Great in theory, but before my first 10km race I have been eager to just feel my way around a race to see how I was getting along. Two weekends ago I manged to attend the closest parkrun to me at Ebotse. I did the course once before sometime in the middle of Soweto training as a breather from the long stuff and put in a respectable 19:57. This time, with the shackles of high volume training thrown off I was able to put in a good performance running my second fastest 5km, finishing in 18:22. This was interesting to me because while my PB is 17:49 for the distance I have frankly never looked like coming close to it and I was starting to believe that it was a once off performance. But of course to nail my goal for the year I would have to not only match that time but probably start heading into the low 17s and high 16s. The Ebotse course is approximately 3km on grass and as I have learnt from doing my speed sessions on a cricket oval, grass is kind on the joint but is was more taxing than an all weather track or the road. So I had good reason to believe that on a similarly flat course on the road I could run a good time for 5km.
The opportunity came around this past weekend at the Johnson Crane race, a big affair with an estimated 6000 runners doing the various events from a 1km kiddies to the marathon. With my wife doing the half marathon I would be at the venue, Old Benonians, so I entered the 5km. The marathon and half marathon went off first and 30 minutes later, the 10.5km, quarter marathon and 5km would be off. I was to see a legend of South African running Frith van de Merwe also toeing the start, she was ultimately the first veteran female in the 10.5km.
As the gun went off I was honestly unsure how to run the race. A 10km I typically try and restrain myself, but with only 5000 metres, I didn't apply the brakes much. The start was frenetic and I was sucked into a pace that I knew I would be difficult to sustain, so I did sit back a little and try and pick off people in front of me. In a blur the 1km board came past and I checked my watch, 3:25, yikes. By this stage I had calmed down and was in a nice rhythm, long but quick strides (at least that's how I imagined a spectator would describe it). The 2km board came round and it was 6:50 odd, the Garmin would show 6:57, and it was spot on with the boards distance wise. The 10.5km runners would split with us at the 3km point which came just after a water point. As I do in short races I skipped it and checked my time, 10:34 or something like.
Suddenly the crowd thinned out to the point where I could see no one in front of me. I looked back and just the water point disappearing in front. Eventually after about a minute or so, I saw the lead car up ahead and a runner clad in Nedbank runners just behind. I just focused in keeping him in my sights and I was surprised that I felt strong. There were no more distance marking so I just kept on going, and as Old Bens came into view just pushed harder.
I stopped the clock and was a bit alarmed to see it at 16:09 and then the realization that route was a fair bit short. The Garmin had measured 4.62km. It was spot on up to 2km at least and certainly not far off at the 3km mark so that was close to the correct distance. Working back 16:09 is 3:30/km pace and I was feeling really strong so anywhere from 17:25-17:30 was possible on the day.
At the end of the day, I think I got exactly what I wanted out of the exericise, other than a new 5km PB! I raced hard and got a meaningful guage of how my training is going. My PB for 10km at the moment stands at 37:34 which predicts a 5km time of around 18:05. So to have finished close to 5km in race conditions at 3:30/km it means my speed has improved.
Next weekend is the first of three goal 10km races, the McCarthy Toyota race at Rietondale Park. The Old Years race that I did last year in scorching heat started from the same venue. I feel a lot better now having put myself to the test at shorter race distances that I can have a good race which will hopefully end in a new 10km PB. Certainly whatever happens I feel like the building blocks are being put into place and there's a lot of improvements to come as the season progresses.