This morning I'm still beaming from another uplifting race weekend. After my 15km two weeks ago, I posted about the S-curve and were I felt I was in the scheme, and also the impending plateau when I'll have to start working a lot harder for just a few seconds gain. Right now though I need to just keep on training and just riding the crest of this crazy wave I'm on until it's loses steam.
To be honest, I haven't necessarily felt any faster since that 15km. I put in two quality speed sessions since then. On the 12th, I use what is possibly the only useful bit of flat on WITS main campus to do short intervals. It's approximately 300m. I did six repeats aiming for 60 seconds and I did them all in 59-61 seconds, jogging back to the start as recovery. This past week I was on leave so I took the opportunity after dropping my son off at school to do some quality. On Monday, I submitted my entry for the Runner's World 1km Challenge, doing that in 3:22. It surprised me actually how difficult one all out kilometre is but considering in February doing an 800m in 3:05 was too much for me it's a lot of progress. On Tuesday morning I hit the track, and did 5 X 400m aiming for 80s, and once again I was consistent doing one at 79, one at 82 and the remainder on the money. I finished off the session with an 800m and managed 2:44. On Thursday I headed back to Centurion for the Nike+ Run Club aiming to really let fly now that I know the course. I covered the ~3.5km loop in 13:14, 3:46, which I was chuffed with considering that at times when navigating the mall bits it's almost an almost course and there is some human traffic to contend with.
All that fast stuff did mean that I was a little jaded come Saturday morning when it was time for the Take 5 Team Relay at the Waterkloof Airbase. And when it started to drizzle on the way there I was feeling a bit gloomy. The rain cleared away and even though there was a chill in the air it was pleasant. And with the route being the flattest that I have ever witnessed at a race fast times were there for the taking. My only concern was the changeover area which as I guessed would get cluttered but thankfully I was doing the first leg so it wasn't going to be too bad.
The race was scheduled for an 8am start, another boon as the extreme chill of the morning was almost certainly gone. This was only my third 5km and I'm still none the wiser as to how to approach the distance. It's almost certainly too short to have a strategy but equally go out too fast or too slow and there are consequences. A 10km makes sense, steady for 4km, hit optimum pace to 7km then give it horns to the finish!
Once the gun went, there was the obligatory battling with walkers and joggers who had pushed to the front. By the time we got off the grass and onto the tar thankfully we had cleared them. There were some serious looking athletes and those pesky juniors that have endless pace, and I got sucked into that early pace. Then came the first panic. My watch hit 4:00 and there was no sign of the 1 km mark. But already I was breathing quite heavily. At 8 minutes so 2 km mark. My Nike+ foot sensor is optimized for my easy training pace of around 4:55-5:00 min/km so it under measures at race pace so that was no use. The water point was coming up and that was supposed to be halfway but I check the time, 9:57 as I pass through. Now I'm getting tired and double my time is 19:54, surely not.
I soldiered on but the one glimmer of hope was that I still hadn't lost sight of the lead bike. It was starting to get further and further away but after 12 minutes I could see it at a bend in the corner of my eye. At 15 minutes I see the Sportsman's Warehouse balloons for the changeover point and I can here the announcer calling the team numbers. So close. As I'm about to hit the grass with the finish in sight, my clock hits 17:00. Another 'surely not' moment. I stride to the finish, I can hear my dad cheer me on, see my wife pull out of the change over area, hand her the baton and stop my clock.
No freaking way!!!!! My first instinct is not to celebrate but to question the route. It must be short surely, must be. I play this silly game in my head until the end of the race. My father ran the last leg. He was recovering from a cold so didn't go all out but planned to hit 4:00 min/km and then finish strong. His experienced legs can dial a pace almost at will and sure enough he finished in 19:30, with no qualms about the distance.
So an new PB. I'm still over the moon. A 1:36 improvement and managing 3:34 pace over 5km is something I would not have imagined in February, never mind June last year. I think it might have just been once of those days, 1) weather was perfect 2) it was as flat as a pancake 3) the pace was hot at the start and I got into the mix and just hung on.
Of course I have been doing a lot of hard training and it's giving back now. My average for the last 7 weeks since the week of Wally Hayward and Jackie Melker has been 46km, with weekly totals ranging from 41 km to 51 km. That has been a mix of speedwork (intervals and tempo sessions) on Tuesday, hills on Thursday and 12-16 km long runs on Sunday. So while for me it has been conditioning and preparing my body for the rigours of the marathon training that is still to come, another way to look at it is that I have been doing an intensive 8 week 10km program like the sort you would find on Runner's World. Indeed I'm doing a 10km race on Saturday and this is now the 8th week since that double header week.
I'm looking forward to Saturday's race and like the last two races I'm going to give it my all and just let the legs go. Then I have another two weeks before I start focussing on the marathon from the 16th July.