Coburg Fun Run 12km - July
Leading in towards this race, the accumulation of recent training, broken sleep and fighting off the germs the family have been throwing all came close to a tipping point. This called for a relative sleep-in (7am), and a day off running. Strangely it took a lot convincing it was the right thing to do, not to force myself out of bed at 5am and head out into the sub-zero morning. Taking the needed recovery when it isn't scheduled is often a hard thing to do.
Onto the race. Another Coburg Harrier's Fun Run. This time it is their usual 12km course (2x6km laps). The day started with the simple goal of just getting in a good honest race effort. This was taking the place of my faster threshold session, and potentially the shorter interval session as well, so I wanted it to really count. As is becoming common for me, progressing through my warm up and lining up on the track I wanted to put myself in for the win. I do know there are plenty of better runners, but I am hitting a standard that can put me in contention in these smaller races.
Recently I have had some good races, but there have been a few problems with my plans. Sometimes only hindsight would show the gaps, other times I just made a few too many assumptions. Today I wanted to cut down the risks for tactical error and give myself the most likely chance of the crossing the line first. The course is simple. Two 6km out and back laps on a concrete bike path. A bit of a hill thrown in that gets summitted four times and a start and finish on each lap on the track. I went extra simple. Aim to run the best time I could over course. This meant a time trial effort. So I wouldn't worry about the other competitors for the first half, and without aiming to leave anything in the tank, see what would have to be done late in the race.
I placed myself at the front on the inside of the track for the start. On go I set off at what felt should be my effort for 12km. Immediately this had me in the lead and I was free choose my line off the track, over the grass and cornering over the bridge. I settled in, found my rhythm and just ran at race pace. Expecting to have some company I was surprised to find no one was with me as I crested the hill for the first time. At the turn around I marked the time and found I was 20 seconds ahead of the 2nd and 3rd, and I was feeling good. My effort felt like it was at the right level, my heart rate also reflected this, but my pace was faster than expected. I had held 3:38/km for the first 3km. Was I really this fast?
The answer was not quite. I stuck to my effort level and found my pace drop a fair bit over the middle of the race. Yet I still maintained my lead. Heading back towards the turnaround on the second lap my mind wandered a bit as I thought about what I could for the rest of the week to get the most of today's race. As I turned to head back over the final 3km I was very surprised to see the gap had been closed down to only a handful seconds. No longer clearly ahead, and kicking myself for taking my mind out of the race, I was now running scared.
Look Like You Can't Lose
Making an effort to smile at my challengers as we passed I stepped up the pace. The legs didn't really want to, but they still did as they were told. I tried to look like I was comfortable, but was also speeding up. The hope was to put some doubt into my chasers. I had enough doubt in myself. I wasn't used to being out in front.
I ran hard. Much harder than I thought I could hold. My legs were starting to seize and it took every bit of willpower I had to hold it together. Coming towards the hill, the gap had been forced open a bit, but the short ascent was likely to my weak point. I haven't been happy with my uphill running lately, I still haven't fitted in any specific work to improve that. Going up I treated almost as a sprint. Focussing hard on running on the front of my foot and driving quickly with each stride I felt quick, but my whole body now burned. I think I may have had some tears forming.
Smashing the downhill and the gap felt like it opened up even more. It was the space I needed. The last kilometer was just a world of pain. Clearly my speed was dropping, and doubts kept swamping me, but I was almost sure the buffer was big enough. The race finishes with about 300m on the track. Here I looked back. Second place charging hard, but the gap was enough. It did close over those final meters, but I had a 7 second victory in the end. My time was 45:25 (unofficial at this stage). It was the first time I had gone under 46 minutes on this course, and I have run it quite a few times. Every bit of pain was worth it.