We’re back! My first race since an indoor 3000m in February 2020. Since then COVID19 ruined everyone’s plans a little and I messed up my left ankle a little (see the multitude of posts about breaking that one). Now that I finally feel like I have some consistent volume again, if not necessarily consistent speed work, I figured it was time to get back into racing. Any racing. This one was relatively close to me, so I could bike there (in the end I got a ride to the venue, so this point was moot). The distance was also acceptable. I think I prefer focussing on the 5000m and 10000m events, but 3000m will do.
The lucky race? A meet in the Flanders Cup, this one in Huizingen held by the OEH. Apparently the meets in the Flanders Cup are all similar in their setup (or so I’ve heard, this is my first one). A decent chunk of people sign up, including plenty foreigners. All the fast people get put in the main heat for their chosen distance. Everyone else gets put in other heats held at a later point in the day. Case in point: the main heat for the 3000m was to be held at 19:25. My heat and others would not start till 22:10.
After the bruised ribs mishap in May, I quickly went back to the volume I had built back right before the rib bruising. I did not play much with distance from there on out: regular weeks @ 100 km, down weeks @ 80 km. I wanted to get fully used to the volume again. Adding intensity back took a little longer. I still felt my ribs till early to mid June and then hurt my right heel a little blasting down some rocky hill. All told I did not add any quality (unless you count long runs and some sporadic strides) until early July.
On 8 July I did a Repetition workout, trying to get some speed back into my legs. It was 8×200m and felt pretty smooth throughout. I tried to just go by feel and clocked mostly 36s. The week after I had a planned down week: reduced volume, no workout. The week after that down week, I did another Repetition workout. This one was 5×400m and felt rough. It was a warm (26C) and sunny day, I got a bit of a sidestitch going during the warmup, and the abs felt a bit rough throughout. Splits averaged 74s. Then I spent a week in Slovenia which hampered my running a bit: quite some hiking (the steepness of which irritated my right Achilles), some too steep running, oh and I twisted my left ankle. Whoops. The Slovenia week ended up being a bit of a wash: no workout and the final distance for the week was just shy of 70 km. Then last week I was back at 100 km volume and did another Repetition workout. Bumping it up some more from last time, I did 6×400m, again at ±74s. The workout felt noticeably better than the previous one.
Finally in the week of the race I still wanted to keep a non-race workout planned in as well as sticking to my 100 km weekly volume. I moved my workout up from the usual Thursday to Tuesday and changed it to mostly Threshold stuff with some 3k race pace at the end as a test (4×1.5k T; 600m @ 3k race pace). I figured the Threshold was light enough, but would still emulate some fatigue when doing the race pace part. Hopefully a good test for the race itself. For the Threshold parts I aimed for 3:35 / km, which is Jack Daniels’ suggestion for my 5000m PB. Possibly a little fast, but I was fine with that. The “3k race pace” here is 3:20 per km (80s per lap, 10:00 for 3000m). See the next section for my reasoning for that. With the race on Saturday, I also expected to still do a long run on Sunday. Was not looking forward to that one. With the race so late in the evening, I also stretched my legs a bit on Saturday morning, running about 6k with 2 strides.
Goal and Strategy
In my indoor 3000m in February 2020, I had aimed for 10:00 (well, just faster than 10:00, evidently). I ran alone from the gun, even though I might have been able to hold on to a group that ran slightly in front of me, stubbornly not wanting to blow up. I still got into rough mental terrain, slowed down some, and in the end only ran 10:09.
My 5000m TT from July 2020 suggested a 9:41-9:46, depending on which calculator you want to believe. Evidently since that my training had been shit, what with the broken ankle and all, so I did not think I was going to be in that shape. I definitely was not going to gamble on being able to run that either. Rather a bit slower, not blow up, and get positive vibes for the next race.
Instead I figured I once more should go for 10:00. If I am near that 5k TT shape, it should be “easy” enough. Ideally I would find some group I can run with. I also figured I should allow some leeway in my pacing goal and try to follow a group even if they go a bit faster than 10:00. I think I rather not be on my own again, TTing. If I blow up while following someone else, I can put all my focus on trying to follow the guy in front of me. Hopefully.
So, the goal: sub 10, the strategy: hang on to someone if possible. If things fail, it does not matter much to me, this is just to get back into racing.
I caught a ride to the venue, but we had to go pretty early: some other guys from my club were doing earlier distances and one of them also wanted to watch the much earlier planned main heat of the 3000m. In the end there were three heats for the 3000m, about 20 people each. The two slower heats (aka those where I would be running) were to be the last two events of the meet. Because of all this, we were at the venue a good three hours before my race would start. No biggy, as it gave me a chance to observe the way fitter people and just watch some races. With about two hours to go till the start I had two slices of bread with americain as “dinner”. My race would not be till 22:10 and with us coming over this early, I had skipped a normal dinner. I also had a banana and some swigs of water. I figured that should do till the race. Did not want to eat too much and have the stomach cramp up during the race.
