Monday, April 25, 2016

Stockton Duathlon Race Report - The power of pacing

I haven’t really prepared for Stockton.  I have looked on it as a fun race.  Training for Lisbon.  Race training.

But on Saturday night I thought I might as well at least make it count for something – good practice.  It was rather too late but I dug out my laptop and looked up my times for last year.  Then I worked out my average speeds on run and bike and calculated what it would take me to get a PB.

I remember I ran too fast on the first run trying to keep up with Ruth Marsden on the first lap – which I did but then things went awry on the second lap.  So I set myself a target that was somewhere between going a teeny bit slower on the first run (55:08 instead of 54:59) and going a bit faster on the second run (27:30 instead of 29).

The bike speed, I just wanted to get up.  Now I know the course, I suspected I could manage 18 miles an hour instead of 16.5mph and still achieve the second run speed.

When the gun went off on a sunny but cold day, I regretted starting so far back as quite a few seconds ticked by before I ran under the start banner.  I checked my new Garmin a few times as I ran along.  The 8 miles an hour seemed a bit high as it all seemed too easy but quick mental arithmetic told me that I was measuring miles per hour and not km per hour so I reined myself in a bit and slowed down.  People passed me but I was confident that they were blowing and I would catch them later.

I checked my watch a few times.  Holding to 6.8mph was proving to be difficult.  7.1mph felt much easier and safer.  6.8 felt far too slow.  Half marathon pace, maybe but not 10km pace.  I decided to make hay while the sun was shining and did what felt right.  By the time we reached the Tees barrage I was starting to tire and my heart rate alarm was going off – I was exiting zone 4 and going anaerobic so I slowed the pace and sure enough, settled in to 6.8 mph.  We had turned into the head wind.  I relaxed a little and let my systems do what they wanted.  I caught myself slowing to 6.6mph a few times but I wasn’t getting passed any more.  So I kept going – sometimes reaching 7, mostly I sat at 6.8 quite comfortably.  The second lap was upon us.

This time I was ready for the Tees Barrage slump to 6.8 but we rounded the carpark then up to the flats and as a lady from Knutsford Tri passed, I jumped on behind her.  She was running at 7.1 mph but I’d rather go a bit faster with a lead-out than slower into a head-wind.  I let her speed up over the bridge and down the ramp because I hoped I’d see her later.

Sure enough I passed her on the first climb of the bike.  By the second loop, my speedo was saying 16.5mph.  By the time I reached the end of the lap it read 17mph.  When I finished lap 2, the average was sitting consistently at 18.4mph.  Despite telling myself I could relax at this pace, the constant presence of TSK (3 to 6 times on each lap) meant I was sprinting by all the time – with the occasional break for banter, mostly about the impressive kit in the Triathlon Ireland camp.  That said, my own tri suit was perfectly comfortable though I worry for normal women if I’m thinking the small size is a little on the baggy side.

At lap 5, my speedo was reading 19.9miles.  I was slightly confused by the race instructions which said, “by mile 20 you know you’re on your last lap” and had to check with Andrew and another competitor to tell whether to carry on going or not.  The sudden disappearance of other competitors was, as before, stark and made me realise how slow my running is for competitive level.

I slithered back onto the run – actually remembering to remove all excess clothing this time and set about passing all the people who had run too fast earlier or who had not had enough to drink on the bike – most of them suffering extreme cramps and having to stop.  I did my best to advise them to consume the gels in their pockets and walk it out so as not to get cold.  I gained maybe two places.

Crossing the Tees Barrage Lock gate for the last time.
  Kept checking my watch – a good steady 6.8 mph around the Barrage, with a slight slow into that head wind.  There was no handy lady from Knutsford Tri this time.  I just had to brave it myself but I was catching people so it was fun.  Someone ran by at high speed – I just hope she was in a relay!  The raised curb we all kept pointing out to eachother had claimed its victim for the day - a shower of blood spray in the dirt demonstrating how not to do it.  I was happy to see the victim had continued to the finish line – little drips of blood along the route charting their progress.

On the last approach to the millennium bridge I could hear the runner behind gaining on me – puffing along.  I had to wave good bye to the 6.8 mph pace and let 7.1mph take over.  It was still comfortable and I would keep it up for as long as possible.  My inner Dark Peaker strode out over the bridge and ran an effective descent of the ramp.  It was a flat roady course but I was going to make the most of the one hill that was available.  I dropped the guy behind and made gains on the guy in front – a tall chap dressed all in black who had run away from me whilst I stuck to 6.8mph on the first run.

Just the straight to the finish line to do now and I strode out behind him, totally focused on running stride for stride.  When to go past?  Oh When to go???

I wasn’t sure I could stay with him.  He probably knew I was there, I was panting like the proverbial steam train by now. 

I could see TSK in the corner of my vision.  He knew not to shout, I didn’t even have to put a finger to my lips but gave him a half-wave as I ran past.  With the guy in black beyond TSK he did his, “Go get ‘em” dance as if to say, “GO! Break now! Bring it home” but I really wasn’t sure I could stick with this guy – never mind beat him in a sprint. 

It was weird.  I knew I couldn’t keep up with him doing the 5k pace – he was going to drop me.  I only had one option – sprint from there and hope it stuck. 

I completely changed my running style.  Midfoot striking went out of the window.  Relaxed went out of the window.  These gangly arms and legs did what they were probably built for – power and covering long distances. 

What can I say, I went.  It stuck.  He was 2 seconds behind me.

We shook hands.  I credited him with my PB (even though it wasn’t true).  It was his first race – so the best kind of PB.

Run 1: 53:55 (10km) 6.9mph
T1: 1:33
Bike: 1:16:21 (40km) 19.6mph
T2: 1:31
Run 2: 25:28 (5km) 7.4mph - unknown for me to go faster on the second run.  This is the power of pacing.

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