6k too short…

“If you’re going to run slowly, do it early in the season.”
– Robert Kitz

This basically describes my race at the New Balance Vic Matthews Open in Guelph last Saturday. While I understood that it was an early season race (and one that, at four kilometers, was much shorter than I would have liked), I still wanted to race well and contend for the win. I fell short of my goals, but in the end, goals that I set out for a race in mid-September won’t matter at the end of November. It was nice to do this race as a “rust-buster” as I return to racing cross country after a short hiatus.

The race went out quickly (or maybe I just wasn’t mentally or physically ready for something as short as a 4k, so the pace felt faster than it was). The gun went off, and I had to work hard to get to the front of the pack. The first stretch is a slight uphill, on fairly long (though packed-down) grass, so it was difficult to get my legs moving fast and smoothly. We turned the corner onto the gravel path and I settled into my race pace. However, I was running somewhere between seventh and tenth place and the girls in front of me kept hammering away. This was my first mistake. A four kilometer race is rather short for me, so I should have kept pressing. In a race this short, settling will lose me several places that are difficult to make up later in the race. My second mistake was racing in track spikes rather than flats. I was stumbling all over the place on the gravel path, so I was unable to get into a nice rhythm or feel like I was moving smoothly and efficiently. I would have rather worn racing flats and given up a second or two on the grass hill at the end of the loop. I definitely lost some time when I struggled through that section. By the time I reached the first kilometer, Courtney Laurie had gapped the field and I was running in about fifth or so. I spent the next kilometer working my way through the women in front of me. By the beginning of the second two-kilometer loop, I was in second place, but Courtney still held the lead by about fifteen or twenty seconds. I tried to push the pace during the second lap, though I failed to work my way any closer to the lead. At around three kilometers into the race, Melissa Jones, a Guelph rookie who had been behind me in third place put in a surge and passed me. This further compounded my sense of defeat and utter failure, since I had no response and was unable to stay with her. Before the hill that was also the final stretch toward the finish, I managed to put in one last desperate move to draw even with Melissa. I was hoping that she would be struggling on the hill and that I could maybe move past her. This was not the case, as Melissa started to put some distance on me early in the hill ascent. It looked as if Courtney was slowing down further up the hill, but she was too far away to be caught. I slowly worked my way up the hill and stumbled through the final stretch (fortunately no one was close behind me, so I was able to hold my position in third). My time was 14:18.0 for the 4k course.

I wasn’t entirely pleased with how I raced on Saturday, but I realize that I can’t put too much stock in early-season results. The main problem for me was the shock of the first kilometer. This stretch was mostly downhill, so the race went out quickly at the front. My legs definitely weren’t ready to move that fast, so I missed my opportunity to get to the front and be in contention for the win. I’m not upset about placing third in the race, but I would have been much happier if I had battled it out at the front and been able to challenge for the win (even if I ended up with the same result in the end). At this point in the season, however, I won’t lose sleep over it. For the past month, my training has largely consisted of lots of easy mileage, with some workouts at a steady/moderate pace and lactate threshold workouts. Other than strides, the fastest running I have been doing in the past few weeks has been around 3:40 per kilometer (LT pace). Therefore, it isn’t surprising that a 4 km race was a shock to a “distance donkey” like me. After some training that is specific to 5k/10k pace, I will be better prepared.

My volume for the week was 97 miles (or 156 km), down slightly from the previous week. Though it’s painful to see a number like 97 and resist the urge to run out the door on Sunday before midnight to add three miles, I’m trying very hard to be sensible. The week prior to this one totaled 105 miles, which was more than the prescribed total of 100. This week was lower by a small amount so I could recover from and balance out a big mileage week that included a long Sunday workout. Some of my readers might be thinking that I don’t need to justify a 97-mile week, as it is a respectable total. I am writing this explanation for me and my obsessive compulsive fixation on weekly totals.

Speaking of weird obsessive-compulsive tendencies…On the days when I have been in London, Steve and I have usually started the day with a “Gibbons double.” This consists of a morning run over to Gibbons where we loop the perimeter twice and then run back to Steve’s apartment. The “double” in the name refers not only to the double loop, but also to the fact that this is the first run of the day when one is running doubles. The loop is about 8.5 km, which is the perfect distance for a morning shakeout. A while ago, Steve decided that because I ran faster times than he did over the summer, I needed to run on the outside (in this case, the right-hand side while running a counter-clockwise loop) so we could even things out by forcing me to cover more ground. Sure, it probably amounted to a very short distance extra that I ran, but it’s really about the principle of the thing. Over the past few weeks, I assumed that Steve and I would need to trade places, because he was running well in workouts and signs indicated that Steve could outrun me in a 5k. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I will continue to be running on the outside lane until our next race. Steve ran well on Saturday, but his pace over 7.5 km was slower than my pace over the 4 km distance. By Steve’s rules (yes, they are arbitrary and irrational), I am still “faster” and therefore I must run the “outside lane” at Gibbons.

In other news, this weekend has enough exciting events to make a fan of distance running positively giddy. On Saturday, we have the Western International, which is a big deal because we all know that early-season university races are super-important (but still not as important as OFSAA, of course). On Sunday, the big stories will be the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon and the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York.

On a more local note, there will be another London Runners’ Lunch this weekend in which Matt Suda and I will each be speaking about our journeys as distance runners.

I will use my mention of the word “journey” as an awkward tie-in with today’s music selection. Because inside my tough exterior lies a little girl who loves teen drama, musicals, and some occasional Lady Gaga. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about Glee, which returned in its second season yesterday, to my great delight.

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