Coburg Lake Classic 10k
The Coburg Lake Classic could well be Melbourne’s longest running fun run. The inaugural event was back in my birth year of 1977. I
didn’t run it then. A classic it is. In charge of the event are the Coburg Harriers. They focus on getting the basics right. No extras.
No fanfare. Just a friendly, relaxed and accurate race. I really love the old school style.
During the week I wondered if I should skip the race. I knew I wasn’t race fit. A combination of school holidays and some unexpected extra
work hours meant a lot of training was skipped. My long run earlier in the week was missed. I could justify not racing the 10km event
and just put in some longer and easier kilometres. It would also be pretty easy to write a blog post about the importance of not missing
the long run. But that would just be an excuse. The reality is I was scared of racing 10km.
I know I raced 5km a couple of weeks ago. To a degree I can fake a 5km. Doubling the distance will show up fitness gaps. It
could be better staying in ignorant bliss. I could skip the 10km and claim I’m an ultra runner. Sprinkle over a bit of acceptance
and go on about still coming back from injury. The truth is racing a 10km hurts and it can hurt a lot.
At times we are faced with a choice between what is easy and what will be best.
Don’t choose what is easy.
The not so easy option
On the morning I didn’t feel like was about to race. I didn’t have my usual buzz of anticipation. Best to take a long gradual warm up. Working up from a ridiculously slow shuffle to a few run throughs at race pace eventually uncovered some of that buzz. We assembled in the club rooms for the briefing.
I was now ready to race.
Simplicity is my preferred option in race plans. I haven’t trained at around 10km race pace. Best to avoid smashing my weakness and try to suck some advantage out of my endurance. The plan:
- Go out conservative for a 10km.
- Ignore the front runners. Today is not the day to try and stay out front.
- Keep that pace until 7km and try and pick up in the closing 3km.
That seemed doable when bounced around inside my head.
Time to Race
The opening kilometre is interesting. The 5km runners start about 200m ahead of the 10km. Despite the faster 10’ers passing the slower 5’ers it works. The numbers are small enough. The path is wide enough. Plus the friendliness of this race shows up. No one is held up.
The course can be thought of as 2 main sections. First is a mildly undulating out and back covering 4km. The return takes you almost back to the start before turning into a different out of back of 6km with a good size hill in the middle. You get to hit the hill from both sides.
I keep my speed in check and feel I could hold it for the full distance. The legs are happy. I’m not breathing too hard. I trust my experience to know I am a bit above threshold. Hopefully I’ve picked the sweet spot.
Over the mild undulations of the 2km brings up the first turnaround. I find myself in 5th place. The front 3 are moving off ahead and I know they are likely to stay that way. I’m feeling pretty good at this point. Retracing my steps back over the 2km seemed ok. I didn’t feel as comfortable and my pace seemed a little erratic. Honestly, I just felt out of practice.
Onto the second section. Out by myself, 3rd place was well ahead of me. It was just myself against the course. A brief flat section and then into the first climb. I tried to make the hill feel good. It didn’t work.
The down hill is usually my friend. Not for today. I felt like I was playing just behind the beat.
Off the hill and it’s mostly flat with some very mild undulations to the turn around. Now past 5km I was struggling. My pace was lagging. I knew I was working hard, but it wasn’t hurting in the way a 10km should. It was more I lacked the strength to keep up my speed. My legs just seemed to be failing me. This was disappointing. It wasn’t part of my race plan. I was still meant to be running at my opening speed. Picking it up over the final 3km seemed unlikely.
The turnaround allowed me to check on the top 3 runners. First and second were challenging each and well in front of me. Third certainly had a clear gap on me. Just not as big as I thought it would be. Maybe I could catch him. It was a thought I made sure I grabbed hold of. Maybe I could get myself out of this slump. The idea was appealing. Make it more than just an idea.
Now I was hurting. Around the turnaround. Forcing the idea out of my head and into my legs. I managed to get my pace back up. There was plenty of space between those behind me, so no point looking back. Best to set my sites in front. Over the next kilometre I was able to keep up the speed. The lactic acid burn flooded through my legs. In a strange way I was enjoying the burn. It made me feel like I was truly racing again. My muscles didn’t enjoy it. They reminded me I wasn’t race fit. They struggled in the acidic environment and just wouldn’t fire properly. Running coordination seemed to dwindle quickly, and with it went any speed I’d been able to muster.
It wasn’t through a lack of trying, but the final 2km were relatively slow. I’m not so sure I could call it running. Was I getting any air time in my stride? Maybe I was just walking quickly. This took me back over the hill, which wasn’t pretty. Eventually back onto the athletics track and across the finish line. Still in 4th place, and a time of 41:52. Far from my faster 10km races and slower than predicted off my 5km race time. I learnt a lot this day.