Monday, February 24, 2014

Race Report: Gift of the Givers Township 10 km

It's felt like an age but this weekend I finally raced in anger over my favourite distance. My last attempt at a race over 10 km was a disaster, the WeRunJozi race, which ended a streak of double figure sub 40:00 races stretching back to November 2012. It also put me out of action for three weeks with a calf strain. The build up thus far has been gradual, and in reality I'm still building up with no serious hard running a faster than race pace in store for a while I allow my weakened body to come to pace with training and racing consistently.

There hasn't been an absence of niggle of course which I guess comes with the territory. In fact this past week of all weeks I suffered what seemed like shin splints. There's a first time for everything but on my first run of the week I had the most of awful pain in the muscles around my tibia and tightness around my thigh and knee. Not again! Other than some soreness in my foot after an off-road run at the end of December 2013 I had an almost flawless build up. I increased mileage gradual from around 40 km/week up to a peak of 78 km/week, a lot of running for me. For 13 weeks I did not miss a single planned run. But curiously as soon as picked up the pace of my running the struggles began. I do think a part of it was overeagerness on my part. While I have developed the discipline now through the assistance of wearing a heart rate monitor for the first 8 weeks of my build up to run at the correct effort of normal training runs, as soon as I increased the intensity of the runs I also started chasing the clock.

To fast, too soon.

At the back of my mind I have a fading but still obvious memory of the run I was in the first half of last year. As I plateaued to a regular 'faster than 37:00' 10 km runner I had hoped to kick on and chase a new high which has yet to materialize. In training I have felt through each stop-start the form disappearing, culminating in that disappointing 40:34 at the WeRunJozi race, a shadow of my former self.

So it is with that memory that the eagerness to get back there consumes me, while forgetting that the journey there was for the most part 24 months of painstaking building of mileage and strength until I could tolerate the kind of training that got me running faster than I ever imagined I could.

So with my body showing signs of cracking, my coach cancelled the rest of the running for the week and it was about injury lock-down. Strength work, stretching, icing, the works. By the end of the week I was able to do a very easy 8 km on Friday morning and a 30 minute shake out run on Saturday morning and felt okay for once.

At this point I must confess that while I am good at running day after day if needs be, strength work is something else entirely. It's difficult and it never gets easier and I generally slack off with it. My issues now were definitely muscle imbalance issues. As the pain subsisded I could feel the tightness in the tibialis anterior muscle, my quads were tight too, my glutes and mild ITB aggravation. This morning for example I can feel definite improvements after a week of diligence. So I have now endeavoured to roster in my maintenance work. Just like I know I'll be a session of 4x2000m at a moderate effort level followed by 15 minutes of 100m strides with full recovery, so I'll pencil in the ITB Rehab routine I do after the run as well as a core workout in the evening. This was a scare that could have derailed my season as it was starting and I will not let it happen again.

With the Gift of the Givers Township race being held in Eldorado Park, it meant a very early start driving through from Pretoria, up at 3:30 am to get ready. We arrived at the venue at 5:30 am, just enough time to go through a warm up. With the niggles it wasn't my ful warm up, just some light stretching, followed by a 3 km jog that included a ramping up of pace and finishing off with a few 30-60 second surges at race pace. The start was delayed a bit so I could have probably fitted a bit more of a warm up in but I was getting edgy and the nerves were building.

At 6:12 am the starters gun finally went off. With the 10 km, half marathon and marathon starting together, it was a frantic getaway and there were almost a few accidents but thankfully no one fell. The early pace was frenetic and I glanced down at my watch and it was indicating a pace of 3:15/km!!! I had to back off but in the crowd it was difficult but I slowed down enough to cross the 1 km mark a 3:36 (1 km was 3:31 on my watch). The was a bit of a pull to 2 km so my pace dropped a little passed got through in around 7:20, so a 3:44 km. Another quick section followed, around a 3:40 km split and then there was very long pull for around 2 km.

At this point my watch and boards had been synchronized about 2 or 3 seconds out so at 3 km my distance was around 3.05 km. But at 4km suddenly the measured distance was 4.2ish then at 5 km it was 5.3ish. I got to 5 km at around 19:15 and then knowing that it was mostly down back to the finish I relaxed. I didn't force the pace, just simply let my legs go with the terrain, my watch was returning 3:38-3:40/km splits and I was happy with that. The last two km levelled off a bit with a slight uphill to 9 km and then a slight uphill to the finish before finishing off on a grass track. I almost got a nit lost heading into the Eldorado Park Stadium turning left instead of right but managed to get in and finish in 38:05. My watch measure 10.29 km, the longest distance I have ever measured for a 10 km  race but rather a long route than a short route! I wasn't sure what time I was going to finish in as some of the km boards were oddly placed. At 7km the distance was 7.3 then at 8 km it was 8.2. Had I known I would be close to a 37:50 odd I would put in a bit of a kick for the 400 m or so! Oh well.

Fast and flat they said!

Overall though it was a satisfactory season opener. The splits from the GPS were wonderfully consistent and I honestly felt in control. I really could have gone faster in the second half but I wanted to get to the end in complete control. There'll be time time for final lung busting effort when I'm closer to my target of breaking my almost 12 month old PB.

The last time I came off a large block of high mileage training in November 2012, I opened with a slightly impeded 39:16 that was probably worth about about 38:50, though who knows what the effect of a 4:25 vs a 3:50ish opening km would have been on my fatigue levels at the end of the race. My coach was expecting something closer to 39:00 so I'm slightly ahead of where he expected so all in all it was a worthwhile run out even if it looked like it wouldn't happen earlier in the week.

I've received my workouts for the next week so we the first race out of the and a benchmark/platform to build on it's time to knuckle down and train smart. The next main landmark is the Sunnypark Right2Run 10 km on 21 March. The coach might ask me (I hope) to do another low key outing in between but for now that's what I'm focussed on, 4 weeks is a long time in running and I hope to see an improvement that gets me closer to breaking 36:13 by the end of the training cycle.

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