Today's Cork to Cobh 15 mile road race proved to be a test of my speed/endurance and as my recent long runs have been no more that 15 miles pace was going to be crucial. As there was a group heading out at 6:40/6:45 pace I thought I'd have some of that and see how I do. The 10 miles at 6:46 pace last weekend gave me some comfort that this pace should be manageable over 15 miles.
My Garmin, which has given me been trouble over the last few months, has got progressively cantankerous and has now refused to turn on, unless it is sitting in it's cradle and attached to a power source (lazy good for nutting) and in the absence of a stopwatch I decided to run blind. Like all good blind runners I found someone to attach myself to in the form of club mate Paul Daly who was targeting 6:40 pace.
After signing on and depositing my secret bottle of coke with Andy (for withdrawl at Belvelly bridge, 10 miles in) I warmed up over 3 miles with Derek and Brendan. As it was Brendan's first race in a year (and since his ankle break in January) he was taking it easy. Derek's target was 6:35/40, so I wouldn't expect to see him out on the course.
I had just enough time to stretch following the warm up before the gun sounded and we were off. As I was 3 rows back in the 850+ crowd I got off to a fairly uninterrupted start and soon enough there was a familiar gang around me forging a steady pace along the lower road. It took a bit of concentration to stay on the heels of the three Johns (Desmond, O'Callaghan & Dunphy) and Paul, with Pat and Colin a few yards in front. Passing the 1 mile mark we got a cheer from Joe Roche, fresh from his 3:08 marathon in Berlin last weekend - nice to be watching for a change.
As we headed out the dual carriageway towards the 3 mile mark Paul had pulled 10 yards ahead and I wasn't sure whether I should follow him or not as I hadn't expected him to pull ahead of the group. However the pace felt comfortable and as I was running by feel and not watch I forged ahead and eventually pulled onto his shoulder heading up the ramp towards the Dunkettle Interchange. Swing left towards the old N25 and the 4 mile mark. Steady pace heading east - coming on the shoulder of Ronán, who had set out a tad fast and was settling in to a more manageable pace commensurate with recovering from his stag last weekend. On towards the 5 mile mark and on the shoulder of fellow triathlete Martin Leahy who also had decided to give it welly for the first few miles. The instantaneous pace on Paul's Garmin was anywhere between 6:15 and 6:45, however as we passed the 5 mile mark the overall time was 33:14, which wasn't much under the 100 minute target (1:40) that 3 x 5 miles @ 6:40 pace would give you.
Paul tried to get a rhythm going whereby he'd lead for a few minutes and then I'd take over but to be quite honest he was pulling me along and if I was on my own I'd have eased up a little. I knew the pace was a bit challenging when I could see Derek ahead and we were gradually reeling him in. "What the heck" I thought "maybe this is what running without a watch is like"
- but at the back of my mind I was half expecting the "fun" to end before I hit the finish line in Cobh.
We caught up with Derek as we approached the halfway-mark. I can't remember the time Paul called out but we were still under 1:40 pace. Up to Cobh Cross and the 8 mile mark with Paul remarking that we were running 6:35 pace uphill (hardly much of a hill). Over the bridge towards Fota and Paul asked was I going to forge ahead. "No chance of that".
Shortly after the 9 mile mark Paul pulled slightly ahead and the gap grew over the following mile. The first sign that the party was over. Passed the 10 mile mark - towards Belvelly Bridge and picked up my coke from Andy (fair play Andy). The 500ml bottle was too heavy to carry for long and a few swigs was all I could manage as the head began to fill with the usual negative thoughts. The coke didn't give me the kick I needed to drive on and close the gap to Paul ,which continued to widen. I knew that the next few miles would be ugly but continued to plod along the only way I knew how. Derek passed around mile 11 and it felt like my pace was dropping like a stone as he appeared to pull ahead quite effortlessly. This is where my lack of longer endurance runs began to tell. I was counting down the miles and waiting for the 6:40 crew to go sailing past.
Under the rail bridge at mile 12 and John Desmond comes on my shoulder and passes. "It took me the last 8 mile to catch you" he remarked. "Pity it wasn't 11 miles" was all I could say as he moved ahead. I was surprised that he was alone as I fully expected the rest of the gang to be on his shoulder.
Past the 13 mile mark. "2 miles to go" - about 14 minutes and @ 90 steps per minute I begin to countdown each minute. After a minute or 2 I notice the gap to John is not increasing and after 4 minutes I am nearly on his shoulder. However it was more a case of John joining in my suffering than me getting faster as the guy he had been tracking was well ahead and we were both passed by Pat and Colin. Passed the 14 mile mark and I continued to track John and resumed my countdown for what I thought would be the last 5 minutes. The countdown provided some mental relief and kept me at a steady pace which, with about 2 minutes left, took me past John and down the hill into Cobh. Needless to say I never got too far ahead and John's finishing kick was enough to get past me as we came towards the line with the clock displaying 1:39:51....2....3. Maybe I got 55 or 56 ...All I know is that I was under the 1:40, which surprised me as I thought my fade over the last 5 miles was at least a minute or 2. Paul had a great race running strong for the full 15 getting 1:38:3x. So I lost about a minute and 20 seconds, which wasn't too bad.
I was about a minute down on my PB which was set here 2 years ago, when I was running "marathon pace" two weeks out from Amsterdam. Just shows that the lack of marathon training has taken the edge off my longer races (30 mile weeks will do that to you). Still a great race and great event. I haven't missed a year since I ran this as my first race in 2006 in 1:58:29.
I had been worried about my calves heading into the race as I had returned to running in the Vibrams this week and the pressure always transfers from the feet to the calves when moving in the minimalist shoe direction.
I did about a 2 mile warmdown after the race to give me 20 miles for the day and about 43 for the week.
Tue 29th Sept
About 7 miles with 4 miles @ 6:32 pace (Track session)
Wed 30th Sept
5.2 miles in 42:21 (08:08 pace @ 134HR) - Easy run in Vibrams
Thur 1st Oct
About 6 miles with 4 x 416m in 81/83/82/81 (200m recoveries) and 1 mile @ 6:23 pace. -
Fri 2nd Oct
About 5.2 miles @ 7:50 pace - Vibrams (Garmin acting up)
Sun 4th Oct
About 20 miles with 15 miles in about 1:39:56 (06:40 pace)