10 km distance I could put 6km around it in warm-up and cooldown and still get in the allotted 10 miles. The fire-road and climbs would ensure that was no temptation to try and break personal bests and with Trooperstown Hill around the corner I did not expect to see many familiar faces, thus also avoiding the risk of getting carried away by “old rivalry”.
Finally, I really liked the prospect of seeing a part of Wicklow I haven’t seen before. The three kilometres with runnable, yet challenging, climbs (the 3rd, 4th and 9th) of 4-6% gradient would make for a nice stimulus for my marathon training if I could ensure I paced the entire run so that I could run them strongly and evenly with good knee drive throughout. The descents would be a nice opportunity to stretch out the legs a bit and test the feasibility of potentially wearing my racing flats for other fire-road races later in the year.
The green hill at the N11
The Kilpedder Rifle Range has a nice mixture of coniferous and deciduous trees, which undoubtedly look even nicer in summer, and on a clear day you get a particularly interesting view of the Sugarloaf (you can but see the top). I only noticed this during my cooldown, despite not being maxed out, I run in a zone of my own and don’t notice much during races except my breath, rhythm and other runners.
Waking up this morning, I noticed something interesting: I was relieved to be doing a race rather than my full 10 mile plus Out and Back up the Glenmacnass Road. The same thing happened last year, so I see truth in the old saying that “if you train hard, racing is easy.” I had 105km of running in the legs for the race but despite this had no problems following a fast start. When I saw the first, downhill, split of “3:19”, which is 33:10 10k pace, I wondered if I had gone off too fast, but my breathing was not even taxed and the legs were nice and steady going up the 3rd and 4th kilometres of climb.
Race as it progressed
I began the race in around 15th, moved to 11th by the hill and then picked myself up to 5th through the race. Coming up a short steep bit, I passed the 5th-placed runner with a bit too much nonchalance, not putting in a sufficient gap, and when I had put in another small acceleration on the final bump before the finish, I reckoned the job would be done. I had promised myself not to engage in any sprint finishes, but the choice would not have mattered because when Fergal Connolly (the guy I had just passed) sprinted past me I did not have time to react and I felt straight away that I did not have the acceleration to do anything useful, so just kept the effort even to finish 6th.
Because I had my training to consider, I did not stop for water or chit-chat but rather ran straight on from the finish and put in another 5km at reasonable running pace to bring the day’s tally to 17km and the week to 122km. I managed to drop the average pace for the week from 4:53min/km to 4:52min/km and look forward to mixing up next week before returning to better that week in a fortnight. Ian McGrath won the race in 36:56, about 2:30 slower than his recent 10k times so perhaps that is a good reflection on the course. My own time was 40:40, which in that light shows my fitness has moved on significantly in these last weeks just on a menu of varying aerobic paces from easy jogging to threshold running.
Strength paying off
Extra pleasing was the photos of my running form, Antony Riddle’s work on my posture and my constant toe squatting seems to have paid off as I no longer display the “inward collapse of the knees” and “mini-bucket” during the landing phase, as can be seen below. Rather the body is forming a strong even column as illustrated on the photo below that Aoife took on one of the flatter descents:
She and I went down to the “Romany Stones” after for a nice lunch and I don’t know if it was the food or the good spell of running after the race but this evening my legs feel like I hadn’t run a step in my life: no tightness and not soreness. “You seem to have hit just the right effort,” Aoife said, she had been nervous I would get carried away but the run was within the high aerobic realm with only intermittent pieces of uphill shifting into what was probably VO2max intensity.
Despite this freshness, I won’t revise my plan to do a periodisation week with the focus shifted from flat trails to hills. This year I will be one step ahead of my injuries and make the decision before they make it for me.
Week 2 of aerobic training complete, all going well…