RACES: Rathdrum 3 mile (5k!)

My chances of a PB to start the year with evaporated this evening when it was announced that the 3 mile race would be 5k instead. Much as I feel fit again, I am not in racing shape, so a 5k PB was out of the question, especially as running all-out was not the plan and the testing bumpy three laps in Rathdrum are not meant for blistering performances but rather workmanlike graft.

I had planned this race in as part of my “fun allowance” of exceptions to the rule of not running anaerobically during aerobic training. I was confident I could run a steady pace just under my lactate turnpoint pace measured at 17kph (3:32 min/km or 5:41min/miling) and still have an enjoyable race. At this pace my metabolism is still highly aerobic and thus recovery is swift as long as I supplement with easy running.

To this effect I did a 20 minute morning jog and made sure to do as much warm-up and cooldown running without any break around the race, so it all flowed together in one nice older run. I had time for around 8km of running around the race but would have preferred 10.

I went off sitting at the back of a huge lead-pack. The field was surprisingly big for a week-day Wicklow Fit4Life (over 80 participated) and up front Mike Kavanagh, Tim Grummell, Cormac Conroy, Tony Collins and a few others were fighting it out for podium spots. The group opened a gap and I realised I had gone off a little bit too slow. Runners were falling off the back pretty bad and by the end of the first lap, I had caught two stragglers and immediately put big gaps into them. After this I thought I may not catch anymore as the next runners had a lead of several hundred metres but once the third lap began, both the uphills and downhills began to really exert their toll.

The legs were extremely strong on the ascents and I made good inroads on the decent. My pace had been steady just above the 3:40min/km setting for most of the race but then I “fell asleep” and ran a 3:51 fourth kilometre. I rectified the situation by using some of my pent up energy to run the last kilometre in 3:20. A guy I had passed on the last bend, returned to me with a full sprint. I had hoped to avoid a sprint finish but decided to not let him pass “for free”. We ran neck on neck for about 50m when I could see I wasn’t making inroads and gave him a yard. Then he slowed and I could see myself catch him back but I was stuck having to jump a turf of grass, lost a metre and finished a whisker behind him. My sprinting has been poor during the fartleks, so I am not surprised I have now lost two sprint finishes in a row. It’s hard to maintain all cylinders on the high mileage and it’s not like I’ll need them in the marathon, so as long as I can rebuild my kick for the summer season, I should be fine.

Finishing time was 18:18, a very positive sign. In 2009 I opened my season on a faster course in Ashford in February and ran only 19:13, exerting myself much more (incidentally my worst ever 5k). In 2010, I ran only a few seconds faster, on the track, in the height of summer. And last year I performed only a bit better but much later in my training (May). So far so good, with today’s result I should shoot for somewhere around the 62-63 minute mark for Ballycotton, keeping an eye on the hour if I happen to be very fresh on the day.