Thursday, June 12, 2014

Confounded by unexpected tactics

Last Saturday I was thinking of having another crack at my Parkrun 5k PB (22:52) — until I commenced my warm-up jog with Andy. I couldn't coax the legs into anything resembling warm and fluid movement. The temperature was 2 degrees Celsius. I was cold! I put aside the PB attempt and decided to take the race as it came, running fast if my legs were agreeable and most importantly, finishing ahead of my rival Jim.

After the pre-race briefing I positioned myself in my usual spot, 10 to 15 metres behind the start line. The Tuggeranong Parkrun uses a 'chute system' to produce a clean start for all runners. We line up in a chute that's about six runners wide, self-seeding according to expected finish time. The front two rows would be for sub-20 minute runners. Jim usually lines up on row thee while my habit is to stand about 8 to 10 runners back from the front row. I was in my grid slot when Jim walks in at the last minute and stands right behind me. What's going on here? I was confounded by his unexpected tactics. He should be up ahead — the hunted!

The race starts and after three or four seconds we're off and running. Jim ambles along beside me. Is he just having an easy run? An off day? Then after 100 metres or so he overtakes on my right, taking to the grass. There he goes! But he doesn't — he just runs nice and steadily (as is my custom), a metre or so ahead. Then he's on my left side; then ahead again as we zig-zag around the corners near McDonalds. As we run under the bridge at 1k I sense Jim is slowing so I ease ahead. I'm more than a little surprised when he surges decisively past just 500 metres later. Just after the 2k mark his pace falters and I move ahead once again. Stay behind, will you?!

At the U-turn on the out-and-back course I see that the elastic hasn't stretched that much. I'm worried. I have no idea of our pace, as I'm running by feel. I can see John up ahead (on his way to a PB) and Andy in the far distance (he'd run 22:24, a time I hope to achieve before too long). My major goal is to keep Jim behind — knowing that he likes to run a fast last 500 metres I decide to push hard from the footbridge, which is about 1.5k from the finish. The only runner within striking distance ahead is Kelly, pushing her daughter in a stroller (and she's already stopped a couple of times during the run!). My 'run hard from a long way out' tactic is successful — I finish 4 seconds behind Kelly and 6 seconds ahead of Jim. Woohoo! Time was 23:18 which I'll put down to the cold weather. Splits were good once again — 4:44, 4:42, 4:39, 4:37 and 4:36. I'll need a warmer day for a serious PB attempt. 10 degrees and sunny would be nice.

Racing scared (and cold), with Jim out of sight behind

Warming down with Brian (22:30 and 34-minute 10k runner in the 'old days') and Andy (22:24)


Blogger TokyoRacer said...

Well done. I've already forgotten what cold weather is like.
In the June 7-8 edition, the NY Times Weekend Travel featured "36 hours in Canberra, Australia."
I'm looking forward to going there and hanging out at the Lonsdale Street Roasters, the Rum Bar and Silo, where "the earlier the better for a bit of a scene, including Canberra singles eating brioche at a wooden bench between the cheese room and the marble counter." I guess that's where I'll find you, Ewen.

11:38 pm  
Blogger Thomas said...

Too much thinking, mate. Leave your brain at home when you run a 5k!

11:53 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Wow, the New York Times - Canberra has made it! That's where you'll find me Bob. I'm right in with the cafe latte set. In the old days Lonsdale Street was garages and car yards. I used to frequent a motorcycle tyre shop, sadly long gone.

Good one Thomas! I thought 'leaving the brain at home' was a requirement of 100 mile races ;-)

5:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good running, Ewen! Got back to Cbr yesterday and nearly froze solid on a run up on the ridge...[Miranda]

11:12 am  
Blogger Mark Watson said...

Jim has obviously been secretly following your blog! I'd reconsider making public your battle plans. Keep them to yourself. On the other hand it might be the perfect opportunity to throw him the odd curve ball. Now to set your sights on Kelly.

11:30 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Miranda. I'll blame Geoff for bringing back the rain ;-)

Mark, you could be right. I thought Jim's wife handled all the computer work in their household. Perhaps she's been passing on my secrets?! Unfortunately Kelly's an impossible target - she runs well under 20 minutes sans stroller. Bloody young'uns!

