I took the opportunity to test myself in my first race of 2014 this evening – I prefer to start each year with low-key affairs – local road races with small fields where you don’t get too excited or carried away.
This was the eleventh 5 km race I have raced in my career and in terms of pure time it was also the worst I ever ran with clocking a time of 19:31 – 19 seconds slower than my previous worst at the Ashford 5k in 2009 and over two minutes outside my personal best time from 2012. That season I had run this race at a similar time to this year and finished in 18:08.
From here you might imagine the my race report would be universally negative but there were plenty of positives – I got another race under my belt in the VivoBarefoot Stealth shoes and I could set a marker for current fitness.
The Rathdrum 5k
The Rathdrum 5k is quite hilly with three laps that feature a long uphill. I let myself be boxed in at the start missing out on the initial burst and kept bleeding places on the first two times we went over the climb. Only on the third lap did I get my posture and rhythm correctly settled for the climb to stop the rot. It was a pity it took two laps to figure this out as I had no problems bombing down the descent on the other side where I kept picking back 2-4 runners every lap, then losing some again on the next climb until I arrested this trend finally on the last lap.
Coming into the final bend I saw the familiar shape of Hugh Kinsella whom I had outsprinted at “Run the Rock” last summer. I fancied it again and went past just before the turn into the final uphill to the finish. I held myself ahead for a brief spell but the lack of strength I had felt from the beginning told and as Hugh passed me again I decided to settle in and see if I could try again just before the finish. I didn’t feel like there was anything there but as I caught eye of the cones another acceleration came out of nowhere and we basically tied for the line in a frenetic finish that left the finish line marshal saying “stop now lads.”
This unusual last sprint was a welcome surprise as I have not yet begun any work on my speed. The regular, daily, jumping work and pulling drills are clearly helping here. My heart rate was 177 on average which is low for a 5 km race (which I have raced between 183 and 188 in the past). I timed how long it took for it to recover to 120 bpm (90 seconds) after which is very good. More than 2 minutes is essentially a sign that the stress from the workout or race was well beyond the body and mind’s current abilities and that several days of backing off would be needed. So recovery should be fast and basic endurance is clearly almost restored. Where I found myself lacking today was strength, power and race-specific endurance – all things I have yet to turn my attention to in training.
Gray Cook, founder of FMS, would call me an “Under-powered” athlete – an athlete with a broad base and above average movement but without the ability to produce the necessary power for the event. That’s a clear starting point to work from going into the next phases of training.
Mental and psychological reflections
My mental game was pretty much top-class today – all I was lacking was motivation, drive and a bit of an adrenaline rush. The performance was very robotic – checking in to the race felt like punching in my card in the factory I worked at in 2001 – it was a piece of business.
I had promised myself to fully focused solely on correct execution of my movement ignoring all distractions – splits, competitors etc. and focus only on quality. In this I succeeded – ignoring the beeping of my Garmin (very unusual for me as I normally check and strategise every kilometre). This is not how I plan to race every race but I picked a small race for the very reason that it would allow me to focus on testing my ability to keep 5 km pace with the new stride.
All in all, a useful experience with good information for the training ahead. The time if viewed in isolation represents an unmitigated disaster – especially as I didn’t think I could slow down further than the 18:58 I ran last year in Craanford at the height of my deconditioning.
I didn’t feel like going to the ceremony after – preferring to go straight home. This was not out of any disappointment, although this would be normal for any runner who records a “personal worst”, but rather the full realisation of the work that is ahead of me. I had secretly hoped to be in a position to get fit enough to attack the 17-minute barrier in the Spring season but that looks optimistic from this starting point. Thankfully, doing this test showed it was wise to give up my Ballycotton entry – even with slightly fresher legs on Sunday, it would likely have been a waste of my time.
Thus the need to go straight home. You don’t stay out to party after losing 0-1 – you go home and prepare for the next match. I have a lot more practice ahead of me…