Monday, December 29, 2008

Low Altitude Running = PR Frenzy (Harrietsham 10k)

Two days after setting massive personal records (PR) over ~2.8 miles at Saltwood (see below), my brother and I decided to add a final road race before the end of the year. The Harrietsham End of Year 10k was a well-organized event taking place on a cold and somewhat breezy morning. The course was all paved and a little frosty in spots. The first half was downhill to flat and, being an out and back, the second half was an uphill grind.

I went out very hard from the off and was shocked to see 2:55 on my watch through the first km. Either the marker was short or I started out at a sub-30-minute pace! Either way it was way too fast and I knew I would be paying for it later. I went through the second km at 6:17 (3:22) which was a bit slower (33 min pace), but still way too fast. The field was a strong one for a race with less than 200 runners, and a pack of 5 or 6 guys had already put considerable distance between myself and a guy who overtook me in the first couple of kms, and who I was now pacing off. I managed to keep my pacer close through the first half, and we hit the 5k mark in 17:21. Considering 17:21 would be a 40 second PR for me in a 5k race, I was gearing myself up mentally for a very tough second half.

I have just finished a great running novel, which I would recommend to anyone who wants a primer on the mental side of racing. Once a Runner is the story of a college track star who puts life on hold to achieve his inexplicable desire to run faster. He ultimately understands that getting the best from yourself as a runner is less about the physical than it is the mental, and that journey through the second half of the book culminates in a beautiful and highly inspirational (for the runner) last few chapters, which I won't go into right now, but would recommend as required reading for all runners.

Anyway, I tried to utilize a few of the lessons that I took from the book as I headed back up the hill with the wind in my face, and focused on covering distance and maintaining form, while refusing to ease up and take the easy route back to the finish line. Ultimately, I was unable to catch the guy in front of me. However, despite serious fatigue I was able to fend off a fast finish from behind and cross the line in my second PR in three days: 36:24 (a PR by 1:05).

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