Pacing myself for the first race of the season and especially a short one: not my best skill. A few seconds per km quicker when closer to the limit of your breathing make a much larger difference. Too fast, too soon and you'll finish sounding like a fire-breathing dragon without the actual flames.
So, back to racing for the first time since November. That was also a 5k. In quite a damaged state, I had struggled across the line in 20:58. 4 months earlier I had set a PB of 19:18 which I remain pleased with.
I've been increasing kilometrage and speed only since January. Add to that a Saint Patrick's Road Race course with a couple of tricky bits of gradient and plenty of corners, and I could rule out the low 19s, but I was hoping to guide/ inspire/ grind/ drag myself to a sub 20.
A touch chilly, the roads were clear and good for racing. This event, it almost goes without saying, always delivers a great vibe.
I had gone under the tape to line up in front of runners with headphones, etc. A runner with music is especially dangerous at the start of a race.
Off we went at what seemed like 400m pace.
One really quick 10k competitor came hobbling back having had turned his ankle a bit in a pothole. He decided to do the 5k despite not being in the best shape. You can spot him if you examine the feet above.
The course is an out and back. First uphill/ last downhill was less steep than I remember from 2 years ago. The first downhill/ last uphill is however steeper, it's second visit coming at a key stage in the race.
2k sign and I was about 40 seconds ahead of 20 minute pace. My watch km splits were coming before the signs, earlier and earlier, though it's always going to be about completing the course rather than when a gps tells you to stop. Into a headwind before the turnaround, I slowed a bit as I felt I was burning too many matches.
The leading lady's speed, just in front of me, was dropping more than mine. I overtook, knowing it's all too easy to settle into a pace-setter's slowing speed. The leader and race winner, who surely rode a bicycle some of the way, came flashing past. The injured guy came past wearing quite the grimace (camera zoom too wide to pick it up).
Overtook one more at start of that incline.
About halfway up, I overtook a kid who looked about 13, maybe younger. He'll be back next year with bigger lung capacity and leave me trailing.
"Be at 16 minutes at 4k, then 3:59 pace till the finish". So began the endgame. The last downhill helped conserve a little energy for the final few hundred metres.
I could see the clock from quite a way off, and knew I had the sub-20 by the time I could read it. Easing up as I crossed the line, final time was 19:50.
I had to push through a couple of barriers to get under 20 minutes again, however it shows that my speed and speed-endurance are gradually making a comeback.
Irish stew makes for the best post-race food ever.