Chasing Personal BestsBack in 2012 I set my 10k Personal Best at the Killin 10k of 39:36, I was in great shape at the time and ran the perfect race. Since then I have ran three more 10k's hoping to get under 40 minutes, the closest I've got was a 40:54 at the Trossachs 10k last September. What I have done is in the two years is consistently set PB's in all distances of a Marathon and further. Setting a new 10k PB was the one area where there was unfinished business, so when I signed up for the 2014 Killin 10k in July it was to set a new 10k best, which meant run faster than I've done any other race in my adult life.
Having built the first half of 2014 entirely around training and racing the 95 mile West Highland Way Race (WHWR) and with no idea what physical state I'd been in after the big race I hadn't signed up for any races in the second half of 2014. After the WHWR two weeks complete off running I took another two weeks to very gently ease myself back into training. After four weeks of tacking it easy the stiffness was gone and it was clear that my body was ready for some serious training once more. But train for what? Having had a good experience at the 2012 Killin 10k it was easy to sign up, and as I've had a PB streak in every race since last years River Ayr Way it seemed natural to aim to keep that steak going.
Race TrainingOnce signed up I had five weeks training to add speed back into my endurance tuned legs. To balance the overall training load I cut back on the amount of longer training runs from two a week before the WHWR to just once every two weeks, and added in two speed sessions each week. The speed sessions were either 8 mile tempo runs, or alternation runs where I'd alternate between above lactate threshold and marathon pace. In between the training sessions I kept my recovery runs nice and slow to make sure they aided recovery rather than just add more miles in my legs.
The idea of speed training was to improve my aerobic fitness, push up the pace at lactate threshold and to get familiar with how 10k race intensity feels like. Initially running at the required 6:20min/mile pace felt very hard, so at the start of training it seemed difficult to comprehend how I managed averaging 6:23min/mile back in 2012.
As the weeks passed my tempo runs go faster, my first tempo run I did 7:05 min/mile pace and but by last week did the same route at the same heart rate but achieved 6:45 min/mile pace, 20second per mile improvement was great to see. Feeling confident about the improvements also set about setting PB's for training routes that I often run on, and was able to lower my times and do so at lower heart rates and better efficiency (calories per mile.) My efficiency at all distances and paces was also up - according to my training logs I was in best shape of my adult life. Everything was looking good for a new 10k personal best, and I started to feel that a sub 39 minute time was possible.
The chart below illustrates the combination of regular fast training runs with recovery runs in the month leading up to the race. Only two longer runs over 10 miles is also a departure from what has been my usual ultra-marthon training over the last year. Surprisingly mileage for the month still ended up high at 198 miles - you can cover quite a few miles when running at tempo pace!
These fast training runs done close to 10k race intensity came at a cost though, the fatigue in my calves had been accumulating over the last ten days. The obvious solution was to back off from the hard training and do primarily recovery runs for the last week, with short strides of race pace to keep the muscle tension up for race day. However, the opportunity to run with friends came up on the Saturday and on the Wednesday before race day. Each of these runs I just followed what my friends had in mind was mixture of fartlek or hills, nothing too intense but further than faster the recovery runs I'd have run on my own.
Catching up with friends whilst running was great, but by the Thursday before race day it was clear my calves just weren't settled yet so I ran just 4 mile recovery runs at 10 min/mile pace on the Thursday and Friday. I had wanted to do the last mile on Friday at race pace but my left calf just didn't feel comfortable so kept it easy.
After four weeks of great training it felt like I had screwed up my taper week badly. I had got too cocky with my last few fast speed sessions chasing times on training routes and sidelined the recovery in between them to have a few enjoyable training runs with friends. All these runs were fun at the time, but left myself with too little time to fully rebuild overworked muscles. There was nothing for it but to get a good nights sleep and hope the calves would settle.
Race dayI took the whole family up to Killin, my wife and two eldest children would spectate while my youngest daughter Ellen would enter the 1k fun that would start five minutes after the 10k. The forecast was for sunshine in the morning with the possibility of showers in the afternoon. We parked the car in sunshine but the walk to registration a light shower came and went.
