I’ve been in the kitchen this week because I can handle the heat. Yes, don’t believe the hype of the BOM because last week’s heatwave through SA wasn’t actually that bad. The training I fit in around the sun was all tickety-boo, got a bit sweatier than usual but was able to hit my paces. I’m pretty grateful I’ve had almost 8-ish weeks of solid training now. Best stint in a long time. It’s led me to a new level of fitness which then begs the questions, what is the next level of fitness to achieve? Where are my limits?
On my quest to find my limits I entered another race I completed and won last year, the fourth race in Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series, the Onkaparinga 20km. How would running a race I won last year help me find my limits or get me to the next fitness level? Well there’s two main benefits to entering:
1) On the start list was the runner who gave me a good fight to the finish last year and he’s in great form so it would hopefully again be a good opportunity to test my fitness.
2) My primary intention to visit Adelaide this weekend was to celebrate a wedding of two family friends. If I went to the wedding with no race planned for the next day it would require a fair bit of mental effort to refrain from celebrating too much at the wedding and then get up the next day and smash out a 2-2.5hr long run. Instead, a cheaper option, mental energy-wise, is to enter a race and use that as a focus point to ensure I don’t get carried away at the wedding. Plus, I really enjoy competition and believe that by subjecting myself to as much competition as possible in anything in life will lead to better outcomes.
The risks to this plan though of entering the Onkaparinga Race off the back of the Robe marathon were:
– I wouldn’t be fully recovered from the Robe race and so might struggle in the back end. My training this week had showed that this risk didn’t exist. My sleep quality and resting HR stats had improved to pre-Robe levels showing I had recovered too (including getting over a cold).
– I might lose confidence if I didn’t race as well as I could’ve due to the wedding or the recovery. Losing confidence is always bad.
– I might lose that mental pizzaz that comes from over-racing. The burnout factor essentially. The way I see it though, keep working hard, keep enjoying the racing and then when it gets too mundane or hard, that’s when it’s time to rest. Not rest before you need it. I know that might not be the sports science-y way of doing it but how will I know where my limits lie if I don’t bang my head against them (metaphorically).
Having outlined the pro’s and con’s of the plan allows me to believe I’m making the right choice when it comes to race day. Believing I’ve made the right choice allows me then to enter race weekend relaxed. Being relaxed means I start the race fresh and ready. And would you believe it, that’s exactly how I felt! In addition to this, my ability to bring with me to Adelaide my Quorn mindset to life (like I mentioned in the Robe Report) had improved too. A little bit of evidence to show that repeatedly subjecting myself to competition leads to improved outcomes.
But the race, let’s get to the race already! Ah yes, so, knowing I had a strong runner for competition and knowing my strength of downhill running I wanted to go off at the start pretty fast to get on the front foot straight away. A 3:00 first km is a good way to do that. I had gained a little 10m lead in this first km and slowly kept building it over the first 3-5kms. This section was equally downhill/uphill so I was happy to already have enough of a lead that I couldn’t see second place on any of the long sweeping bends (probably at least a 20 second lead).
The middle part of the race, 5-15km, had a bit more uphill than downhill. The last 7km was all downhill except for the final 1.5km. In my head, if I could be in the lead at 15km it would be very difficult to pass me until 20km. So, run hard to get to 15km first, then fang it on the downhill and then, hang on for dear life if need be in the final 1.5km.
Off I was going in the middle 5-15km section, enjoying myself out in front, enjoying some zappy new Nike shoes I’d splurged on too (thanks to a Gift Card from my bosses at For The Kudos/The Blue Line). It was a Sunday morning, nice weather and I was feeling fast and fit as I hugged the single track tightly. I kept pushing through each little small hill and was glad to keep my HR hovering around the 160-165 bpm range which is probably the level I want it for an hour to an hour and half of effort. The only unnerving thing about feeling fit, fast and in first place is that you’re at the top level of your expectations for race day and when you’re at the top things can only go down right? Nip that thought in the bud straight away! Instead, consider that maybe I’m not at the top, maybe this is not my limit and I can go faster… So I push a little harder on the downhill, try and get the heart rate a little higher on the uphill, search for that limit.
Into the 15km mark I was still in first place comfortably and was now beginning to accept that things were going to plan and I could enjoy running fast for these final 7kms. Flowing downhill nicely it’s always good to be able to appreciate mid-race how nice it is to be running your best and not having any issues. I could’ve backed off the pace and effort here for sure but I always feel like that is being disrespectful to yourself and all the effort you’ve gone to in training, recovery, preparation etc. After all, ‘to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift’ according to Steve Prefontaine.
Into the final 1.5kms I was still fanging it and still in first. I put in the last 5 minutes of effort and crossed the line with a time of 1:19 exactly, an average pace of 3:48/km which was a 00:10/km improvement on last years time. Pretty decent and a good way to start my Sunday. Did I take another step on my journey to finding my limit though? Kind of. I was running hard throughout the race and I guess now know that a result like this is in my wheelhouse without going too deep. But I’m still looking for that burning feeling in your lungs and whole body you get from absolutely going to the well. I was hoping my competition would’ve been a bit closer today, thus forcing me to go deeper into the well, but a wrong turn from last years second place finisher about 8km’s in ended those hopes I found out after the race. I think I can only get that next level of pressure if I step up a level in races with more competition so watch this space for where I go with that. Other positives to gain from this event though were I competed without headphones which was nice to focus on the run the whole time. I also enjoyed my decision to buy fast Nike’s too (Terra Kiger 8’s). Fast shoes are fast, who knew! But what I still don’t know, is where are my limits? Back to the training board I go to keep pushing a little harder and hopefully when it comes time to harvest and go to market in a couple of races over the next month, I’ll be a little closer to finding those limits…
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