Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Fast People

This morning I had a bit of a dilemma. Recently a 5k time trial has been set up in Leeds. It runs every Saturday morning, and it's free.

5k isn't really my distance, but I know that there's nothing like doing short, fast efforts to put a bit of speed in the legs, from where it seems to have gone missing a bit since New York. Or maybe it's just that the people I normally run with have got faster.

One of those people ran the TT last week, and was first woman. I know that every time we've been in the same race I've beaten her (2 10ks and a marathon). I improved my marathon time in my autumn marathon, whereas she slowed down a bit, but since then she's definitely had a bit of speed on me as my legs go through the recovery process. We get on really well, but there's definitely a bit of healthy rivalry in this friendship.

She said that last week there weren't as many of the fastest runners, because of the Abbey Dash the day after. A quick check of the results shows that although her winning time of 22:something is decent enough, it's nowhere near the times that had won it in other weeks. But a win is a win. It did mean, though, that I didn't expect that I would be able to repeat the feat on a weekend without the Abbey Dash.

I also had the dilemma that Saturday is my long run day. Even though I'm not marathon training at the moment, I know that I will be again relatively soon, and I don't want my long run to get too short. 10 - 13 miles is the target. Not 5k.

Anyway, I came up with a plan. I would run the 4 or 5 miles to the time trial very gently (there isn't a direct bus so it was that or cycling anyway), run it, and then run home again. I was confident I could still get a new PB on the basis that I haven't run a 5k for 18 months or so, and my 5k PB was run at a slower pace than my 10k PB. And then if I liked it, I might take it more seriously next time. I'd get my long run done on the basis I had somewhere definite I needed to get to, so couldn't cut it short, and would do a bit of a speed session in the middle.

First problem, it started ridiculously early, and adding on a45 minute or so run to get there meant that I had to leave at about 8. So when I woke up at 7.20 it didn't give me long to digest my breakfast before setting out! But it was a nice morning, so I decided that wasn't a good enough excuse to skive off, and set out as planned.

I got to the start and met up with a couple of people from running club. I do like the fact that I can turn up at a race and almost always bump into someone I know. Or at least the local races. Someone who had done it before described the course, and I sized up the opposition. One girl was running around warming up (I always used to be wary of people who took these things seriously enough to warm up properly - until I started being the sort of person who does a 4.5 mile warm up for a 5k...), and someone said that they thought she'd done it before and gone under 20 minutes. I made a mental note not to try to keep up, my target was to do a similar time to Eleanor's, rather than aiming for a particular placing.

When it was time to set off, a couple of girls hared off, but I didn't really keep count. Because the start was slightly downhill people set off fast, but I overtook a couple of them soon enough. The course was one small lap of the park and then two bigger ones, and as I got to the end of the first lap one of the marshalls said that I was 3rd woman. I was quite pleased with that, as I hadn't kept count of how many were ahead of me. I was even more pleased when I realised that I could see the two other women, and they weren't far ahead at all. It might have been a case of mistaken identity or a case of tired legs, but the woman I'd seen warming up didn't look like she was going to go sub-20.

On the second lap I overtook the other woman, to move into second place. I was checking my watch and thought that I could probably dip under 23 minutes, which was my target. I still wasn't chasing the woman in front as such. I could see her, but was concentrating on my own run. Because it's a time trial rather than a proper race, the important thing is to improve your own time, rather than winning. There are no prizes other than a mention on the website.

But after going past the finish for the second time, heading into the last lap, I realised that I was gaining ground. This was my chance for glory, which suddenly started to matter to me. At the 4k marker I was sitting on her shoulder considering my options. I've never had to really think up race tactics before, but I knew that I don't have a sprint finish. Whichever race I'm doing I'm always overtaken by a whole bunch of people right at the end as I plod to the line at my normal speed, while they find that last burst of energy. I knew that if I was still on her shoulder, or she on mine, at the end, she'd win it. So I needed to overtake and make a break to give me enough of a gap to hold her off. I knew that she was slowing from her earlier pace, but maybe she was just coasting a bit while she was in the lead and would pick it up once she realised where I was? I've seen that often enough - as you try to overtake someone they speed up. Although that's mainly men who don't like being beaten by women...

I saw a slight hill. Not a big one, but enough to use a bit of power. I hate hills, but I've started to notice that they're where I tend to be able to open up gaps on people. This was my chance. I gritted my teeth, attacked the hill, and went past. I was in the lead! From there I had half, maybe a bit more, of a kilometre to go, and I knew that I needed to hold her off. This is where I started getting serious, I wasn't going to let that lead go, and I dragged myself towards that line as fast as I could. I surprised myself by lapping not only walkers, but people who were actually running it and I started to smile.

I've never won a race before, and even though it wasn't a proper pay to enter, win prizes type of race, and even though my winning time was 10 or 15 seconds slower than Eleanor's (although still under 23 minutes), I'm still walking around with a beaming smile. I took on everyone who turned up this week, and I beat them all. Or at least the women. I was 22nd overall, and 1st woman. I don't know how many there were in total, last week it was about 60, the week before nearer 100. But all the women were behind me. Fingers crossed I'll get credited with it - even though I registered, they couldn't find me on the computer at the end so had to write my details down.

And then I ran a slightly longer route home, to cool down...

When I got back I texted Eleanor to tell her the news. She was away this weekend so didn't run it. Last week she said that all the fast ones must have been resting for the Abbey Dash, so this week I said that they must all still have been recovering. And then she texted back.

"If "we" (people our speed) have won 2 weeks in a row, maybe we ARE the fast people?!?!"

Maybe, indeed...


Blogger Andrew(ajh) said...

Hey from Australia, just found your blog from Kathryns (iDiet). I loved your race report, what a great race and great result. I am also blown away by your weight loss results. Like you I too have lost weight and found running. I am also a "pom" but moved to Australia a long time ago (nearly 40 years). Again, well done!

9:12 AM  
Blogger old_black said...

It's amazing what motivates us, isn't it? Sure, PBs are good. But being a winner is something else again!! And it's not just us males who are afflicted by this condition - how reassuring.

I discovered recently that the simple act of recording my running times makes me want to improve them, even though I'm the only person who ever sees them! And this is only for commuter runs to & from work, when all sorts of factors alter the time (e.g. traffic lights, the weight of my back pack, etc).

9:16 AM  

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