After registration we all headed up to the west end of Killin to the race start next to Falls of Dochart, there really aren't many 10k's that can boast such a pretty start.
|Falls of Dochart, race start is beside the houses on the left|
To help with racing hard I had planned to take a caffeine tablet an hour prior to the race but due to a little mix up at home ended up without them. Back in 2012 I had tapered properly and had taken a caffeine tablet and felt that it had helped with diminishing the discomfort and making running hard easier so it was frustrating not to repeat that winning formula.
Feeling a bit lack lustre I lined up in the second row of runners at the start, physically I might have not felt perfectly tuned but mentally I was still committed to keeping the PB streak going, I knew my basic aerobic fitness was better than back in 2012 so if I raced well a PB should still be on the cards.
Race startThe main road through Killin was closed by the police and the 200 runners all assumed behind the start line. I put myself a couple rows back from the start line and with little delay we were tearing off down the road.
|Charge! (race photos courtesy Ron Allner, The Studio, Killin)|
On the sound of the starting horn I had pressed start on my Heart Rate monitor watch to use as timing km splits at keep track of intensity. However, approaching the left turn onto Dochart bridge I glanced down to my watch to find it hadn't been started. I pressed start firmly and started it recording but had no clue just how many seconds had passed, twenty? thirty? I really didn't have a clue. What I did know was this was going to make estimating finishing time a good deal more difficult.
|Shortly after start, number 161, friend Rob Latimer right behind me|
|Lead group of 11 runners charging ahead, I'm not even in the round the bend yet..|
(photo courtesy Ron Allner, The Studio)
The first km is downhill through the village and is the fastest of the whole route, a cluster of runners had formed a lead group with the rest of the runners ahead spreading out. I passed through the first km marker in 3:13 on my watch, and knew that the first km was well under 4 min/km pace but how far under I could only guess.
|Approach first km marker in Ally's wake|
Shortly after the 2km mark the route turns off the main road and heads up Glen Lochachy for 4 mile loop that goes up the south side of the valley and then back down north side. Heading up Glen Lochay takes you gently uphill along an undulating road and I kept the intensity up slowly picking off runners and finally caught Ally around the 3km mark. After this the gaps had opened up so I just had to content myself with being patient and slowly reeling them in.
I kept checking my time at each km marker and knew that after the 2km mark I was just outside 4 min/km, but as I didn't know the start time I didn't know just how I was doing overall. Being outside 4 min/km wasn't too surprising as this part of the route is gently uphill.
The sun felt pretty intense along this section, my throat was dry and so the sign "cream teas" sign just prior to 5km marker and water point was both amusing and tempting. I only saw water though, I have attempted to drink from cups when running in 10km's before and have ended breathing in, coughing up or spilling the contents of the cups so thanked the marshals but didn't passed up on the offer.
My watch at the half way point read just over 19 minutes and guessed adding an extra thirty seconds was still on for a sub 40 minute time. However, the next km is the toughest of the race with a steep climb, up to the road along the north side of the Glen. I just kept the intensity constant, checking with my heart rate monitor to double check I wasn't slacking or pushing on too hard. The hill seemed to take more out of the runners around me and caught one runner before the turn around and then one shortly after as I sped up heading downhill.
I passed Ally and Rob on my way back during the short section of out/back so knew that they were both still doing well. Ally went on to do a PB for the route, while Rob sadly struggled with sort calf to keep up the early pace and missed out.
My own quest for a PB was still on, after then steep hill I passed the 6km marker checked my watch and had lost nearly 30 seconds so knew to go sub 40 I'd need to do sub 4min/km for all 4km's that were left. Thankfully the final 4km are undulating road that on average is downhill but my brain was a bit too frazzled at this point to keep track of the splits so I knew just to keep pushing hard, as long as I did this then a second sub 40 was still on, but really didn't know whether I was still on track for a PB.
The km's clicked by the gaps to runners ahead changed little with them well out of reach with gap of 100m+. Save for one runner that had been much closer at the half way point, and as he had an awkward running style that he just didn't look like a regular runner, so I fully expected to catch him, but somehow he took off and got further and further out of each and over took several runners well ahead - just shows you can't judge a runner by hit gait!