6:16 pm  
Blogger Black Knight said...

Very good finishing time with a negative split. Beautiful place to run, it looks like the Atlantic Wharf in Cardiff.

3:09 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

That's my idea of a perfect run, Ewen. One where each split is faster than the last. Well done!

11:23 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Stefano. It is a beautiful place - we're lucky to have it for our Parkrun.

Paul, thanks. Having each k faster was a bit of a fluke, although this course is great for practising even splits as it's so flat.

3:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you find that you have become the hunted, a strong early kick and a negative split is the right strategy. Maybe it’s not as much fun as being the hunter but it good to have a few tricks in your repertoire.
It sounds as if next time John should be the quarry, with the hunt producing parkrun PBs for both of you

1:53 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Canute, that's a good point. When going for a PB I should hunt runners who are reliable 22:30 to 23:00 runners, such as Brian or John. I should also practise contrary tactics such as starting fast (heaven forbid!) or running the middle kilometres fast.

8:19 pm  
Blogger Karla Bruning said...

Great work! Love that Jim switched up his tactics and you rolled with it. Agree--2 is a bit cold for my tastes or really getting those muscles warm enough for a fast 5K. 10 sounds perfect!

9:55 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Karla. Now that Jim has tried unexpected tactics I'll be ready for him! It'll be another 2 months before we might jag a 10C Parkrun morning. Can't wait!

8:14 pm  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

Well done again Ewen. Good to hear you had to vary your tactics, keeps the racing mind sharp and ticking over. The splits suggest you wound up well for the end, and setting sail for the end with 1.5km to go sounds like a great strategy... When I was at school a few decades ago one of my main rivals in Xcountry races around 8km was a stronger runner than me, but I knew I could easily outkick him in a sprint finish, so I used to work hard like Jim from behind at staying in touch with him, as I knew if I was close enough I'd get him at the end. The other way to beat him was to blow him away at the start so he never got in front anyhow, but that was hard because he also used to try and do that, except in a more sustained manner than I could. Changes of pace (surges) were another tactic because the aim was to try and wear out his sustained stronger/faster pace, so he was too busy recovering from covering the surge to settle into a faster rhythm, so I still had him in range at the end for the sprint finish seagull effort. So you may want to try starting a bit stronger to try and lose your shadow early if he starts behind again, otherwise you rely on the kick from 1.5k or 2k to get it done... The other thing that comes into this of course is that your main goal is to improve your time, beating Jim is a secondary goal, a tool towards that end. So if changing your tactics a lot is necessary to beat Jim, you might find that in order to achieve that secondary goal your time suffers, I can remember my racewalking coach saying that in championship races, its about beating people to get the gold medal or on the podium at least but in other races its more about working to your individual strengths, beating others is good if it helps you improve your time, but if to beat others your time is going to suffer, it may be better to ignore some people, and find others to try and feed off to improve the time. You may find that if you cam go with some of the 22min runners, not only will you improve your time, but you may also beat Jim easily, but either way thats a secondary goal so doesn't matter... So in essence the unexpected tactics are a distraction from the main goal.... The biggest problem I have with cold weather is that in longer races I tend to find I drink way too much water/sportsdrink, because my hydration needs are lessened as body core temperature takes longer to go up while running in cold weather... I guess the solution maybe to warm up with more intensity, and for longer... We have had a few 1degree to 5 degree type mornings in Perth this month, but I'm sure Canberra trumps us in the cold weather stakes...But we will get them in the hot weather stakes... ;-)

12:19 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Jonathon. Interesting to read about your experiences with tactics and running for fast times. Wish I had your ability to start fast and cope with that - my legs just don't want to do it (esp in the cold). Probably comes from doing no faster than race-pace running. I plan to address that - maybe on the treadmill at the gym.

4:42 pm  
Blogger Raina R. said...

I loved reading your race tactics! It's the jogging stroller moms you really need to watch for. They are full of distraction and very sneaky on the downhills.
Well done, Ewen!

4:09 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

I know Raina - we have some very fast jogging stroller mums down here!

9:01 pm  
Blogger Lize Brittin said...

Hey, hey! Nice job on that one.

4:19 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Lize! Love racing!

11:00 am  

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