The Curse of the Course

As I mentioned in the blog last week, I’d earmarked this as a week to drop the mileage and up the speed, hoping for a good time at the Dewsbury 10K today.

Part of the plan was to run really hard at the Tuesday night club speed session.  It was a rare pyramid session this week (we only run them if there’s a fifth Tuesday in the month). The structure was two sets of 2 mins / 3 mins / 5 mins / 3 mins / 2 mins with a 25% rest between efforts (e.g. 30 seconds after 2 minutes) and 3 minutes rest between the sets.

I was fit enough to really get into it and fortunately a few of our swifter lads put in an appearance. It helps to have someone to race against in sessions. I ran most of the reps at well under 6 minute mile pace, some of the shorter ones nearer to 5 minute mile pace. It felt good to running fast again.

For the remainder of the week, the running was easy with just a medium run of 11 miles – a mini Tour de Roundhay and Alwoodley on Wednesday afternoon.  I started that run just before 5 p.m. and encouragingly, in daylight, which tickled my spirits a tad.

I did some thinking about how I should approach the race on Sunday.  In the past, I have been guilty of not preparing as well as I could.  I’m usually good at summoning effort during the race, but I’m sure other aspects of preparation, the so-called ‘marginal gains’, have been overlooked or not executed particularly well.

I did some snuffling around on the internet, reading about the mental approaches of great runners.  I found an article about Emil Zatopek, the only ever winner of the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon at the same Olympics (1952) (and he only ran the marathon as an afterthought).

A legendary hard man, during a race he would say to himself “When it hurts, you must go faster”. I thought I would remember that one and maybe see if I could use it on Sunday.

I also bought my customary supply of pre-race nitro-glycerin (aka a carton of organic Beetroot Juice).   I resisted the temptation to run much towards the end of the week, forcing myself to jog around Roundhay parkrun on Saturday by donning the 24 minute pacer bib.

I hoped for chilly and still day for Dewsbury and that’s exactly what we got. I may have overindulged a tad on the Beetroot juice, resulting a few nervous moments in the long queue for the toilets.  Annoyingly this meant I could only fit in a short 1 mile warm up, I’d planned to do at least twice that.

Another mental approach I thought I would try was to break the race down into three blocks of 3 K. The first should feel fairly easy when it is important to relax. The second 3K starts to hurt and it’s important to concentrate and the third 3K is when it hurts like hell and it’s about suffering. Oh, and that leaves the 1K bit at the end when you just give it everything and empty the tanks.

I wriggled towards the front of the starting pen and after the off I was across the start line in fewer than 2 seconds. I spotted a few of my regular rivals in the first mile – Duncan from Abbey Runners, Michelle from Gatehead (fellow England age-grouper), with whom I ran for a long way at the Yorkshire marathon, and John Robson from St Theresa’s.

Annoyingly, the easy first 3K section didn’t feel as easy as I’d hoped. I pride myself on pacing – I often play a game with myself by trying to guess the pace I am running before looking down at the Garmin (I’m usually spot on). During the second K, I thought I was running at maybe 3:36 per km pace, yet the watch showed 3:42 – not good.

The outbound 5K of the simple out and back course is slightly uphill, so I anticipated running a negative split. By halfway, it was more than a little disconcerting that I was heading for a grand slam positive split – my km times were deteriorating progressively – 3.39, 3.40, 3.42,3.44 and 3.46.

I remember seeing a sign saying “50 m to the turnaround”, then I ran past the 5K sign and I still had about 100m metres to the turnaround. Strange, I thought – the race starts and finishes at the same point, surely the 5 K point should be at the turnaround…

At the 5K marker, John Robson came bounding past me. Michelle was ahead, with a 12 second lead on me (I’d measured it as she ran past a road sign); she was going very well, clearly engaged in a race with another leading lady.

By the turnaround, John had taken a few metres out of me.  I had a stern word with myself and regained some focus. I upped the cadence and gradually reeled him in and then went past strongly.

We were running slightly downhill on the return 5K and running felt freer. Aerobically, it felt really hard, but that’s what 10K racing is all about.

I was definitely moving more quickly – kilometre 6 was run in 3.31, 7 in 3.28 and 8 in 3.30.  I realised that I was catching Michelle. As she passed another street sign, I measured the gap again – down to 6 seconds. However, my agony was mounting.  It was time to summon up the spirit of Zatopek. I started playing his mantra over in my head when it hurts, go faster.

With 1 km to go I was grunting and gasping with every breath – I was on Michelle’s shoulder. It was very tempting to sit in and just try to beat her in a sprint, but I decided to go past her strongly and really suffer for last three minutes of effort.

I finished in 36:39 (official chip time), but in common with many other runners I clocked the course at well over distance – 6.34 miles – or 209 metres long.

Strava record

From Strava gossip and other social media, many other runners clocked the course long. My running pace was 5:47 per mile, faster than the pace I ran when I set my 10K PB (36:06 at Salford in 2015 – 5:50 per mile). I think the Salford course was found to be a tiny bit short and my Garmin says I ran my fastest ever 10K today with a 36:01.

Oh well, whatever – it was the same for everyone, but it is a little frustrating to miss out on a PB.

I was delighted with my run, I went deep and finished absolutely exhausted (for a few seconds I thought I may see my breakfast again). It augurs well for my upcoming target races – the Snake Lane 10 miler, the Bath Half Marathon and the Salford 10K.If I stay fit, I’d love to go sub 80mins at Bath and sub 36 at Salford.

It’s time to up the mileage again next week – hopefully another 70+ week.

LM -11 weeks

46.8 miles, longest run 11.1 miles

Parkrun 23.54 (pacing, Roundhay)

Weight 11 St 1.0 lbs

Aerobic efficiency 989 beats per mile

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One thought on “The Curse of the Course

  1. Pingback: The Upstanding Member for Dewsbury | Run For Your Money

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