Eccles Pike on Wednesday, (report here) was the first race I have done where I really wasn't happy with the result.
Any number of excuses can be made, it was too hot, the route was too short, there wasn't enough up hill, downhill, or enough off road, there was too much tarmac, the field was particularly strong, I wasn't feeling up to it, I was wearing the wrong underpants, it was on the wrong date of the month, I wasn't wearing the right number, the list can (and does, for some runners) go on and on.
In the end I was running and racing in for somewhere around 20th place, and ended up being 26th. Its not quite the same ring as racing for 1st and ending up 6th, and should I be entirely bothered about getting 26th as its not really any better than 20th in the grand scheme of things?
Well, yes, I think so. It doesn't matter where you are in the pack, be it at the front or at the back. Running with emotional content is a whole different ball game to just going through the motions and finishing without really trying. That all out effort which gets you in at a certain time, thats the key. Its not really you against other people in the race. Yes, they may be there to spur you on, to get you in faster, to give you something to race against, but at the end of the day, its you against the clock.
Is it just silly though? To run with such emotional content that you end up chewing it over in your mind for days after. Its not that you want to, but there are so many things that go right and wrong in a short space of time that your brain just keeps thinking about it. Would it not be better just to run for the love of it? The feeling of the dirt beneath your feet, the wind in the hair and midges in the teeth (kidding).
Yes. But again, I would say to a point.
Running for the love of it is great, and it takes great willpower to keep going and get better at it without plateauing. Even if you do plateau, there is the delight in running in different places, doing different things that keeps the enjoyment value of it high. If I was told that I could never race again, but could quite happily go off into the hills just to run, I would be quite happy doing just that.
Racing just has that little edge. The chance to shine or the chance to burn out in a bright ball of flame as you get overtaken in the last 400 metres. You push yourself just that little bit harder in a race than you do on your own, and in my case, there is ALWAYS someone to chase, ALWAYS someone to measure yourself against.
But what went wrong? Why did I lose those places in the last little bit? It wasn't a long race, and I certainly can't look at race nutrition as a factor.
My HR was crazy right through the race, and it got up to 99% of max at one point. Thats quite a lot. Looking at it though, my max is about 183-4. I wonder if I'm just not trying hard enough and there are another few beats in there that I can squeeze out. Or maybe I just don't have that high a max HR.
My flat out speed on the flat and on tarmac isn't as good as other runners. That is certainly something that needs to be worked on. I'd love to ignore that part of the training as running on flat, hard surfaces really doesn't interest me that much. Maybe that is the reason for being slower, it just doesn't register with me emotionally. But to get better, thats something that needs to be improved.
My descending, normally quite a strength, certainly wasn't one on this race. My co-ordination was off and my legs were jelly like as I descended. This was through massive overloading on the uphill phase of the run. I didn't hang back, I just stuck in like a trooper. All the waste products and acid and nasty stuff was churning around the system and my legs had no time to recover at all before plunging downhill. I think a series of uphill overloads followed by downhill plunges on good terrain are what might help out here. The uphills seem to be getting better, but at the detriment to any kind of downhill acceleration or maintenence of speed.
That needs to be fixed.
I think in the past I saved myself a little on the climbs, or at least there was 100 metres of flat or slight downhill for me to recover before a downhill plunge, but not this time. It was straight down.
By the end I was wasted. I don't think I've ever run any distance at that kind of HR or effort, especially right from the off. A bit of practice with sprint starts and then trying to relax back into a decent pace might be an idea.
I wonder if road biking will increase my pain tolerance, or ability to keep going at the end of a final run? That is something that needs to be looked at, but not obsessed over, I'm more of a runner than a cyclist at the moment.
The thing is, although I'm a bit disappointed with the result, I can look back on it now, and see things that need to be improved. Weaknesses that can be worked on. Continually being satisfied with your performance is a chance for complacency to sneak in, to not want to get better, or to believe that there isn't really any way in which you can become better.
I'm at the bottom of the curve right now, and this is the foundation of a better and faster racing me. I just need to remember to keep it real, and occasionally, like at Eccles Pike, step outside of the comfort zone, see just how far I can push myself in order to work out what needs to be changed, what needs to be looked at, and how I can improve.