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)