Monday, May 5, 2014

Race Reports: Slow Mag 10 km and Colgate 15 km

The races are coming thick and fast and I must say that after all the months of training, it's great to be able to put myself out there and see how much I have improved. It's one of the things I love so much about being a 10 km specialist. Most of my running buddies would have had the Big C, Comrades as their primary goal and like with the marathon they will be shifting focus away from volume to tapering. Unlike the marathon though, their tapering is bloody long, basically all of May. So the crankiness, irrationality and moodiness is dialed up to 11. For us short distance specialists, after peak intensity has been shift, we get a nice 4-6 week spell short sharp speed, decent mileage and continuous racing! It's fun!

Slow Mag 10 km (27 April 2014)

I usually do the half marathon at Slow Mag and it's a lovely race, one of my favourite routes. I have avoided the 10 km in the past because it used to be a fun run, so no official results and more importnantly no guarantee that it would be the full distance. These things matter to me, especially after what happened at the Solomon Mahlangu 10 km. I once did a '10 km' fun run in 2011 and even allowing for a GPS device not being 100% accurate my device measure 8.7 km!!! At the paces I'm running now, I could have knocked out a 31:30 '10 km' on that course.

Anyway, last year the Slow Mag 10km was used as a Central Gauteng championship event, and this year it was once again an official race though without championship status. I have lived in Benoni for a good while in broke spells, so I know the area well. When I ran for Run/Walk for Life, our branch was based at the venue for Slow Mag and many of our routes form part of the race. And one thing I knew was that it is basically dead flat so I was excited. I get jaded sometimes with the courses up here. There are some really fast races, Solomon Mahlangu as case in point, where for almost 10km I was hurtling along at 3:32/km but they make you work for you reward. I was looking forward to running a race where in my mind I could get into a rhythm, and almost switch off.

The race started at 6:40 and with a long drive out from Pretoria I was up at 4. I'm back to my normal routine now where: quick shower when I get up, then get dressed in my gear, sans racing shoes and cover up with a tracksuit; I either my Vomero 8 or Pegasus 8. My meal is simple, a banana, flavoured yoghurt and a cup of coffee. I force myself to use the toilet. Then on the way to the venue I sip on 500 ml water and once I get to the venue swap to 500 ml of sports drink. It was bitterly cold, so after dropping off a number for another run I waited in my car until it was time to warm up.

I warmed up for 20 minutes, a slow easy jog gradually accelerating until I was just under race pace. The 50km/42.2km/21.1km race were starting 10 minutes before us, so I timed it to finished my warm-up at 6:30. Then I did strides for another 5 minutes before lining.

From the start I worked at finding a comfortable rhythm, targeting around 3:30/km pace. It was a bit of a silly plan because I get isolated very quickly from the leading bunch and the guys behind me were not quick enough to catch. Other than a few 5km runners that was to be my position for much of the race.

The Slow-Mag route is a double lap and I have to say it was a disaster. First with only a 10 minute head start we caught the back of the longer events before the split which around the 3km mark. I'm used to navigating though bodies at  the start of a race but it's hard work and the pace naturally dropped. I managed to pick it up again. The fourth km is the only rise on the whole course and I was alarmed at  how much my pace dropped. By 5km I was on about 35:30 pace. I had a target in front. I wasn't catching them but they weren't pulling away either.

Then the shit properly hit the fan.

A double lapper might be a good idea in principle but by six case we hit the back of the 5km and 10km field. I lost my mojo seriously. Weaving in and out of the crowds, getting smacked in the chest by people power walking, having to go onto the pavements, it was frustrating. I also lost sight of the 5 ot 6 runners in front of me and my motivation seriously waned. I was down to 3:50km splits at this point and any thought of a sub 36 splipped away. I managed a half hearted kick at the end but was disappointed to cross the line in 36:27 even though I was 8th on the day.

