We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the Wings For Life World Run in Melbourne. It still feels strange starting a race at 9 pm. That’s what you get depending on your time zone for a worldwide event.
Last year and I came in with big goals and they fell apart. This year I took the opposite approach. No time or distance goals. No set pace. Instead, my only goal was just to put in what I felt was a solid effort.
To help stick with that goal I stayed clear of checking the goal calculator. That way I was vague on where any splits were leading. For this run, vagueness was a good thing. There were some lessons learned.
While trying not to pay any attention to my pace and time I discovered how much I check them.
Each time I turned my wrist I cursed myself for taking another look. Knowing the splits wasn’t going to help me here. This was a test in pacing on feel. To race without any preconceived ideas.
My pacing has become too reliant on technology.
I’ve put in a lot of work to improve my running stride. The focus has been on bringing the glutes and hamstrings into action. Getting away from the lazy ultra marathon shuffle I had developed.
Turns out I’d been fairly successful in this.
The side effect is I’d slowed my running cadence at the faster speeds. Running faster as a result but at the expense of endurance. This caught up with me during the race.
Decoupling is the point where you slow down despite putting in the same effort. There are many factors that go into this. For me, the dominant factor is a failure in the muscles themselves.
The rate of drop off in pace is huge for me at the moment. Two main factors have led to this.
First is simply inconsistent training and a resulting lack of volume.
Second comes straight back the lower cadence. More impact on each stride leads to more muscle trauma and a bigger drop in pace.
There are plenty of issues I can find in my running. Plenty of ways to improve. It still comes back to having fun.
I run because it helps me feel alive. It enhances key moments in my life.
I will always seek improvement. Yet, I will always take a moment to absorb what I have achieved. The Wings For Life World Run is such a cool event. It raises dollars for an amazing cause. There is a uniqueness in being chased by the finish line. Down in Melbourne it is the most fun you can ever have on the Monash Freeway.
Putting down some big goals for Wings For Life 2018. I hoped to regain the running form from 10 years ago. Back when I had less commitments in life. From where my fitness was back in December last year, it was going to be a very big ask.
The training went well. Each month I went from strength to strength. It was hard to complain about improvement. I didn’t hit the numbers in training I considered were needed to run beyond a marathon at Wings For Life 2018. I was somewhat close, so I hung on to the hope of pulling it together during the race.
No point in being conservative. Might as well put out the effort to reach beyond the marathon. I wasn’t going to fail from lack of effort.
Wings For Life Event Hub
Keeping to usual form I arrived early.
Being early allowed me to have everything sorted and ready. Then time to relax and socialise. This was one of the best parts of the event. The vibe was positive. Many familiar faces. Some new faces. Unfortunately I didn’t get to catch up with everyone I wanted to.
Time for business. Stiffness has seeped into my joints. A brief warm up and I was feeling ready. The mass of runners worked their way down to the star line. Near the front with a couple of friends, we talked rubbish waiting for the countdown that seemed to take for ages.
A few minutes out an official picked me out and asked if I was going to run beyond 40km. I told him that was the plan. That meant for a shirt swap. The race shirt I was given at registration was orange. Apparently they wanted the runners out front all to be in yellow. So yellow it was. It created an obligation to run well.
World Run Global Start
As one we all started around the world.
Running for those that can’t.
My legs had practiced race pace so they knew what to do. Straight into it. The seeding seemed to work well. There were lots of runners, but plenty of space. Taking over a freeway probably helped with the space.
At the 5km mark I hit my target split of 22:05 to the second. I wasn’t feeling great. A headache was crashing in and I just felt tired. It was early days, so I just sucked it up and expected to feel better as the run unfolded. When I’m fit I often find something tends to click about an hour in and running can feel easier. I knew I was that fit.
For the next 5km is the majority of ascent on this course. When driving the Monash Freeway you don’t notice the hills. Running is a different story. None of the hills are steep, but they are long and steady and can be risky. The sort of hills that can have you run too hard and come back to bite you later on. My plan was to allow for only a slight increase in effort. Thinking if I crossed the 10km mark at 45:00 then I would be spot on.
So close, 45:01 was the 10km time. The clock I was on target. My body was having doubts.
The headache had increased. That was something I could put up with. Worrying me was the fact most of my joints hurt. Feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulder and elbows just hurt. It didn’t make sense. Certainly wasn’t something I was use to feeling when running.
Rationalising it was a bad patch I pushed on. Maybe the uphill was just harder than I gave it credit. Now slightly down hill I could spin the legs and let gravity do some of the work.
Gravity worked. The landing of each foot not so much. My joints became stiff. They felt almost like they were swollen. Running became more difficult. I was maintaining my pace, but it was far from my usual efficiency. Something wasn’t right
Around the 14km mark and my body decided it wouldn’t play nice. There was only a semblance of strength left in my legs. Despite plenty of mental effort, I just couldn’t make them go any faster. I’d completed plenty of training runs that were faster and longer than where I was now.
Fighting back got me to the 15km mark and my 3rd 5km split. 22:35. Those extra 30 seconds were all added after 14km.
That was it. My running continued to slow step after step. I continued to hang to hope of “coming good” at some point. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a way to make it happen. My head hurt with the mix of emotions churning around inside the headache. Gradually I accepted it wasn’t my day.
