Eltham Fun Run 10km - Race Report

Marathon. Recovery. Some exercise. No genuine training.

To kick off the first day of training I decided to start hard with the Eltham Fun Run 10km.

Last year I managed 9th place in a time of 39:31. Check last year's race report here. This year I wanted to do better. With having four weeks of recovery post marathon, I didn't really know if that was going to be possible. Whatever the case, I developed a race plan.

With hardly any flat, this is a race of up and down. Mainly on bitumen, plus a small section of gravel. Not really a fast course, but a course I can make work for me if I can put up with a painful race. Having the ability to travel fast downhill and even gain a little recovery, I wanted to push the concept of going extra hard on the ascents. It is a risk, and may rob me of significant time later in the race, but if it works then I can gain some places and maybe some chunks of time when heading against gravity. There have been a handful of races over the year that I have pushed much harder than I think I should earlier and resulted in some very good performances. So this year, I wasn't going to play it safe.


A nice warm morning and a reasonable start time of 09:15 made for a relaxed morning. A longish, gradual warm up highlighted that my left knee might be a problem. After going for an easy run yesterday the patella tendon was showing the tell tale pains of damage. It might change how I race, but I would start out as planned at least.

The Race


5km and 10km competitors all started together. The traditional sprint start of the masses highlighted the first couple of hundred metres. I hit a rhythm that seemed about right. Too fast to hold for the entire race, but that was the aim. It didn't take long for the runners to spread out and there was enough room, even on the somewhat narrow trail. A little after the first kilometer the 5km turned off and went on their own way. This meant for the about the next 5 or so kilometers I would be mixing only with the other 10k'ers.

As the course is up and down, with a plenty of bends I didn't know who really was ahead of me. After the first main hill we dropped down to the Yarra River. From here I tried to work out where I was placed. Counting four in front was the best I could do. At this stage there was no way to tell if there were any more further out. Even if they were, there wasn't any realistic chance of catching them. Best to just focus on what I needed to do cover the distance as quickly as I could.

The second steep hill came somewhere around the 3km mark. In marking my splits at the kilometer marks I caught site of my heart rate. Hitting about 180bpm and even above on the climbs was a bit over 95%HRmax. This dropped into the 170's on the downhill. Certainly some of the highest heart rates I've ever sustained in a race. A good reason not to be guided by a zone during these shorter races.

How did it feel?

Well, it was pure vomit territory. Every aspect of my body (except for my knee) protested. My legs burned and threatened to just give away any sense of coordination. My lungs couldn't move enough air. My eyes wanted to shut and stay shut. Instead we found a compromise with a kind of tunnel vision. This race was hurting and I was sure something was going to give soon.

Around the middle portion was a more gradual downhill, followed by a gentle, longer rise. It was here that my body won most of the battle. Despite best intentions, my running form faltered and I slowed. First placed chick passed me at some point here. This section should have been the easiest part to run fast, but it just wasn't happening. Going into the drink station I realised I was thinking it was hot. A cup of water went over my head and small cold-shock seemed to get my brain functioning a little better.

Time to stop forcing it, regroup and make the most of next part of the course. I took the following short downhill as a breather. I relaxed and let my legs spin underneath. Interestingly I think I actually faster by easing back. The next section was mainly gravel, some bitumen some moderate climbs, a few twists and a small section of mildly rough grass & dirt. It was a relatively technical and slow part of the course. Somewhere you could lose a lot of time. I concentrated on form, picking good lines and using the small descents and turns to pick up speed of position. The work rate definitely went up, but now it felt right. Pretty soon I was again ahead of the women's field and closing in on the next male. Now past 7km I was now into that racing zone.

The final section is back on the bitumen. A long, steady downhill, followed by a reasonable climb, before a relatively flat, sections with a few turns leading to the finish. The pain from earlier was still there. It was also getting more intense. The difference now, was that the pain was working for me. It fueled my desire to make each stride work for me. Not every step did. My left quads were struggling with the demands and kept seizing slightly, but everything else was bearable enough knowing the finish was far off.

Close to the next runner, my gaze fixed past him and I worked to follow my eyes. The downhill didn't see much change, but working the full length of the climb I got on his shoulder. I positioned my approach so as he looked behind, despite knowing I was there he would have a hard time being able to check how well I was running. He looked back, showed a stutter in his step which I took as a little panic. At this point we hit the downhill and I surged. There was hardly anything left in my tank, and I was skeptical the chassis was now up to the task. So I wanted to open up a gap quickly to gain that mental edge.

Over the final kilometer I struggle to hold onto what I had. The effort of the surge remained, but my speed slowed a lot. The gap was big enough and the runner I passed either had nothing left, he decided I was now too quick or he just didn't care. Whatever the case I felt I had enough. Despite that, I still ran scared. At the finish (after a few checks over the shoulder) I was able to get in some high fives with the kids and enjoy the finish. There was a rumour I could have claimed 3rd place, but I wasn't sure. I needed to wait for the results.

Confirmation


As it turns out there were a couple of runners well ahead that I never saw. The winning time was 32:31, well above my level. Still I am very happy with my result of 6h place overall in a time of 38:25 (results here). Definitely better than last year.

A good starting point to hitting the training again. The race has given me a lot of information I can use to direct the training. As long as I pull up okay and the knee/quads don't develop into a problem I have some high hopes.

Comments

  1. Well done. That’s an impressive way to start a training program. Hard racing can be a great form of training provided you build enough recovery into the program.

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