Up & Down & Back Again

It’s been quite eventful in terms of my running taking on a race at a rate of one a month, with varying levels of success.

Starting off was the 10km Sri Chinmoy Yarra Boulevard. On a humid February day, I was hopeful of a 45 minute run, though I struggled to hold the pace in the second half of the race, and the humidity was testing everyone. I finished with a time of 46:11, which is almost my best time in a 10km race, though I have been proven to run much faster in longer races (examples such as City2Sea 2013).  An interesting takeaway from the race was that since Two Bays, my running cadence (stride rate) has increased from close to 160-170 steps/minute to 190-200 steps/minute, although running the race with intent had reduced it slightly to, which is closer to the recommended stride rate of around 180. (As a side note, the stride rate is taken from my watch so the accuracy is debatable if movement is calculated from the swing of my arm. At present my average stride rate is somewhere in the 190 mark. )

Run for the Kids marked my first return to the race in 2 years, after opting to pursue (ultimately fail) running the Canberra Marathon last year.  The course this year is 15.5km, and I was very happy with how my race unfolded – the plan was to start slow, running the first 5km in about 24 minutes, and then accelerate from there and hopefully finish under 1:10. As it turned out I ran the first 5km in about 23:45 and managed to pick up speed, from there mostly once we had gotten over the Bolte Bridge. It must be said it’s quite a privilege as a runner to have roads closed and run across to have views that are otherwise not accessible by foot. I think mentally I race better knowing there are hundreds and thousands of people alongside me, as I was able to run with the masses and keep up my pace, finishing with a time of 1:10:42 and giving me a good benchmark to measure my future racing this year.

That following Thursday I made my debut on the track, with the Victorian Running Network hosting the event from Box Hill Athletics Club. By then I had mostly recovered from Run for the Kids and was more or less treating this as a workout as opposed to a race. Group D 3000m, and was aiming to run at a pace of 4min/km. Nonetheless  I was happy with my effort, though watching everyone else race made me aware of how much further I could improve, watching member of my running club and also national representative Eloise Wellings run an A-qualifier for the 5000m. I’m of the philosophy that if I can tighten my game over the shorten distances, I can translate that to better training and racing across the longer distances.

Geelong Half however was not one of my better performances. It was disappointing after heading into it I felt I was running well, and in an ambitious position to run a PB. I was on track running, crossing the halfway mark at about 48 minutes, but at that point I was slowing down from my 4:30/km pace down to 4:45/km, my left quad was getting fatigued and I suspect the gel I had taken was making my stomach uncomfortable. The plan was to get a bit of extra juice to chase that PB, by having one at 7km and another at 14km. Unfortunately I had miscalculated where the drink station was going to be and by 11km I had broken down, hobbling and trying to salvage what I could to finish 1:47 instead.

The lesson was that if you have a preferred method and plan of racing you should stick by it. It was a little disheartening to have such a bad race after training and preparing so well, though once the race was done there were quite a few things that came to light. The most immediate issue I put it down to was a lack of sleep. The more pressing issue was that in my pursuit for a PB, I abandoned my usual running mentality and approach of starting slower and accelerating in the later stages of the race in favour of setting the pace hard and seeing for how long I would be able to hold it.