Over the weekend I cracked another milestone. I made a sixth and extra trip for the week through the Pass to Port Augusta for a 5km parkrun time trial. I was rewarded for my extra fuel expenditure and the previous 3-4 months of training with a new 5km PB of 14:58. Yep, I just snuck in there, might’ve been that extra bit of leaning forward with my technique that just got me under 15 minutes!
Heading into this run I had been pretty optimistic about my chances of getting a PB. The last hard 5km I did was the Park Stampede relays in Adelaide in late February where I managed a 15:10 split on a windy night. Prior to this, it was my previous parkrun record at Port Augusta in early February where I managed 15:25.
A bit more training in March with a bit more emphasis on 400m repeats and twice weekly strides (hard sprints) and as I reported after McLaren Vale I am now becoming more efficient at holding 3:00/km pace. To therefore believe that I was capable of cracking sub-15 (which, mind you I never thought I would achieve this year considering at the start of the year I just hoped to crack sub-16!) and actually go and do it without any tapering is something I’m proud of. But is it my actual limit? Well that’s the gift that keeps on giving with running because I’ll never really know but I can guess, from my feeling afterwards I was close but not really close.
The evidence I’m basing that statement off is from the feeling I felt at the end of the Great Volcanic Challenge. Now that was my limit. So should I feel disheartened I can’t push there on a random Saturday morning at parkrun or should I instead take my result with a pinch of salt knowing there could be a little bit more room to move with my 5km time if I got a pacer, some racing conditions, no breeze, a taper etc. etc? I think there’s a little bit of column A, column B and column C.
Column A: Yeah I feel I should be disheartened when I finish a race I haven’t paced to the extreme limits of my ability. The ‘master’ runner who is perfect at everything, just a concept, would be able to do this so I should strive for the same approach each time. It begins to be tough to mark your own effort on this criteria when physiologically you might not be able to reach your limit. An example being perhaps the last 6 weeks of averaging 180km’s a week of training load in my legs has reduced my top level speed in the middle km’s of a hard 5km effort. Perhaps. But we’ll never know. What I do know is that the albeit tiny feeling of disheartenment I get from even a good result like this, does drive me to try again and get closer in my next race.
Column B: Ok so I mentioned already I didn’t taper into this 5km, no rest day’s beforehand whatsoever. I also had a headwind, and therefore a tailwind, to run into and there’s a U-turn on this course. I can keep finding small little room for improvement’s like this if I wanted to all day BUT the great thing I think about running is instead of focusing on all the ways to scrape a few more seconds off more time, instead focus on how bloody good it was to run 14:58 despite this. My next crack at a 5km might have worse conditions who knows. Instead of feeling short changed by all these little things the approach I take to hitting PB’s is that, hey, I got a PB, celebrate it for a bit and then get excited about trying to break it again!
Column C: Returning to the disheartened or not question, the best learning from this result that I realised whilst enduring my Sunday long run is that having experiences to draw on from the past, where I have reached my limit, and being able to compare to those feelings is a great tool when I’m trying to get into that zone. On my long run I felt pretty tired to begin with and it stayed that way. Three quarters of the way through it I realised it’s great to be able to complete a long run in a tired state and tick that box of training but what I should’ve done is trick my body into a different mental state where I was fresher to get more out of myself. By realising this I then thought, hey, why didn’t I do that 2km’s in to the 5km yesterday? Trick myself into the Great Volcanic Challenge mindset.
Going step by step through my 5km at parkrun yesterday, after the initial first km of the run when all the heeby jeebies of the start have worn off I find the second km the hardest. Go too hard I worry, I won’t have enough in the tank. Go too soft and I won’t be able to make up time in the back half. During this 5km I ran the second km at 3:06 into a slight headwind which felt hard but not death defying hard. Turning around at 2.5km exactly I was at 7:34, 4 seconds behind where I needed to be. But that’s when things pick up mentally because from there it’s only 2.5km’s to go and I can race that as hard as I like I feel because that’s how fast my legs move in some of my top 400m repeats. Hence, I closed the last 2.5km in 7:24 to nab a new PB.
Returning to the Great Volcanic Challenge mindset I remember, I felt like I ran every part of that race as hard as possible. Not conserving one bit on the uphills or downhills (I must’ve a little bit though). It’s easier to do this on hills and trails because of the mechanics of it all but maybe it’s something I need to try earlier on in my next 5km or 10km, actually going out too hard and risking a big blow up. I’ve never had that, besides almost in the Great Volcanic Challenge, and maybe it’s an experience I need to have in order for me to learn from it. That’s not my game plan for the World Champs though, that’s not the place for experimentation but it’s just something for my pack pocket. Not having tough racing conditions all the time or training partners means I need to continually push myself mentally to ensure I’m squeezing everything out of my training. I’ve always found this easy on hills and trails and it’s probably what makes me good at them. But replicating this on the roads, where if I could do it would lead to better fitness gains and also better results for myself would be nice too.
Lastly, one final thought about executing this PB race and whether or not I could’ve gone harder is the difficulty in doing so in a race that is an out and back. Part of the success of the Great Volcanic Challenge and general hill running is its a game of go from A to B or get to the top as fast as you can. Mentally thats very simple. Running an out and back course can sometimes feel like there’s a big magnet on your back or a parachute as you race to the turnaround. Perhaps in future I can nip this thought in the bud and approach it as two 2.5km races at Port Augusta. Reflecting on this final thought and the ones above shows how much learning I can take out of 15 minutes of running at parkrun, provided I’ve inserted it at an appropriate time in my training schedule.
Overall this week was another goodie. A big load of volume and intensity on the hills as per the last few weeks with an extra session of 200m repeats thrown in after my Devils Peak run. Things will start to taper off soon because from this Thursday it will be exactly 3 weeks till race day. The goal in the final three weeks of training is to freshen up the speed in my legs, be confident at race speed for the up and downhills and ensure I get to the start line uncompromised. Then go find my limit.
As always, thanks for reading and Happy Mothers Day again Mum if you’re reading this later tonight!
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