After my somewhat negative experience with the Shanganagh 3k (no fault of the organisers), I wanted to put that past me at the Leixlip 5k. I had only heard of the race a few weeks ago and jumped at the chance to including it in my last few weeks of build-up when it clearly stood out as a fast course with a stadium finish (a favourite feature of mine).
|Running with the pack early on (C) Jhshelley|
The Lydiard schedules we have always include a 5k and a 10k tune-up race in the Coordination phase going into the marathon and these are meant to be run quite controlled. However, I decided to go for only “somewhat controlled” as I wanted to have a go at breaking my previous best and perhaps even the 17-minute barrier if things went well. I used my normal plan: go out with some measure of control, check the split and if the first one indicated target time then push on from there. 3:30min/km is the magic number for any 17-minute chaser in the 5k, I thought (wrongly!) more on my faulty maths later…
|Natural movement drills at the start (C) Jhshelley|
Fair play to le Cheile
Host club Le Cheile put out a fine show, extremely well organised, with a heap of photographers and video camera far outperforming many commercial events and for only €12 (€18 if you registered on the day). They also had a sizeable “bakeathon” which I could not sample as Aoife and my “2 week Maffetone test” does not allow us to eat processed carbohydrates. All in all, it seems to have worked for the hosts who attracted over 350 runners.
I was surprised to see that the “stadium” was actually made of grass but it was flat and fast, so I did my natural movement drills, chucked off my shoes and ran 3km barefoot as a warm-up with my usual 2 minutes hard anaerobic “priming” to ensure all my systems were “go” before the starting whistle (!).
The route includes two little bumps on the last 600m as you run through a “cross-countryesque” chute taking runners from the road and into the finish circuit but in today’s conditions you’d barely notice it and you could fly over the low grass.
Beware the Garmin curse!
I placed myself just behind the lead-line this time, not wanting to be boxed in as badly as I had been at the 3k in Shanganagh and while I ran too wide (a mistake I’ve made a few times this year) for far too long on several parts of the course, at least I got off with the right group. We turned left hard into a round-about and up the only longer climb (and it was brief!) the route really had. I ran it conservatively today rather than attacking as usual instead focusing on blasting off the descent which immediately gave me 5 or 6 spots. About 20m from the 1km marker my watch beeped “3:12”. Well, that sounded a bit fast, so perhaps the watch was wrong, but either way I did not feel like blowing up so just ploughed on. An 18 second cushion is good to have when you are not feeling like the wheels are about to come off. Gary Condon passed me here with the first woman in tow and I yelled “good man, Gary” to him and was then struck with immediate guilt – you should not be able to talk in a 5km! In hindsight, the best tactical call would have been to try and go with him.
This didn’t stop me jabbering on when a young Le Cheile runner with a Mohawk battled hard up on my side and really put the effort into passing me out. I did my usual “good man, that’s the spirit,” verbal drop on him, only to have his team-mate John O’Regan take my flank, pass by me and lead his young compatriot to a 10 metre gap.
Still on target?
“3:25”, the Garmin flashed for kilometre 2. “Great, a 23 second lead,” I thought and at this point caught up to the two Le Cheile runners. A third runner boxed me in from the side but I didn’t mind as there was a bit of wind here and I put myself just close enough to the two runners to benefit from the draft and be unnerving. It’s dog eat dog in these races and you have to be ready to pounce and play mind-games. We ran 3:33 together. Only three seconds dropped but I did not want to risk too much more so swung out hard to the right and began chasing the next group. The others went with me and as we turned back onto the main street, second lady Ailish Malone from Clonliffe, swooped powerfully past the four of us with a hard concerted attack. I immediately accelerated as this was the curtain call and an ideal opportunity to put some “fire under my behind” for the final run-in. I passed her as we passed kilometre 4 in 3:34. I still had a sixteen second lead to break 17 minutes, in my mind, and it felt like there was no way the wheels would come off enough to run as slow as 3:47. It was safe as far as I was concerned.
A bit of downhill and Ailish pulled back up on my side and passed me out and I heard her saying “now please don’t…”, her words trailed off, and either way, she would have factored that I was dying rather than preparing myself for a final charge, so I paid her no heed and once we hit the grassy bit I hit for home, taking her and another runner out in the first bend and then trying my best to keep accelerating to the finish. I could hear someone on my neck as we entered the stadium. I went as hard as I could at this stage into the sprint to avoid losing a late spot as I have so often this season. We turned into the last corner and I heard the Garmin go “lap” and then looked up to see the timing board across the finishing mat showing “17:20”. “WTF”, my brain exclaimed!
|Finally giving everything into the finishing sprint (c) Jhshelley|
No matter, I had to finish the job and figure out what had happened later. I ran the last 112m in 19 seconds which gave me a bit of breathing space to Ailish who was 5 seconds back and John O’Regan who outsprinted her on the very line. His younger club-mate eventually lost 13 seconds on us.
What’s this time?
I took a few deep breaths to shake off the sprint, exchanged a few pleasantries with Gary and then checked the Garmin: according to it I had run the last kilometre in 3:26 and crossed 5km in 17:10. Then it hit me! My quick-maths in the drive up had been less than impressive – the target pace for sub-17 is 3:24! Secondly, I need to take smart recording off the Garmin to get more precise readings when I am racing and make sure I always hit for a few seconds faster than target pace as it always seems to measure the courses a bit on the long side.
A few seconds of disappointment and then I reminded myself that negativity ruined me before and its absence has been my saving grace this season (as well as lack of injury, of course, and consistent training). 17:29 was the end result, a new personal best, the third in 12 days, and a performance that took very little out of me physically. I remain unable to go “into red” without the exposure to hard intervals, so this keeps me somewhat safe from “knocking down the barn door” in racing, a thing Lydiard always tried to avoid with his marathoners.
Uplifted by this positive realisation I went for a long cooldown (7km barefoot on the grass) to bring the days tally up to 15km. Two long days in the mountains now await before an easy week and the final race before Copenhagen (a 10k next weekend).
The “game face” breaks but finally held someone off in a sprint!
I had to laugh to myself for my seeming inability to break the barriers I put as my stretch goals so far: 10 minutes for 3k, 17 min for 5k, 29 minutes for 5 mile, 1 hour for 10 mile and 80 minutes for the half. I’ve narrowly missed all but on yesterday’s evidence I would be very optimistic about breaking 36 for the 10k next weekend. But the point of stretch goals is that they should stretch you, so missing them is a sign of challenging goal-setting as much as any failure. At least I have plenty of bulls-eyes to throw my darts at in Autumn when Snowdon is out of the way.
The main benefit from this race was that I felt I regained mental and physical momentum and I ran the race at the same pace as I ran the 3km, showing clear improvement and the pendulum swinging back upwards which is critical with the marathon now so near.
This race comes thoroughly recommended. Very fast course and top notch organisation for such a cheap price. Well done to Le Cheile, and a race I’ll keep on my roster of “PB-chasing courses” along with the Waterford Half-marathon.
Full results from the race here: http://www.redtagtiming.com/results/LeCheile5km_2012.pdf