As the winter season is coming to a close in Belgium, I wanted to give an indoor race a try still. There are not too many options, Belgium seems bigger on cross country than indoor. Luckily I found a meet that went beyond 60m sprints that I could take part in. The Belgian Championship Indoor for students. What is the “for students” part, you may ask? This meet is specifically aimed at university students. I still get a student card while doing my PhD, so hello Belgian Championship cause here I come. The options ranged from 60m to a 3000m. While I briefly considered the 1500m, I quickly settled on running the 3000m. My goal this spring is a sub-17 5000m. A 3000m seemed closer and more useful for both comparison and for the planning of my training.
Training has been going well. I have been stringing together 100k weeks with a workout and a long run. Focus for the workouts has been Repetition work. I think that my endurance is on the alright side with what I am running, but that I lack some more speed. The week before race week I did an Interval (VO2max) session on Wednesday in spikes. I had not worn track spikes yet and wanted to try them out. The I workout is around 3000m speed, so I figured that could be useful too. I ended up not having the will or power that windy day to properly push it. My reps were 1000m and ended up splitting around 3:24-3:25. Friday I decided to add another lighter R workout. This went fine (though I did every 200m rep 1s faster than I should have). It may have been rough on the legs though, as the turn in my 200s was slippery. I did not get a lot of grip and my legs had to struggle against that. That evening, in bed, my right knee felt beat up, but the feeling was gone by morning.
Monday of the race week, I did my usual run home. I felt great and springy for a kilometre or two and then things started feeling weird. The medial side right above my right knee felt off, tired, bit sore. Around the right buttock something felt off very briefly too. The next day, the same area at the knee started acting up for 8k of the total 13k. In retrospect I maybe should have pulled the plugs out of that run. At least I was smarter later in the day. I had planned a double to front load some distance in view of the race, but I dropped the second run. Wednesday it still felt off and I dropped that day too. At that point I also felt a distinct soreness along the inside of my thigh, running up from that earlier sore spot to close to the groin. Thursday things were feeling better again, but I still dropped it out of precaution.
My (overly?) cautioned approach here has to do with an injury in January 2017. Back then I felt something similar on my right knee a day or two after running (slipping around) on snow. Running through that quickly turned into a painful sartorius muscle (I think it was that one, it was all self-examination) that took me out of running for a month. Going by my logs, that came on more quickly than this, so maybe it was not as bad to begin with. I was worried for that scenario.
Friday I did a calm 6k to test the legs. I had planned 6k that day regardless, though I dropped the handful of strides I originally had in mind. The sartorius said hi-I’m-here for the first 3 km, but afterwards things felt better. That did not really help in terms of a decision I had been thinking about that week: should I DNS my Saturday race? I passed by my club’s head coach to ask for his opinion. He said he would only run through it if he felt the race was really worth it, but that that assessment was up to me.
I thought about it and leaned towards it not being important per se, but more me really wanting to run it. The next morning my decision was aided by feeling fine. I would show up. If it started actually hurting in the warm up, I could still bow out.
I did not feel anything in the warm up. Game on.
Goal and Strategy
My strategy was simple. Going by SBs that other had filled in, I assumed I was going to be dead last. Unless they made the race really tactical, I would be running alone throughout as well. Time trial mode.
As for goals, I had a few in mind.
- Go under 10 minutes, because round numbers. This one seemed achievable with the form I think I am in. (3:20/km)
- Go 9:54 as according to Jack Daniels’ tables this is equivalent to a sub-17 5k. Managing that would be a huge confidence booster for the coming spring. (3:18/km)
- Go 9:47, as according to Tinman this is equivalent to a sub-17 5k. This definitely felt like a stretch that I would not manage. Still, I took a note of it for the same reason as the previous one. (3:15.7/km)
I thought to go out at just sub-10 min pace and hope to speed up in the final laps.
I was a bit slow off the line, but wanted to immediately go to the back anyway. I immediately let a gap of 2-3 metre on the guy in front of me, who was at the back of an eventual group of three. I was half thinking about joining up with that group and see where it would get me. First lap in 38-39s I think. I was still thinking about it in the second lap, they were not really pulling away much, the gap was still in the 5-10 metre range. By the time we were on the third lap I decided not to consider them. Time to focus on splits.
I was ticking them off nicely and everything felt quite alright. Every lap I was perhaps a second under the 10 minute pace. Confidence booming. I went through the first 5 laps (1000m) in 3:18.5. That’s a manual split so that could be ±1s. The group of three in front of me was not really pulling away and I was a bit disappointed with that. Maybe I could have stuck with them. Of course, at these distance, the few seconds difference can make or break you. I will never know whether that would have made the difference.
About 1100m or 1300m in, somebody zoomed past me. I figured I was going to get lapped by the first guy, perhaps even twice. I just did not expect it to happen so soon. At least he was going too fast to even think about briefly hanging on to him.
I remained on pace till, I think, around 2000m. I forgot to press the lap button, so no splits here. After that, things got rough. I had trouble keeping the pace up and breathing was hard. Track hack in full effect. Indoor air does not help. I got lapped a second time by the first guy and the second and third guys also lapped me once. My sub-10 goal went out of reach and I just wanted the race to be done.
Going by photos by the girlfriend of around the 50m-into-a-lap mark, I managed to somewhat string splits together after the fact.
Yup, I fell apart.
My confidence has taken a beating. Perhaps I am in worse form than I thought I was. Sure, my final week was not ideal, still in a “maybe I should DNS” mode the morning of the race is weird. However, I do not think it makes that much of a difference for the final result. People tell me I have to be wary of indoor, the air is rough even for seasoned track runners. Still, I cannot be anything but disappointed with my result. I will take the experience on to the next track race. That will be outdoor at least. I may have added a sub-10 goal to my sub-17 goal now as well.