Sunday, November 2, 2008

Changing plans & Racing

The danger with posting on a blog is that you tend to put down in writing your plans but sometimes plans change!!

Earlier this week I planned that I'd go for an easy run on Wednesday and do my first hills session since 1994 on Thursday. Well that plan changed!! No run on Wednesday and no hills on Thursday (sure after 14 years another few days won't matter!!).

So what happened? Well, on Wednesday work was the excuse and on Thursday I decided to do the hills on Friday and on Friday the plan changed again. I decided to run the local 4-mile BHAA road race today so Friday's session was changed to an easy 5.63miles (48:02) [@ 8:32min/mile, avg 142bpm] at lunchtime with Grellan and Tony. My right calf and left knee were a bit sore during the run on Friday so in hindsight abandoning the hill session was probably a good idea.
No run either on Saturday (unplanned rest as I had meant to do 5 miles easy). But at least this meant that I was fully rested for today's race!!
Waking up this morning I wasn't in the mood to run fast and when I mentioned this to Pamela at breakfast she said 'just jog it so'. There were two problems with this suggestion, firstly I can run slowly anytime without paying an entry fee (even though if it's only €5) and secondly jog in a race - NEVER!!
The race was due to start at 11am so I got there at around 10am, plenty of time to register and warmup. My 3-mile warmup went well and despite noticing a tightness in my right achilles tendon (which was sorted with lots of deep heat) I felt like I might actually run well today. I felt fresh!!

One of the main reasons for me running this race, as well as making up the third member of a team (Grellan, Tony & me), was to benchmark myself against last year. I had run this race last year and finished in 24:31 so that was my goal.

Conditions today were perfect - light breeze, cool and a flat fast course.
Finally, the race started a few minutes late and following a minutes silence for a local supporter of the Cork Business Houses Athletic Association (BHAA) who had recently passed away. Last year there were approximately 280 runners in this race and it was probably the same today. I positioned myself about 10 rows back from the start just to make sure that I wouldn't get caught up in a suicidal opening mile in the full knowledge that the temptation to follow the leaders would have been too much for me!!
So I spotted a local regular racer, Denis Carroll Eagle AC, and I decided to pace myself off him - he's usually a very consistent racer at a similar pace to me and I've only beaten him once (not that he'll know that!!).
24:31 last year so, on the basis that I'm in a bit better shape this year, 6min pace was my target.
Having spent the first mile working my way through the field I passed through Mile 1 in 6:01. Feeling very comfortable and right on target. BTW my Garmin recorded my mile pace as 5:50 and avg heart rate 166bpm. The Garmin seemed to be measuring short.
During the following mile I kept passing runners. Although I was beginning to feel the pace I made a point each time that I reached a runner I actually passed him/her and not just run alongside. This may sound like a race tactic but in actuality it was more to do with the way I was feeling i.e. I wasn't sure how long I could keep the pace going so I needed to put a buffer between me and each runner I passed!!
I reached Mile 2 in 11:59 i.e. a 5:58 split. Not bad, I was on target but I was still only half way!! My Garmin pace was 6:00 and 177bpm. Much closer this time.

Mile 3 was much the same but getting tougher (a good sign I suppose). The field was now a bit more spread out but each time I passed someone there seemed to be another target not too far ahead. The Mile 3 marker was passed at 17:54, a mile split of 5:55. Going well.... My Garmin was a bit optimistic showing 5:44 pace and 182bpm.

So that left only one mile to go. My only thought at this point was very simple...I've passed 3 miles in sub-18 (on target) so I would have to slow by more that 30 seconds over the last mile to match last years time. Yes, the thought of easing up crossed my mind (understandable at 180bpm) but I quickly dispelled such urges - there were still one or two places which could be caught. Mile 4 was tough I resisted the urge to look behind but I couldn't hear any footsteps so I thought what the hell go for it....

Rounding the final 90deg corner into the 200m long finishing straight disaster nearly happened!! A van driver decided to pull in - straight in front of me!! However, slowing slightly, I managed to squeeze through on the inside - probably not the safest move as I'm sure the driver had no idea that I was there but I was only 200m from the end of a race - desperate times need desperate measures!!
My legs were going as fast as they could but there was nothing more left in the tank. Then I saw my fan club (Pamela and the girls) so I had to make one last push. Then I saw the clock. Well at least I saw the first two digits (23:XX). Keep it going and you'll get a PB.. I passed under the clock, Mile 4 - 23:29. WOW, a 5:35 last mile and a PB by over a minute in a 4 mile race!! I must have even surprised Mr. Garmin as he couldn't keep up (!!!) - he said 5:48 pace and 187bpm.

Speaking with John Walshe before the race he mentioned that the use of the Garmin in races is keeping him on his toes (he's responsible for the measurement of most of the courses in the Cork -if not the Munster - area). No worries I said, the error will always be in the Garmin and that's why, in a race, I always use the mile markers for pace and not the auto splits.

Still regardless of what Mr. Garmin said about the splits the finishing time is indisputable - 4mile PB - 23:29min (5:52min/mile, avg 178bpm). I don't know what position I came (probably top 40) nor do I know how our team did. The BHAA usually take a few days to publish the results. Once I hear anything I'll update this post.

Today turned out to be my best race since my return to running ('age graded' it's equivalent to 22:51 i.e. only 11 seconds slower than my 1994 time of 22:40). Using this time, McMillan predicts a sub 1:23 half marathon (edging closer to Mike's prediction of sub 1:20!!) and sub 18 for the 5k. So, I'm managing to run fast for 4 miles all I have to do now is figure out how to keep a fast pace going for more than 13 miles!!
A 2-mile warm down with Grellan gave a total of 9 miles for the day and ended a great morning of running.

Week Total (27/10/08 - 02/11/08) - 4 sessions
25.41miles - 3:13:23 - 7:37min/mile - 151bpm

Update 6-11-08
The BHAA race results were finally published today. The RPS team of Tony, Grellan and me came 1st in the Grade C category!! Well done to Grellan for matching his PB within a fortnight of a marathon - I don't think I would be able to walk within 2 weeks of completing a marathon and certainly I would not be able to run a PB race.
My official time was rounded down to 23:33 allowing for the few seconds it took me to cross the start line (but I'm sticking to my recorded time of 23:29 - my Garmin is never wrong!!). There were 284 finishers and my placing was 33rd. Not quite good enough for the top 10% but not bad either. Thanks to all who left congrats comments.


Mike said...

Great, great race!! Every mile faster than the last! Fantastic result. Resting up a bit beforehand probably helped, maybe you're on to something there.

I've got a 4-mile Tempo run on the schedule a week from Wednesday - I'm targeting slightly under sub-6 pace for that effort. Hopefully I can use your race as inspiration to get through what's going to be a very tough workout.

Again - great job, that's a big time PR (sub-1:20 is already getting closer!)

Thomas said...

Blinding fast, congratulations, Brendan. Not bad for someone who didn't fancy running fast.

Michael said...

Congratulations on the race, well done. The shorter races seem to hurt that much more.

Grellan said...

As I said yesterday you're on fire. Great result that should give you bags of confidence.
That's the first momentous occasion this week.

bricey said...

Guys, thanks for the kind words. Yeah it certainly felt like it clicked yesterday. Legs aren't that bad today either so that's another milestone!!

Maybe the fact that 'pre-race' I wasn't really stressing about running fast helped me to run relaxed and stick to the plan - for once!!

Love2Run said...

Wow, that's really cooking for someone that didn't feel up for a race! Maybe just pre-race jitters and it's when you're not nervous that you should start to worry.