One runner take looked impeccable from start to finish was Dave Blackie, who left the field behind to finish 1st for the second year in row, his time of 35:10 was over a minute ahead of second place.
|Race winner Dave Blackie, Killin 10k winner second year running|
Going the the last km I was still running well, struggling far less than I had at this stage in my previous Killin 10k, but without any usable timing stats to compare I didn't know whether this was down to my fitness improving or being slower.
When I finally turned off the main road into the short finishing straight for the final 50m sprint it was clear I was going to get a new PB, but alas sub 39 minutes was gone already. Even without anyone to catch I summoned up a sprint finish and crossed the line.
|Sprint finish and still so geeky that I have to stop my watch exactly as I cross the line!|
My official time was 39:14, a PB by 22 seconds, 11th place overall, and 5th male vet. Back in 2012 my 39:36 I was 8th overall and 2nd male vet which just goes to show how not only the size of the race has increased with 186 finishers in 2014 vs 115 back in 2012, but also the quality of field.
I collected my goody bag and waited for friends to arrive, some in glory with a new PB and others in pain with injury and slower times. I also caught up with Ellen who had raced in the 1km fun run.
Fun 1kmWithin 5 minutes of the 10km start the 1km fun ran commenced, and was well really attended by kids racing on their own and parents walking with them. My youngest daughter Ellen was taking part.
|Fun run start|
Unfortunately as I was still running I didn't witness Ellen coming home 3rd girl. We aren't sure of the time as the timer was running since the start of the 10k, but guess it must have been in the region of 5 minutes.
|Ellen finishing in full flight (note timer is since start of 10k, not 1k)|
We had a little competition between Ellen and I to see who would come highest in their respective races and Ellen was victorious. Well done Ellen!
Post race reflectionAfter the race my own feelings were rather mixed, I had a PB, keeping my PB streak going for another race, but fell short of performance that I feel my current fitness should deliver. I felt rather lack lustre throughout the race - it was clear that I had messed up my final ten days, over reaching too much in harder training sessions and then trying over compensate by doing recovery runs for the final days before the race. Missing taking my caffeine tablet might have also took the edge of the intensity too, but then is taking a stimulant really fair play?
Steve Magness of Science of Running Blog and Book discusses the importance of tuning muscle tension for race day - but I had ignored this advice and rather than completely resting as I should have, I did a number of short recovery runs at 10min/mile pace leaving my muscles recovered but with such low muscle tension that I felt absolutely no bounce or efficiency when I raced. The taper that I've used for Ultra's this year and instinctively now fallback on just wasn't appropriate.
A better taper would have been to avoid cramming too many tough workouts in the final ten days and cutting the mileage dramatically in the last week to ensure full recovery but retaining the faster runs in the final half week to keep the muscle tension up for race day.
On a positive note, my average heart rate for the race was 174 compared to 178 for the race back in 2012 - I am faster but achieving this with lower stress on my body. I believe my breathing was more under control as well. I suspect these observations suggest my aerobic fitness has improved, and also I'm hoping that if I can get taper right and able to run harder and really nail the race. If I do this I'm sure I'll go sub 39. Picking a flatter route might help too...
What's nextI have signed up to three other races this Autumn, the 41 mile River Ayr Way Challenge on the 13th of September, the Great Scottish Run (Glasgow half marathon) on the 5th of October and finally the 38 mile Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra on the 25th of October. With the Killin 10k it'll be four races each with 3 week in between them.
This leaves me in an odd situation with each 3 week block have to recover from a race, train for a completely different type of event, then taper then race, and... repeat, repeat, repeat!
In each of three races coming up I have the opportunity to do PB's to keep my streak going, so no pressure there... :-)
ThanksI would like to thank the organisers of the Killin 10k, Pete Waugh of Tay Fitness, and all the marshals that helped out on the day with both events. The event is really well run and the route is beautiful from start to finish. I would also like to thank the photographer Ron Allner, The Studio, Killin, for the photo's (Pete kindly gave permission to include them in this blog post :-)
Also thanks to my family for their support in training and on the day, and especially to Ellen for making me proud of what a fantastic wee runner she is.