“No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy” Sun Tzu
The 2012 Baker Hughes 10k will mark my 2nd anniversary of road racing and will be my 21st race! As documented earlier in the year this race was to be a goal race and my plan as I set it out a few weeks ago was to crack the 50 minute mark at the 10k distance. For me this is not an unsubstantial goal, especially coming off the back of an Ultramarathon where I was training happily at an ultra-pace of 10:30 minute miles. To finish a 10k in under 50 minutes meant shaving that pace right down to a minimum of 8:01 minute miles and applying the mental stamina built at the start of the year to conquer 33 miles, into transcending the pains of running fast. I used to laugh in disbelief when friends like Dave and Mike would say that racing a 10k was harder work than completing an ultra, but believe me my friends; it really is.
These days I would happily take a 6 hour running journey over a 50 minute suffer-fest. What I grew to love about ultradistance running was the time that you have alone to think over, strategise, travel, and transcend the distance. In a 10k race you don’t have a second to dawdle; if you’re going into it well-trained then you should be running purely on muscle memory from the moment the gun goes off ’til the second you cross the finish line. No day-dreaming, no appreciating your surroundings and certainly no mid-race cake. Shame!
As recently documented, my body hasn’t taken too kindly to my requests that all my miles be quick ones. Initially I found my pace creeping down easily and my interval sessions and attempts at tempo runs seemed to be making a difference. Unfortunately I hit a glass ceiling towards the end of April when ITB problems reared their ugly head and I found myself in a lot of pain. Perhaps this is my body saying it’s not ready to run so fast – when I pick my speed up one of the first things to go is my form; I feel like a bag of spanners when I run and I probably look like one too; with a marvellous heel-strike to complete the image! I’ve had two session of sports massage with a great therapist at the SPEAR clinic at Aberdeen Sports Village, but I continue to get pain after 3 miles of running and the day after a run it hurts a lot even to walk.
I didn’t mention this at the time but I also caught a cold at the end of April which went straight to my chest; I missed about a week of runs when the weather was cold and I was coughing up green sludge. I followed the rule that if your sickness is above the neck then you’re ok to run, but when it goes below…you stay on the couch. The cold has long since gone but for a week or two afterwards my chest felt so tight whilst running – perhaps I was sicker than I thought.
So when considering my plan for Sunday’s race, the above quote by Sun Tzu is painfully appropriate. In my case, the enemy is injury. I find it very doubtful that I am going to achieve my sub-50 minute goal on Sunday, but do you know what? I am ok with that.
On Monday night I ended up squeezing in a run between 9pm and 10pm after a work commitment and enjoyed 3 fast miles before the tightening in my ITB started to give way to pain; not enough pain to stop me running but enough to keep my pace down and make my heart sink. I completed 6.5 miles in about 56 minutes and came home and sulked. I sulked most of the morning the next day until I told myself to man up and figure out exactly how I felt about my troubles and how I was going to deal with them as by this point I was even pissing myself off.
Running is too important to me to spend half my time on the bench injured whilst trying to hit an arbitrary speed goal. In the last year I’ve developed my endurance and skills at distance running and found what I love most about running. It only occurred to me this morning that the last 10k I did…was actually last year’s Baker Hughes! I am not a particularly fast runner and I don’t even like running fast that much; there is no need for me to push myself to meet certain goals just for the sake of them. Sure, I’d feel like a bit of a bad-ass if my 10k PB started with a 4 …but I’d get far more satisfaction from training for and completing another ultra.
So that is why I’m setting the bar lower for Sunday’s race. I’ve got lots of fun running things coming up this summer such as the Ythan Challenge and being a support runner for my friend Vicki at the West Highland Way race so I need to keep myself in good shape. I’m sure I’m capable of a small PB so I’ll be happy with anything under 52:30 which will mean a rather chilled 8:26 minute per mile pace:
My ‘Happy Pace’ currently is about 8:30 minute miles which feels great – that is until my knee starts hurting after three miles. So I’m just going to play it by ear (knee?), run as hard as I can and take the pressure off by ditching the big sub-50 goal. Speedy Kynon will be starting with me and we may well run together for a while, but as far as I’m concerned it’s every man for himself once we’re over the starting line. Hopefully my competitive side will be engaged if he pulls ahead though, and I’ll be hot on his heels.
Whatever happens it looks to be a huge race and a great day out with so many of my friends joining me including several first-timers. Best of luck to: Kynon, Scott, Niall, Fiona, Morven, Emma, Claire, Adam, Ryan, Mcaulay, Rachel; and of course the Fetch massive: Corrah, Hamster, Mother Duck, Dawdles, Lesley C, Lou C…and all the rest. See you on the start line!