Now with a bit of mental freedom I was able to find enjoyment back in the run. It was still a struggled, and despite pushing I kept getting slower. I smiled when I realised this race was probably the only way you could enjoy being on the Monash Freeway.
The inevitability of the catcher car crept into my thoughts. When hurting a race I often latch onto the concept that if I run faster I can finish sooner. In the Wings For Life World Run running faster would prolong the pain, but also the enjoyment. A tug of war between wishing the car would catch sooner versus wishing to run further rage amongst my grey matter. I wondered what could have been if the race went somewhat close to plan. This had become an event I will be definitely be back for.
You feel the buzz of energy approaching as the catcher car comes into range. There is an excitement and celebration. A mixture of enjoyment and relief hit me as the catcher car passed. 24.8km. A long way off trying to go further than 42.195km. I was disappointed with the result, but I still enjoyed the Wings For Life 2018 World Run. Definitely a race to come back to.
Check out all the coverage from the event around the world:
It is a matter of making the mathematics fit. Write it out on paper. Cement the numbers in the brain. Back it up with the Garmin. Add in some effort. Simple.
A relaxed warm up and it’s time to really run. Five repeats of 5000m with 1000m in between. Running right on or just above predicted marathon race pace. It should be doable as 25km is a lot less than 42.195km. Even with the slightly easier 1000m it is still only takes the distance up to 29km.
Through the first repeat. There was a smoothness that made me happy. It was nice to get the numbers all matching. Coasting through the 1000m brought up to the second 5000m sooner than I realised. The alert buzzed on my wrist and the pace was dialled back up.
Second time around the numbers still matched up. One difference. My legs hurt a little. This was unexpected, but nothing to worry about.
Keeping the times nice and neat I completed the 3rd 5000m repeat. My mind was good. I was enjoying the run. My energy levels were high. The intensity felt about right. My legs on the other hand didn’t feel right. They were taking a beating. Something a bit short of taking a hammer to them.
Now the 4th repeat wasn’t so pleasant. Each step shot pain through my legs. It should feel better than this. I was able to hold onto my pace. Those numbers still looked good. Harder to achieve this time. So I relaxed as much as I could during the 1000m recovery run.
My legs still hurt.
“Last one.. fast one.. last one.. fast one..”
Pushing the mantra through my head. It wasn’t enough to override my body. The muscles in legs began cramping only a short way into the last repeat. My quads kept locking up. My lower legs refused to coordinate. Energy levels were still high. My heart and lungs weren’t screaming for relief. Motivation strong.
It wasn’t enough.
My legs just wouldn’t do what I demanded of them.
Running was reduced to an awkward shuffle. That wasn’t going to benefit me anymore so I called an end to the session. On the slow trip home was time to reflect.
With a bank of 30km to 40km runs behind me the distance is obtainable. This is reinforced with consistently running over 80km per week, with a string of over 100km for 4 weeks in a row. The base is there.
Worried I was burning too much glycogen at the start of peak training. Coming off a good 10km and Half Marathon meant I was comfortable with the speed. I wondered if I’d gone too far in working on that pace. As the peak runs unfolded it was clear the fat versus carbohydrate mix wasn’t my limiter. Energy levels even as my legs fell apart were high. I wasn’t getting those feelings of glycogen depletion. No big suck out of energy. Adding in some carbohydrate loading and fuelling on race day should see this covered.
Sense Of Pace
It’s funny how no matter how fit I am in any other endeavour, if I don’t feel fit in running, then I just don’t feel fit. Right now I feel run fit. Having worked back a lot of my running fitness from 10 years past. When I am truly run fit I become so much more in tune to my body. I become so much more sensitive to form and pace.
Adding to being more sensitive I put in a lot of work at understanding what different paces feel like. This is one of the main aspects I work on during the peak runs. Over the last couple of runs I found I could easily pick my pace to the second. Even allowing for fatigue, gradient and wind.
What I’m Worried About
One thing only.
The ability of my legs to hold the pace for long enough.
In the peak runs the limiter has been muscle fatigue. Not just soreness. Pain I can deal with. It is the ability of the muscles to keep working. Similar to cramping. Basically it comes back to conditioning of the muscles themselves.
A lot has gone well in training over the last few months. There are still some aspects I have been missing. I’ve deliberating kept away from hard down hill running. Still having to tape my ankle half the high ankle sprain last May means I am wary of what will aggravate it. The reduced down hill training has reduced my fatigue resistance to the impact of running fast over a long time.
The hard work is all done. No more big runs until race day. This puts me into a race taper.
I’m really hoping the taper can work some magic. I will need every benefit I can get out of the taper. Maybe it allow for some adaptions in my muscles so I can hold onto the right pace for long enough. It is a big ask.
I will need every bit of the 2% improvement a good taper can give. Plus something extra.
My race plan is built on hope. The numbers from my key runs tell me I’m not quite where I need to be. Science suggests another month would get me there. There is also an art to training and racing. I’m going to lean heavily on the art side.
There’s not point in conservative. I’m still going to try and run beyond the 42.195km at the Wings For Life World Run. I may crash and burn before I reach my goal. If that happens I will know it wasn’t through lack of effort.
On the other hand. It just might work.