The traffic affected everyone of course but since I'm not in a position to be challenging for podiums and prizes, I place huge value in the time I run. I lost a good deal of time. I was definitely in a position to run around 35:40 to 35:50 but alas it was not to be.

Colgate 15 km (4 May 2014)

After the slightly disappointing run at Slow Mag, my coach decided I needed a quite week and scheduled a bunch of easy 8 km runs to recharge and then a fartlek session that he makes me do once or twice a month. It's a tough run with about 15-16km of continuous running. Some unexpected logistical issues meant that I would end up in Boksburg on Sunday morning at the Colgate event, a 32km and 15km. I knew that I would not run in the evening so I spoke with my and we agreed that substituting the fartlek with the 15km would be no problem. I was injured last year having entered for the race and I was glad to be finally running it, I had heard good things about it.

Boksburg is even further away from Benoni but I made good time and was at the venue by 5:30 with the start at 6:30. I started my warm up a bit later and did 15 minutes. I felt that since this is a  longer slower event I could cut it down a bit. I was somehow allowed to start, actually the organizers insisted I start in the front which was actually a relief since there were 5000 people there. Of course once the race got going a whole crowd of people streamed past me but this would actually work in my favour later.

To cut the chase, I had an absolutely fantastic run, the best race I have run probably since Deloitte 10 km last year. Here's the route profile of the race which I though was fair and well balanced:

Colgate 15 km route
The race started on a slight pull and after bursting out I was doing my damnest to pull back a bit and get my breathing in the right zone. I got to the 1km in 3:40 which felt very relaxed with me targeting close to 3:30/km in 10km races. The first 5 km were so awesome to run. I could feel the gradual downhill and it was important to not get too excited. I kept everything in control. I was watching my splits as they came through. I went through 3km in ~11:00 then went through 5km in 18:15, so 3:39/km. My goal had been to run aroun 57:00. I have no idea why that seemed like a good time to target. From about 6km, the inevitable climbing started. From here I don't remember kilometre by kilometre splits. I noted when I got to 8km and then 10km, 29:33 and 37:05, so it was 3:46 pace from 5 to 8km and then also to 10km. Average pace had gone from 3:39/km to 3:42.5/km pace for around 55:37 still way quicker than what I had hoped for. My watch splits are illustrative of how well the race had gone at this point. First 5km: 3:39, 3:43, 3:36, 3:35, 3:31, the from 5-10km: 3:40, 3:52, 3:47, 3:47, 3:47

As I had said earlier a lot of runners streamed past me at the start and I was worried it would be a bit like Slow Mag. I was passed by a fair number of people in the first 5km but from about 7km onwards only two runners came past me and I hauled in a fair number of runners.

I caught a guy around the 11km mark who was doing the 32km and we got into a rhythm pushing each other on. This helped the distance pass by. This was until after 13 km my shoe lace got untied. I had felt it all throughout the race getting more and more loose. I ran for another minute or so but couldn't keep it up. I have no idea what that stop cost me in the end but my hands were freezing and I struggled to get enough grip to tie the laces but managed and was on my way. Getting going was tough again.

Entering Boksburg stadium I checked that I was around 52 minutes passing the 14km mark. Not only was a PB in the bag so was my expectation of being able to run 57 minutes. The last km was uphill mostly but I just had to keep it together and then I managed a final flurry to finish in 55:40, an average of 3:43/km.

This was comfortably my best run of the year.  And it is brilliantly enough also faster than I ran my first 10km of the year (38:06, 3:49/km). Strange that it was run on a whim in a distance I wasn't trained for. I have been so meticulous in prepping for races but in this instance I was all over the place this week, did the race on a whim and had no strategy and yet I had a great run. It says a lot for more relaxation, less thought. Pressure is a good thing too but just enough. I was still concerned about the last 5km and I didn't want to finish the race hobbling home.

This coming weekend I will be dropping back down to the more painful 10km distance! Looking forward to running the Jackie Mekler 10km, a race where I first broke 45 minutes back in 2012. Whatever happens I will be giving it everything.