King & Queen of the North - 12km 2016

Having a Sunday morning off work means I had to find a race to do. It was good to see one of the Coburg Harrier's fun runs was on offer. So the King and Queen of the North 12km it was. I always enjoy these events. Low key and a simple focus on get the basics spot on.

Earlier in the week I had less than great running, and a few days off. However, I definitely filled up the remainder of the week with plenty of kilometres. So the legs took a little extra time to feel ready through the warm up. By the time the starter's gun was fired I was feeling pretty good.

The course is two out-and-back laps, with a bit of a hill on each that you get to climb from both sides. The remainder is fairly flat with some claiming the undulations take more out of you than you think. Maybe they do if you compare to the athletics track. Not much wind today, just enough to make you feel like it is slowing down even though it probably isn't. A cool but sunny morning, almost perfect.

With a pattern of going out hard and slowing in recent races I wanted to change that. My plan was to go out easily-quick over the first 200m just so I would be in a position to monitor the contenders. Then keep the pace comfortable for a race, even erring on the side of a little too easy. From there I hoped to negative split the final lap, mainly on the return 3km.

set... BANG!

Around the track bend, over the grass and onto the path. This had me in front and I really felt slow. Compared to some of the recent openers I was, but it was still faster than I could hold for the whole 12km. I gradually eased back and on surrendered the lead. One runner moved out front and it was far from a decisive move. I remained in second, with one or two others sitting on me. Struggling with a debate between closing the gap to first and sitting on him versus my pre-race conservative plan I felt like I was letting the race get away from me. Yet, I stuck with the conservative option.

It may cost me first place, but I really wanted to see if I could more out of myself with a negative split. Allowing for the hill and undulations I feel I ran with the monotony of a metronome. I certainly felt comfortable and was constantly bugged by the thoughts that it was too comfortable. Gradually more ground was given away to first place, but on the positive I put in clear distance to those behind. Back onto the track and the first 6km lap was complete.

Hitting the repeat button and it was like I listening to my favourite track. Now was time step it up just a little. That's exactly what happened. For the next 3km out I ran just a little bit faster. At the turn around I had closed in on first. He was back in striking distance. Alright, time to see if this plan works...

For a 12km race I had been feeling reasonably comfortable. The legs had not been protesting, but centrally I definitely working at race intensity. How much more could I get out of myself now? Changing up a gear now made the legs feel it. I wasn't in pain, but there was limit on how much faster I could go. It seemed more that I just needed to put more in to get the same speed from the legs, if not a little more pace.

Along the winding path, I knew I was a few seconds faster than lap one. Looks like first didn't like how close I pulled in and he had worked well to reopen that gap. He was travelling faster, I hadn't slowed. The final time up that hill was at about 4.5km. It took all my concentration to hold my form to ensure time wasn't sucked out of me. I think I was only 90% successful here and a few seconds were thrown away. But a nice flowing downhill signalled the final kilometre, a hard left, and back onto the athletics track for the finish. First place hadn't slacked off and he was well and truly ahead.

I was happy with second, coming in with 47:19 for the 12km and a negative split of about 30 seconds differential between the two laps. It definitely felt easier overall doing it this way. Would I have had a better chance of pushing for 1st if I ran harder at the start? Maybe, but I'm pretty sure it would of had me blow and finish with a slower time. An enjoyable race overall.


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