Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Tale of Two Races

One negative consequence of weekly racing is that one runs a fair chance of not being fully recovered for the race. If the race goes badly one can tip off the knife-edge of 'satisfactory performance' in a big way. Such was the case for me in my most recent 3000 metre track event on Thursday night. I had one of those races most runners would have experienced — starting at what seemed like a reasonable effort (a 4:21 first kilometre), then feeling my speed agonizingly drain away prior to a feeble attempt at a sprint finish to break... no, not 12:40 or 13:00, but 13-bloody-20! 13:19.98 to be exact. A second km of 4:30 was followed by a 4:29. The experience of having runner after runner go by and not being able to do anything about it is fairly sobering.

The funny thing is, just a week earlier I enjoyed a positive race experience. This was in the YCRC 'Spring Series' 5k road event (Boathouse East), out and back by the Molonglo River. Strangely, I had a quite awful warm-up jog with Speedygeoff. Legs were so tired and lifeless that when Geoff suggested he was going to run a tempo effort "5 minutes per kilometre sounds good", I decided to tag along.

The start was on a wide sandy beach for about 100 metres before the course narrowed to a 2-person bike path. So there was a bit of a rush initially to position ourselves into a roughly sensible order. I felt we were running quicker than 'fives', but went with the flow, staying with a loose pack that included Geoff, Robert, Graeme, Bob, Lucy and Emily. My Garmin beeped at 1k and I took a quick glance — 4:26! "I thought you said 'fives' Geoff!" With that I decided to ignore the watch and to actually race the race. I'm so glad I did that. I really enjoyed myself.

I relaxed and thought about tactics. Do I stay with this group for a while longer? Try to bridge a gap now? That sort of thing. We were running with a tailwind (in our faces for the second half), which also made tactics important. Up ahead I could see my old rival Jim, ultra expert Pam, and a young girl named Hannah. I managed to keep what felt like a fast/smooth rhythm going to the turn-around while steeling myself for the effort against the headwind. Geoff meanwhile, had disappeared out of sight. Obviously four-thirties was too slow for his tempo effort! I gradually gained ground on Jim, catching him at the last little rise with 1k to go. Pam was next, then Hannah. The youngster rallied and we were virtually side by side for the last 500 metres. Rounding the Boathouse we met the full force of the headwind and the prospect of a sprint-finish on the beach. I could also see the clock relentlessly clicking over (as clocks do), and realised we'd be under 23 minutes. Wow, that's not bad in these conditions! I fired up the fast-twitch muscles and gave it all I had. Hannah was up for it though and with a final surge, beat me to the line. The nerve! We'd both run 22:48.

Us on Red Hill
A long run of 13k with Andy and Ruth yesterday included plenty of stops for phone photos.


Blogger Janene said...

Good run on the YCRC 5K Ewen! Darn those youngsters, yes the nerve of them! ;-). As for that 3000m, you did fail to mention the not so good running conditions. It was blustery and not friendly for someone like you who can't really draft behind those of us who are short arses! Getting some shelter from the wind does help. Based on your racing pattern, you should be in for a blinder next week :o)

1:56 pm  
Blogger Two Fruits said...

Sometimes it's best to leave the clock at home and just run the race. Best fun ever is a tactical track race, get the sit, stay in touch, then sprint around the outside to hit the line in front. Much better than running against the clock.

8:20 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Janene. Yeah, those kids should have more respect for their elders! Good point about the wind. I need Amanda running just ahead of me.

Agree with that 2F. I'm going to try and ignore the clock from now on.

8:44 pm  
Blogger Two Fruits said...

Missed you by an hour this afternoon. Lane 5 in great condition for bare feet running. Had to dodge a few golf balls, but Ok.

8:54 pm  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

I think it just shows (yet again) that the analysis of running is indeed an imprecise sports science. It's just lucky that for most of us the love of running is in the trying - ie, trying to run better and trying to work out the best training/racing formula for us.

Remember though, a good race is a good race, and a disappointing race is an awesome training run :)

You are running well!!

9:06 pm  
Blogger Robert James Reese said...

You didn't mention it explicitly, but I think you figured it out; a positive consequence of weekly racing is that you can chalk a bad race up to being just that -- a bad race. You know you ran well just two weeks ago, so you don't have to stress out about the 3K. Just chalk it up to something being off that day.