I started getting ready for my warmup around 21:30 with some leg swings, starting to jog at 21:35. Jogged about 5k, then switched to spikes. Copied what I saw all around me from the other athletes and did not put socks on in the spikes. Continued warming up on the track, jogging back and forth a little and adding some short accelerations. A last quick pee and I was ready for the race to start.
I was seeded last in my heat so started from the second row. Perfectly fine for me, I was not expecting to be anywhere but near the back. Plus even if I had wanted to be at the front, that seemed easy enough with a start like this.
The gun went and I immediately settled in at the back. After 200m I already noticed the pace is a bit hot for me, but I did not want to end up in the exact same situation as my previous 3000m, so I ensured I kept hanging on. Hanging on did not last that much longer though. I think by the time about 600-800m was run, I started letting go of the guy in front of me. Somewhere around here we were already going 7s faster than the 10:00 pace I was going for (as in, passing by at 1:53 instead of 2:00 kind of thing) and I figured that would just lead to me blowing up. It really sucked, but I was on my own.
I did not pay as much attention to the clock from there on out as I had had in mind pre race. At some point I did do a quick check and I recall noticing I was still going faster than 20s/100m. Just keeping it up by feel and hope I don’t die. (Later note with the splits next to me: not 100% sure I saw that correct at the time, but it is what it is)
About halfway through I started feeling a painful spot developing on my right heel/achilles. Not putting on socks while wearing the spikes was coming back to haunt me and a blister was developing from the friction of shoes against certain spots. I’ll need padding or socks next time because I ended up with symmetrical blisters on each foot. One each on the achilles where the shoes ends, one a bit more lateral on the back of the heel area. Not fun, but luckily it did not hurt until showering later in the evening (and also still the next day on my run).
Back in the race, with maybe three laps to go, I noticed that I was slowly getting closer to some people up ahead. Hesitant to overdo things, I did not change pace, but just hoped I could use them as a focal point later on. I crept closer and with two laps to go started slowly reeling them closer.
With one lap to go, I was still about 10 metre behind two guys. I figured I might as well start the kill-yoself final sprint, or whatever I still had left resembling a final sprint anyway. I quickly was right on their tail at the top of the first bend (350ish m to go?). I briefly wondered whether I should pass them now or wait for the end of the curve, then a second later went past the both of them. By the end of the curve, it sounded like one of them tried to hang on to me still, but that did not last long. I moved up more and passed a third guy on the back straight. With about 200m to go, there were still two guys up ahead that I thought I might catch. I think I briefly slowed down, realising I was emptying the tank. Realising that would get me nowhere, I hyped up myself, pointing out there was nothing to be saving myself for and I proceeded to try to push the last bits of energy out. I got a bit closer, but not close enough. I had the presence of mind to still focus on a likely meaningless lean across the line. Everything for the few hundredths of a second in my official time! No slowing down the last two steps before the line while reaching for my watch like I think I often do.
I sometimes remembered to press my lap button during the race. I also just did not want to press it too often, especially during that opening where I was working to hang on. Here are those splits I did take.
|distance||lap time||lap pace /400m||cumul||10:00||projected|
This result caught me a little by surprise as it is pretty much equivalent to the 5000m TT I ran before breaking my left ankle. You can imagine I was pretty satisfied with it. Gives me hopes that I’ll be able to PR in the 5000m this season too. I’ll admit I was worried I would be way behind on everything. Of course it also helped that I had others to race against, it gives that little extra boost.
The winner of my heat did it in 8:56.79. The two faster heats were won in 8:22.76 and 7:50.88. All waaaaay ahead of me, as expected. Of all those that started (and finished) the 3000m, I was 46th out of 49. Not dead last! The three guys I passed in the last lap were 3, 5, and 6 seconds behind me. The two guys I did not manage to close the gap to were 2 and 4 seconds ahead.
I did not come in with any expectations or high hopes, but it does give me an indication for the future. I have by now decided to do a 5000m next week, just to keep the racing going. Then I’ll be occupied for two weeks, but I hope to still find another race or two in September and October to maybe run a nice time. The goal for this season was to go sub 16:30 (decided on after I had built my volume back from the ankle break), but I’ll take a PR (sub 16:46) for the time being. If I find the time to also plan in a 10,000m (my PR for this is just an averaged split of my Antwerp 10 Miles race from two years ago, in other words super soft), that would also be nice.