RACES: Ferrycarrig 5 Mile

So, the Ferrycarrig 5 mile is completed and it’s time to inspect the lay of the land. So how did the ChampionsEverywhere team fare on the day:

Reason to be concerned?

I had grappled with some “early season – fear of the unknown” trepidation the day ahead of the race but once we arrived at the race start it was thankfully gone. I’ve worked hard to control pre-race anxiety and glad to see the skill has not deteriorated in the 7 months since I last toed a start line.

I warmed up with 3km bare foot including some strides and 1 minute at race pace. I had done thorough drills in the house both on the day and the day before, and did a 6km run in the Aqua Lites the evening before. I had been a bit stiff after the fartlek, so kept running until my stride felt fluent again, and then slept on that.

The bare foot warm-up set me up very well and from the start there was no discomfort running at pace in my choice (the Aqua Lites). I ran off from the gun with Jeff (who was armed with the Inov-8 Bare-X and the same training as I) and we both passed Aoife after about 200m (Aoife wore her Lucy Lites). So three graduates of “Tony Riddle’s injury free running school” were there – ready for a big exam.

Those Lydiard roots…

Jeff broke a gap during the first half of the first mile but we came through mile 1 close together with Jeff in 5:45 and me in 5:50 for the first mile. I had decided to run for sub-30 even though my fitness level is currently unknown and I did not expect to be able to match my 29:23 previous PB.

Breathing was strong, however, and the stride handy. I was surprised again how long the endurance from the Lydiard schedule lasts. The winner of the junior category,a lad towering a head over me, was one of many runners breathing erratically early on. I have seen this again and again in the last year – it’s usually a combination of stress, lack of endurance and poor pace judgment.

Control, mentality and technique

None of us fell foul of this and by mile 3 I was still narrowly ahead of sub-30 pace but failed to push hard enough on the drag on kilometre 5 and 6 and ran them at a pace that on a good day is only marathon pace – 3:51 and 3:57. Luckily, I found an extra push for the final mile, finally shaking the young runner who had been harrying me for most of the race and could shoot home in 3:36. A runner passed me on the corner but I reacted and sprinted away from him but not in time to close the gap on the next two ahead. 30:12 or so seems to have been my time. With that, I can potentially be back breaking my best times within the 6-12 weeks available before the wedding as long as I execute my training consistently and intelligently from now onwards with no further illness, stomach poisoning etc. to slow momentum.

Mind fitness

My mentality continues to improve – I felt in a parasympathetic state (stressed) for the day leading into it (though not badly so) and made a few minor mistakes (too much breakfast) but by and large I dominated my own mind in the race and kept thing controlled and steady. This race did not represent a blue-ribbon performance, so I don’t celebrate it, but it represents my new “bottom level” which is encouraging.

Celebrations should be reserved for major improvements ahead except one thing: this was only my second race in the Aqua Lites and by far the longest (the last being a 3km race). This time it felt pretty easy. The first time it felt very challenging indeed. Runners only celebrate positions and times, but for me personally, this represents a great victory. I can now run almost as well in races, on barely any physical training, as I could at the very peak of my powers last year with a mountain of physical training. But the day’s real achievement was not mine:

Three PBs, three strong and one solid performance from CE

Aoife’s recent consistency in training and new technique came together in a new personal best much earlier than we could have hoped – literally we have just transferred her from Pre-Base training to Base training but that didn’t stop her annihilating her old best score of 32:12 by a minute. Afterwards I got the satisfaction of being told I was right (perhaps for the last time given our upcoming marriage) when she told me it had been worth the one year journey and that my assessment that her old technique had become a bottle-neck for her future development as a runner.

Jeff Fitzsimons took a minute of his own personal best as well and broke the 30 minute barrier by wide margin with a 29:12 performance and also broke his 5k best on the way although this was an old time. He finished with a flourish throwing in a 3:26 final kilometre having kept 3:36min/km pace for the race.As he told me after: “This feels like the first road race I have actually RUN,” referring to the “floaty” feeling of the correct stride.

Final word – responsibility

Today showed me where I stand today – and it’s a good place – almost as physically fit as last season with a technique incomparably more developed thanks to the work with Tony. I believe the key to my success is that I now take full responsibility for every set-back I suffer. If I suffer calf tightness or a tight ankle for a few days, I know it is not an act of God – no one is inflicting injuries on us, we are inflicting them on ourselves.But what we do to ourselves we can undo ourselves – even if it means asking to be shown the way.

My calves were quite stiff after meaning that at some stage of the race I must have begun to make some mistakes. This is where responsibility comes in – no one did that to me. I did it to myself. Now I must apply Tony’s teachings to improve on it further so that in the next race I can run further and faster with less soreness. The learning never stops, but that should not stop us enjoying the steps on the way. Perfection is a point you never reach – we merely aspire.