11:07 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

If only all our races could be good one!
Yet it's the bad ones that drive us on to greater things right?
Your race last week sounded really exciting!
Don't dwell on that bad race , learn from it and move ahead :0]
Keep positive Even old boy.

12:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done. Your duel with Hannah calls to mind your epic duels with Lily in the 3000m and 800m a few years ago. The lack of respect that these young lassies show for age is of course absolutely the right thing. Racing is by definition a competition. While the most important competition is between yourself and your imagined self, it is easier to calibrate the effort required to match an opponent that to match an intangible imagined self, so a youngster who steps up the pace to meet your challenge is to be celebrated. But you were already in the magic zone by the halfway mark. However it is not really a magic zone, it is a zone of confidence in your running. In contrast, you struggled to find that zone in the 3000m the following week. The interesting challenge is discovering how to create that zone of confidence. Background issues such as recent working hours and degree of recovery for recent training play a large, part but mental strategy is also important. Perhaps in the YCRC 5Km you were running ‘in the moment’, focussing on the immediate experience of running and racing with minimal concern about final time.

5:22 am  
Blogger Grellan said...

I've never raced at that frequency but would imagine that it would have it's highs and lows. Although your alternative reality could have read ........."One positive consequence of weekly racing is that one runs a fair chance of having a great race", that and the fact that you don't need to do any speedwork in training.

7:10 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a very hard time stringing together good performances two weeks in a row, so when I have a good race one week, I've learned to lower my expectations for the next week. In fact, I keep my expectations so low that sometimes I find myself pleasantly surprised when I exceed them.

I like Two Fruits' comment to kick the watch to the curb every so often. That has brought a lot of joy into racing for me... just getting out there and seeing who you can hang with, instead of getting caught up in splits, is such a fun way to race... particularly during a season when you're racing every week.

7:48 am  
Blogger Thomas said...

Obviously you would not race a marathon that frequently, but I don't think there is a issue as long as you stick to 3k and 5k races.

Sonia O'Sullivan used to race 3 times a week at her peak during racing season, including travelling, and she ran like the devil.

8:51 am  
Blogger Girl In Motion said...

Love that there was a yin to this yang. I can totally see that being a fallout of weekly racing. Still, it's great that you preceded it with a high week so you don't get weirded out by a race that doesn't meet your expectations.

I'm really enjoying your racing adventures, keep 'em comin'! :)

3:29 pm  
Blogger Black Knight said...

You ran a very good 5 km despite the difficult conditions and this effort, I think, has influenced the second race. It is not easy to finish 2 races in a row at our best. Consider the 2nd one as a very fast workout.
I don't succeed in not watching the clock.
Glad you have found the time for the photos during the 13 km.

7:13 pm  
Blogger plu said...

Hi Ewen,

I find if you start near the back you get to pass people rather than being passed. That said - I would love to run some of those times now and then.

cheers Martin

7:32 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

2F, agree - the grass is in perfect nick - but getting a bit long out in lanes 5 and 6.

Jog, thanks. Very true about the imprecise science of running. Yes, that's right - a slow race still has a good training effect (as long as one doesn't let it damage the brain ;)

Robert, that's right. If I was only racing monthly it'd be a long wait for redemption!

Rick, totally agree about the bad races producing the best motivation!

Canute, yes, love it when the youngsters 'go hard or go home'. I think 'racing by feel' rather than by the watch might help me run 'in the moment'. Faster times might be a consequence of better racing.

Grellan, ah yes - the optimist's view! Short races ARE pretty good speedwork too.

SK, yes, 2F comes up with some good suggestions every now and then. That was one of them! I like the way you race.

Thomas, you 'race' marathons pretty frequently ;) Yes, Sonia was a brilliant racer. I didn't know she raced that frequently.

Flo, thanks. My even temperament helps me not to get 'weirded out' ;)

Thanks Stefano. I only took photos to make Ruth and Andy stop running!

Martin, your Nepean result tells me you're not far off running fast times. Starting at the back is slightly dangerous on the track because of the large range of abilities. Starting 'in the middle' usually works for me, but not this time!

9:28 pm  
Blogger Lize Brittin said...

Congratulations on the YCRC 5K! I used to like to train with the watch and leave it behind for races.

2:46 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Lize. I'm coming round to liking that method too.

9:57 pm  

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