Sunday, 6 September 2009

All the hard work pays off

In the days leading up to most races, I spend a lot of time thinking and dreaming about what kind of shape I'm in and what my goals for the race should be. I say goals because I try to have three goals in mind: a realistic goal ('C') I'd be satisfied with; a stretch goal ('B') that would be very pleasing to achieve; and a dream goal ('A') that I wouldn't expect to be able to reach and which would send me into raptures of delight if I did score that coup.

In all my years, I don't think I've ever managed to hit an A goal and going for them has tended to be a suicidal endeavour which results in me blowing up and not reaching any of my goals:P Today though, I managed to pull it off!

My main goal for the year was to break 1:20 for the half. I'd run some promising races over 15k that made it seem like this would be very possible to achieve, but interruptions, injury and poor race day preparation meant that my HM PB was still only 1:25:30 until today.

Everything went right:) The weather was perfect; my legs were pretty fresh thanks to staying off my sore foot earlier in the week; my glycogen stores were well topped up (850 g of carbs on Saturday!); and I'd taken 300 mg of caffeine tablets.

The caffeine might have contributed to my going out at what was quite a silly pace based on previous results. I'd spotted the guy who beat me at a Coburg harriers race a few months ago and decided to see if I could stick to him. Within a km, the rational part of my brain was screaming at me to slow down. We were going 3:36/k, which is faster than my 5k PB. The thing was, I felt great! I wasn't even breathing audibly and suddenly the fact that I was going faster than my 5k PB became an opportunity not a warning klaxon. I put in a surge and sped past the 5k marker in just under 18 minutes, a 25 second PB.

'Ok, you got a 5k PB, now just be sensible and drop back to 3:42/k like you'd planned'
...Nah:P 3:36/k was still feeling good and I decided to just go with the flow. I was sure I'd blow up at some point, but why not take advantage of it in the mean time and bag myself an 8k PB?

Beginning to feel the strain as we went up the short hill on the otherwise flat course for the second time, I hit 8k in something like 28:43 - a good 60 seconds better than I've managed previously. It was downhill from there, so even though it was really costing me to stay with my pacer, it was relatively easy to hold on for a 10k PB of 36 flat.

I'd done it, but was going to have to pay a pretty high price for the rest of the race. Aerobically I still felt ok, but my legs were feeling very fatigued on the way back up the hill for the third time. I got dropped by the pack I was in and struggled to get onto the shoulder of the guys who were passing me.

Telling myself that this is where it counted, I concentrated on the number of someone in front of me and focused on keeping my arm swing steady. As long as I could keep this going, my form would remain strong and my pace would not drop off too much. It hurt like hell, but I got through the next few km, and some calculations at the 15k mark revealed that I'd have to really, really slow down to miss out on a huge PB. With that thought in my mind, I was able to enjoy the final lap. I could feel the satisfaction of a job well done and had to force myself to keep working hard - I wasn't quite there yet!

I didn't have much left in the legs at the end and got outkicked with 200 m to go, but I finished the line feeling fantastic, with 1:19:15 (I originally thought it was 1:18:30 but now realise that was because my garmin was set to stop after 21.1k and it recorded the course as long by 200m - other people's garmins said the same thing) on the clock. A six and a half minute PB!

I'm so happy about this:D I've trained so hard and until now it's felt like it's all been in vain. Three hours a day of busting my gut to achieve only mediocre results had me starting to rethink my whole training strategy (based on Lydiardism), but after this, I can definitely say it's worked well for me! All the base training I'd done wasn't going to give me fast times, and I knew that, but it was essential so that I wouldn't break down when I started the hard hill workouts I've been doing for the last six weeks.

Now I'm starting to think about a new goal. 75 minutes is nice and even:D It'd be a bit of a stretch to get there by the time of the Melbourne Marathon (5 weeks time), but I reckon I'll get close! This is fun!

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