Monday, May 18, 2015

Race report: Sporting Life 10K (And Two 5Ks)

There are markers we aspire to meet, lifelong goals runners use as benchmarks. For me, aside from the Boston Qualifying times, it's been the sub-20 5K, the sub-40 10K and the sub 1:30 half marathon.

The 10K and 5Ks are not my favourite distance. The 5K amounts to about 20 minutes of sheer pain, the only comfort around the first 200 metres, cresting at the 3.5K mark when you try to hold on to dear life. The 10K is no different, but with prolonged hurt. Hurt is assumed with both, while at the half marathon or longer distances, you can just try to reach a comfortably hard mark. Make no mistake, marathons hurt after 30K, it's just a different type.

I've come close to the sub-40 mark for the 10K a few times, first in 2009 while ramping up for a spring marathon, when I hit a 40:04 on the downhill Sporting Life. I would largely avoid 10K races until last fall, when I hit a 40:07 mark at the Zoo Run, a much harder course. In truth, my training had me with a fitness for a low to mid 39 minute 10K but when the marathon is your distance, you don't put much into such goal races.

In late January, I toed the line at the MEC 5K as my training for Boston was ramping up. It was a brutally cold windy day and I hit a 19:42 with splits of 3:45, 3:58, 3:53, 3:56, 4:04, not the greatest way to pace a 5K. I knew it wasn't the indicator for my fitness and decided to race the 5K again before Boston to see how I would fare.

In mid March, I ran the Achilles 5K, hitting a personal best of 19:07 on another windy day, with splits of 3:49, 3:55, 3:35, 3:49, 3:42.

The Achilles was a good sign in seeing whether I could sustain a 3:50 pace, which from training I knew I could.

The 10 K

Fast forward to Sporting Life 10, which took place three weeks after Boston. I had a week earlier done some faster kilometres in training but nothing close to the sub 4:00 kilometres. The legs were still recovering but I felt I still had cardio power in me.

I met up with a few of my friends and teammates, and found myself in the red corral, the sub 45 minute crew. A few of my friends were also aiming to go out at a sub-40 pace, or at least try for a sub-20 5K and see how it went.

Sporting Life is a fast course, due to the plunging downhills of the first half. There are some risers, but when the weather is perfectly cool as can be in May, it an produce stellar times.

So I went for it.

First 5K
But there was the weather -- we could feel it at the start, it was comfortable, not cold, or yet warm, but concerning. I like to be shivering for races so as I increase the effort, the cooler weather will let me build up heat.

As I thought, the first bit felt easy, too easy. So I tried to let my breathing and effort guide my cadence. My legs had not gone this fast for almost a month, so it was a little bit of a shock. My friends Cynthia and Joel were ahead of me even though they were aiming for a 19:45 5K, so I just let them go and see how my effort would take me. I hit the first kilometre in 3:49, a little faster than the 3:55.

So warm out. Photo: Michael Lin

Take advantage of the downhill, coach Rejean asked me to to, so I wasn't to concerned when the second kilometre came in at 3:52. We hit an uphill portion at Mt. Pleasant cemetery and still my pace was feeling comfortable. We had shade still from the rising sun and though it wasn't comfortably cool, I wasn't overheating, yet.

I wanted to get to the 5K mark in good shape to stay consistent for the end -- I knew the real battle would happen around 7 to 8K in, so I stayed relaxed as much as my body would let me.

I hit the 5K mark in 19:07.

Splits: 3:49, 3:52, 3:51, 3:43, 3:49

Second 5K
So by the beginning of the sixth kilometre, I knew it would be a challenging run. It was getting hot. My breath wasn't as even as I wanted. I was waiting desperately for the water stations so I could get some liquids.

My 6K, as it turns out, was my last sub-4:00 kilometre, hitting it at 3:47. I was feeling pretty crap, and tried to get my body to now run closer to 4:00s, but it would really cooperate. I hit a water station and took a cup to drink, a cup for my arms and a final one for my head. It was that hot.

The next kilometre came in at 4:05, and the next one, I took a 10-second walk break. I knew my body wouldn't sustain the searing first half so I'd have to be content with cooling off, then revving back into some sort of low 4:00s. I knew I had a bit of a bank for a sub-40 but I could lose all of it in one kilometre.

In the final 2K, I stopped again, only to be spurred on by a runner who passed me and said I could do it -- so I brought back the cadence.

The last three kilomteres ranged from 4:11 to 4:16, not the greatest end to the race -- I had no clue whether I'd get the sub-40 but the clock as I was approaching the finish said it was close. Final time of 39:51, nine seconds under.

Splits: 3:47 4:05 4:14 4:16 4:11. Second 5K in 20:42.

In retrospect, it was a solid 10K -- my fitness wasn't back from Boston, my legs not recovered and the weather not ideal, and I think I produced the result that would be expected from where I've advanced.

So I've got the sub-40 10K and while it feels like I could or should take another run at it, I think not likely too soon.