Monday, April 20, 2009

Race Report #22 - The final build up race

"We have a great route planned, starting off in the City, making its way into the beautiful apple orchard countryside and returning back into the City to finish on The Mall in the centre of town. The course is primarily flat, so quick times can be achieved for those pace setters"

Having never been to Armagh before I took these words at face value. How they can say "primarily flat" is beyond me - unless of course they worked out that 5.1km of the course was flat and 4.9km was on rolling hills. If that's the case this course was primarily flat, but there was no chance of a quick time here.

To be honest it doesn't bother me so much. You're not always going to beat your previous times and I'm quite happy with my strength more than anything else. Come the end of the race I could have gone on and on and on like some sort of duracell bunny. As I looked around to shake hands with the lad I'd had a proper ding dong with for the last 5km I spotted him on all fours just over the finish line - on the other hand I'd already got my breath back and was bouncing on the balls of my feet. The time of 35.00 is nothing to write home about so I have to compare myself to the other lads around me and see how they got on. Thankfully there was a good number who'd raced in the half marathon in Larne a few weeks ago that I recognised. The winner of this race ran 32.40 - he came second in the half in 1:09. That right there shows how tough the course was yesterday because a 69 minute half marathoner should be getting under 32 minutes for 10km. I crossed the line with someone who ran 1 minute 20 faster than me in the last race and I finished about a minute ahead of another lad who beat me in Larne by 40 seconds. Going by all that rather than my time suggests I'm going in the right direction. Leaves me no closer to guaging what time I'm going for in the marathon but sure it'll be great craic finding out!

The race itself was run in absolutely perfect conditions. Blue sky, sun beating down, very gentle cool breeze - for the first time ever I actually wore shades for a race! I'd been chatting to a few lads beforehand and they said they'd heard there were a couple of hills at the start and then it turned off onto a flat course. After the first few hills I kept thinking we'd seen the last of them. No such luck. For the opening 3km I sat in behind the lad who beat me in Larne by 40 seconds (I thought he'd be a good marker to go with). We were just 10 metres or so off a group of three comprising of third, forth and fifth place. At 3km, when I could see no more hills, I kicked on and tried to catch the three ahead. While I dropped my Larne friend I couldn't catch the other three, leaving me out on my own somewhat, facing yet more hills. I wondered if I'd kicked on too soon because I was struggling out on my own after a couple of kilometres, but looking back it was the right move.

At about 5km I could hear someone behind me. Fearing it was the guy I dropped 2km back I dug in. I was definitely beginning to feel the pace at this stage and was struggling. He eventually came onto my shoulder and I realised it was someone else so I was somewhat relieved. I decided to drop in behind him for a bit and work off him. After a kilometre or so I was feeling quite comfortable again and kept pushing onto his shoulder to pick the pace up and dropping back. These few kilometres are the only ones that leave me wondering if I did enough. While I was out on my own I was concentrating on staying in touch with the three ahead and doing a good job of it I must add. Now that I'd company I focused on staying with company and I forgot about the other three. I think once the other lad joined me his pace deteriorated and I stuck with him allowing the group to get away from us. This is why I went from struggling out on my own to feeling nice and comfortable in the space of a couple of kilometres. In the end the group of three finished 45 seconds a head of me.

Coming to the end of the race, no matter how comfortable I was feeling I just didn't have it in me to kick on. Although talking to CR last night I said that I wished I'd had someone give me a kick up the arse to kick on rather than fearing that I couldn't. I think somwhere deep down in me there was the ability for a bit of kick, I just need to be a bit more confident in dealing with the pain. A summer of track sessions will bring that back out I'm sure. There was an injection of pace over the last 400 or so metres that I felt quite strong over and as I said, when I crossd that line I could've kept on going. Strong not fast is what this race gets filed under, seems to be where most of them go these days!
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