Monday, April 8, 2013

Race Report: Mazda Athletic Club 10km

I fell short, but I went for it, that 35 minute 10km.

Leading into the Mazda 10km, I really had no idea what kind of condition I was in with respect to 10km racing. I did a ~7km run on Wednesday at 4:02/km, so steady but not fast and felt okay. On Thursday I did 10x200m at 10km pace with 60 seconds recovery. For such a short distance, I found it difficult to get into race pace and found myself doing the reps at closer to what I guess would be 5km pace for me, 3:27-3:31/km with two outliers, one at 3:15/km and one nailed on at 3:36/km or 36:00 10km pace. I felt okay but just didn't have the rhythm of old. If anything, I felt creaky, spending a lot of time trying to figure out how far out to reach, how quickly to turn my legs, things that I had been taking for granted throughout the year.

Nerves and more nerves

So when I headed out to the Ford Sports and Recreation Centre I was nervous, not from expectation which is what usually happens, and is good nerves, but because I was actually riddled with doubt, something that I haven't experienced probably since that painful 35-41km stretch during Soweto Marathon. Once I dropped down to my preferred distance, I have had the confidence to take on any race, and even if I failed my objective, I would look forward to the next attempt. This time as I went through my warm up, which I aborted quicker than usual, I was almost longing for the the end of the race to be done.

Then at 6:30 the referee announced that there would be a 5 minute delay. Last year this race seemed small to me compared to other races I did. It was mid May, right in Comrades taper so I guess a lot of runners were putting their feet up. Indeed there were just 1600 finishers combined for the 10km and half marathon, smaller than individual distances at most races. I had done the 5km that day and come 2nd despite running, for podium places anyway, a pedestrian 19:25. Now despite leaving home at 5:10 am, with the race venue in suburban terms a stone throw away, I was only parked 40 minutes later. There was a ridiculous queue for the toilets and after the race I even found myself parked in!

A sensible start

Once the start gun was fired it was a mad rush to the first corner and for once I backed off and let the crowd stream past and got into my natural pace. Despite these good intentions it was still a fast opening salvo. I made a point of noting my splits at each of the markers and I passed the first km board in 3:24, identical to the Bonitas 10km Challenge, which didn't quite go according to plan. At least this was a slight downhill. I got to the 2km mark in 6:54, a 3:30 split and then a long stretch of gradual uphill was on hand and my pace drifted into the 3:40s, going through in 10:36, 14:18, 18:02 (3:42, 3:42, 3:44 splits). At least now I could attribute my slowing down to the elevation but I was equally being timid. This was Deloitte-esque, gentle enough. I had hoped to get through 5km in 18:10 so 18:02 was not too bad.

Close but no cigar

From 5km the course got a bit more pleasent as the route leveled off and then we had some nice downhill. I got to 6km in 21:31 with a 3:29 split that was all gravity! At this point though I stopped enjoying the race as we hit the crowd coming up as well sharing the road with some vehicles. It was a bit unsettling as I was pushing myself of cars and trying to to avoid running into people running in the opposite direction The route started climbing again and my splits slowed. I missed the 7km board but hit 8km in 29:01, so 7:30 at 3:45 pace for that stretch. Another 3:45 split followed, going through 9km in 32:46 then I tried to put the hammer down. I didn't feel quite so strong but when I hit the grass again the clock had just ticked over into the 35s and I tried to turn my legs but alas there was nothing like the finish I managed at Deloitte, but a 3:28 last km brought me home in 36:14. The second half was actually less challenging but I was unable to get through it quicker but can't really complain with an 18:12 second half. And truth be told, if you had told me 6 months ago I could string together back to back sub 18:30 5km I would have literally laughed in your face!

Mazda Athletic Club 10km Route Profile
To put the run into perspective, I was only 5 seconds short of the 36:13 I ran at the Bonitas 10km Challenge. While that race was compromised slightly, it was on the coast and ridiculously flat! So to be 1400m higher and contend with 45m elevation gain and get close to a PB is a positive.

That positive vibes aside, I did feel a tinge of disappointment. I'm not inherently competitive, in that I know that this is a work in progress, and so I tend to focus on what I'm doing. I do however notice who finishes in front and behind, and a runner that I have finished ahead of every time we've shared the road since the Great Run race in December, streaked ahead and try as I might I could not bridge the gap. Looking at the gap as they hit the grass I would guess they ran at least 35:55, and that's where I was hoping to be. Having said that I also haven't had the best conditioning in the last three weeks. I felt like I was competing on borrowed time, with training gains from February.

One last positive. I mentioned in that last post that I believe I'm now a 37 min 10km runner. To explain, that means even if I got a call on Friday night to hit a run on the Saturday I think I would back myself to nail a 37 min time and time again, unless the route resembled something like the Mini Monster. What is interesting though is that out of the seven 10km races I have run this year four  have been quicker than 37:00.
  1. McCarthy Toyota 37:27
  2. Tuks Bestmed 37:01
  3. Deloitte Pretoria 36:50
  4. Kosmos 3-in-1 38:32
  5. Om Die Dam 36:36
  6. Bonitas 10km Challenge 36:13
  7. Mazda 10km 36:14
And adding the post Soweto 10km races from last year:
  1. Kollonade Retail Park 38:22
  2. Tom Jenkins 42:13 (something fishy with this one as I clocked 40:53 on my watch, and there's a 40:53 in the results, but there was a huge storm and some 5km runners had infiltrated the 10km finished queue)
  3. Great Run 37:34 (my clock time was 37:46)
  4. Old Year's 38:25
So in 11 10km races since Soweto, 1x 40:xx, 3x 38:xx, 3x 37:xx and 4x 36:xx

With just one more 10km penciled in before a short winter break that will lead into base training through the bulk of the cold season, I'm hoping for a solid 5 weeks of training that will allow me to add a 35:xx to that list of times, and begin the shift towards targeting that sub 35:00 10km in the Spring/Summer that is the ultimate prize for me in 2013! 

Before that I have a half marathon to worry about. Yikes!

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