The Darwin Runners Club Sportsco Road Race Series has been a blast. The three races over a two month period have been at the 5km, 10km and 21.1km distances. I’m very happy with the results in my first ever race series and learnt a lot about ego outrunning the body and body parts getting grumpy.
The 5km race was a single lap of one of favourite loops here in Darwin and damn it was fast. There are some superb athletes here and trying to keep up with them for the first two kilometres is an effort at futility. But realising that you can run a few sub 3.50 km’s in the pursuit of your younger self was certainly worth knowing if one of those wild boars the Crocodile Dundee types here hunt appears on Mitchell St. The result was a sub 20 minute finish, 9th overall and third for Veterans. I ran this race in my Altra Samson minimalist shoes. They are so ugly and hurt your calf muscles but they’re great for short fast runs.
The 10km race was simple enough, a two lap race around East Point. It was a last minute race as it fell on a Saturday when I am normally at work, but the bosses of awesome were kind enough to recognise the extra hours I’ve been doing and gave me the day off. This act sure saved me from chucking a sickie so I could race. I chose my minimalist shoes again for this run. I knew I would get some foot pain from them on the longer distance, but I also knew that they would be worth about one minute in running cadence over ten kilometres and I was hungry for a medal.
I made a big mistake in this race. I again tried to chase the super athletes for the first two kilometres and kept them visible for as long as possible. After the first 5km I was in agony. My calf muscles were exploding from running in the shoes I chose and I was unable to get into my happy place with my breathing. Consequently my times dropped dramatically on kilometres six to seven. It was then that the first place female runner went past me, and without the slightest sound of stress expressed some words of encouragement to the old bloke she was passing. Next thing I know there is a guy running on my legs and breathing sweat nothings in my ear. Actually he sounded like an asthmatic bear and it was enough to encourage me to get my second wind. With the super athletes now well out of reach, I was running for pride.
I’ve only been overtaken a few times after the first kilometre in a run since starting with the club.
The asthmatic bear stuck on my heels and my 8th and 9th kilometres were faster than five through to seven. With 1500 metres left to run I broke away and despite the screaming pain in my legs, lungs and light headedness I hit the finish line in eighth overall and second for the Vets.
Oh yay a medal (my first ever medal), and oh dear baby jeebus I was shattered.
The Half Marathon
So time for race three. My favourite training distance and the longest race type that I have experienced in competing, the half marathon. Training was cruelly interrupted six nights before the race when on a 42 km training run I hit trouble at the 19th km with a severe pain from my hip to my knee. I ended up running 33kms that night and I self diagnosed myself with an ITB. Fortunately Sarah knows this injury all too well and had me under treatment immediately… she told me to use the free physio at work. Good idea, so I did. He confirmed the injury, used his elbow to break my legs and told me to sleep with a cricket ball and to do a less than ten km run on Thursday. I took a new pair of Hoka’s out for a run on Thursday and suffered badly from the eighth to eleventh km.
I figured that running the HM was now a dream.
I went back to the physio on Friday and he did dry needling in the hip area and showed me how to tape it up. He also told me to buy lots of Nurofen. If you’ve ever had dry needling before (it’s acupuncture without incense) you will know how weird it feels. These big mofo needles spinning around in the muscle and half an hour later it feels like I’ve been kicked in the glutes by a horse. Suffice to say I was a bit ginger on Saturday and downed the cheap brand ibuprofen.
Maggie and I hit the park in the afternoon, and I used a little chasey and hide and seek to try out the leg. Not too bad, I think.
Sunday morning and we are up for the big day. I’m taped up like a real runner and down some more pills. My normal nervous routine kicks in and that involves 27 trips to the loo. I eat a PB and Banana sandwich and pack a bag with my Hamma gel and Green Bits. We arrive at the race site to see about 40 US Marines ready to run. Then I see the cross fitters and snort. Then I see the see triathletes. And then I see my greatest fear….my work colleagues and one of whom I know to be a very good runner and at least a decade younger than me.
I am so stressed that my leg pain will stop me and cause muchos embarrassment.
I have a strategy for this run. I will not allow myself to chase the leaders. I will maintain a pace of 4min per km to 4.35 per km and set my Garmin 620 on this basis. Go too fast it beeps, go too slow it beeps. We take off and 500m in, there is no beeping and I’m running in the first twenty. Oops forgot to press start. It’s OK, we are all in order now and the watch is keeping me on track. I just accept the Marines running by, and the cross fitters and I just relax and accept my rules for this race.
I have set myself a pace that will give me a PB and hopefully a top 20 finish.
The kms start to slip by and the pacing is working. The heart is in the 180-185 range and stable so I know I’m running at a sustainable pace. I’ve chosen a pair of brand new (whoops you don’t do this OK?!) pair of Hoka One One Rapa Nui Tarmac’s for the job and they feel delightful. At the 7km mark I start to overtake runners. I’m running consistent 4.10-4.19 pace and I expect they have started to lose steam. At this stage the pace bike for the lead woman runner catches me and soon I’m being overtaken by the woman who went on to be the first woman across the line. She was maintaining consistent 4.05’s and I couldn’t keep that pace after a kilometre.
My knee remains pain free but the hip pain from the ITB is screaming blue murder.
From kilometres 10 to 15 I was pretty much alone. I hunted down a few people to overtake keep my pace up but I was unsure if they were relay runners or original leaders. It was as this stage that I caught the packs of US Marines who by running three abreast blocked out the sun and wind. It became really hard in some sections of this stage not to think about having a walk but then I start seeing people that are being lapped. I run by giving words of encouragement.
One guy is singing away to himself so I sing a few words of “get the party started” and the laughter propels me on.
Last lap now and only five km’s to go. I’m now absolutely petrified that an avalanche of runners are going to overtake me on this section and I keep listening out for footsteps but none appear. My heart rate is sitting in the 190’s now. On the 17th km I see a guy in front who I know was in the early leaders pack. I tell myself that I have only one km to catch him and then use that competition he will give me to race home. I could hear his pain as I ran alongside him. He knew I’d been behind him and now he was trying to see what he could do to shake me. I look behind when we are 2km from the finish and I see people who I imagine want my finish place.
I’m off and run the last two kms at sub 4.15 pace. The end result is a 14th overall, 5th for the Veterans and most importantly in my messed up head first out of all my work colleagues.
My new sub 1.28 HM PB was a result of sticking to a plan and not going out too hard early as I had in the earlier races.
I’m sorry you had to read this very long version of my races but I just had to get them out of my head. I’ve analysed each one to death. I can see a strategy to use for each and the maturity that I managed to garner for the HM was a great trade off for keeping the ego under control at the starting line. Now I need to get this ITB sorted.
It’s less than 8 weeks to Sydney Marathon, I can’t wait!
Message me if you want any information on Hoka’s, Altra’s, Injinji socks, Garmin watches, ITB, or running in general.
PS One of the Marine’s won third place in the Open Male division and the winner of the HM was a man in his 50’s in a sub 1.18 time!