Kampar Half Marathon - 10km

For the second week running I found myself starting a 10km road run which would ordinarily not be my chosen form of activity on a Sunday morning.

Fortunately, Kampar is a lot smaller than Kuala Lumpur so I was pretty confident that the participant numbers would not be anywhere near like they were last weekend's SCKLM. It was also, as Elsa had so wisely said when signing herself and her Mum up for the 5km run, a good way to test out the impact of my speed work down at the track that I had been doing pretty religiously. As usual this made a lot of sense and, as a result, here I was.

This week’s race had a very different set of goals though to the previous weekend. This week was really about me and having scoured my few and far between 10km runs on the road I had discovered a time of 43:24 which I set at the Port Dickson International Triathlon (PDIT) in 2012 and a 43:02 that I’d done at the Port Dickson Duathlon in 2014. As far as I could tell these were my best recorded times for a 10km road run. So this week, rather than loitering mid pack at the start, I had my “toe on the line” looking to do significantly better than this time despite being a 'tadge' older.

Realising the pressure that fast running (particularly on the road) is putting on my Achilles Tendon I really made sure that I was properly warmed up for the start and had a good sweat worked up as the announcer called the 10km runners forward to the start line.

Surprisingly, rather than starting us under the start/finish arch, we were asked by the event organiser to gather on the entrance road. This made some sense as it would avoid a sharp right turn just 30-40 metres from where the start/finish arch was located but unfortunately it meant we were just a few feet in front of a rather severe speed bump.

Thankfully, despite the breaking light, I had the good fortune of seeing this and taking note of it. However, sadly the lady next to me on the start line didn’t, I guess. As, as soon as the horn sounded to start the race, she took one stride forward stumbled on the speed bump and was nudged from behind by the runners behind and nose planted herself into the road to the side of me.

As a result, I’m sure she felt much worse than me, but I felt awfully sad that we couldn’t all stop and start again after we’d made sure she was all right to continue of course. Sadly, races don’t work like this though, and I tried to force the image of her face down on the road with several hundred runners behind her trying to avoid running over her out of my head and focus up ahead where the race was now taking place.

That said, having been entered into the “Open” category, which was the one and only race category that this distance had, I wasn’t aiming to 'race' in it. Instead, despite always expecting the most of myself, I realised that a 55 year old really ought to know his place in a race category like this. I was therefore simply planning to use the faster, younger runners in this race as pacers to help me get as close as possible to a 40 minute 10km time.

This was the time I am aiming for at the moment for this distance. In fact, I actually want to be sub 40. It’s a super big ask of myself though. Especially, as based on my weekly speed sessions at the track, I knew that for the last few weeks in trying to up my pace to do this sort of time over this sort of distance, I had really struggled to run more than 6 consecutive 1kms at the race pace I needed to do to get close to this time.

As usual therefore the 40 minute time was set as my “stretch” time and my goal was to settle for sub 43 minutes so I could beat these two historic times and prove to myself that I really am defying “Father Time” and getting slowly but surely faster.

Now those of you that know a bit about Triathlon's will know that the PDIT is an Olympic Distance event so the 10km run comes after doing a 1.5km swim and a 40km bike ride. So, you’ll have every right to think that running faster than this time should be relatively easy if you are only doing the run.

What you won’t appreciate though is that the PDIT was renowned back then for having a notoriously short run and, although I can’t recall exactly what the distance was that year, it would definitely not have been 10km and most likely was somewhere around 8.5km to 9km. As a result, I genuinely and sincerely believed that bettering this time would be a good test of whether I was a faster runner 4 years on.

What was a going to be a better benchmark for me was the 43:02 I ran in the Duathlon 2 years later. This was a 10km run done on a fresh set of legs as it was the 1st run and thanks to Terry Gallagher one of my Ozzie Mate’s and a great runner, who paced me that day, I had a great 1st run that helped me actually enter T1 that day a couple of minutes ahead of my old Nemesis Don Khor.

With this sub 43 minute time as a minimum requirement I had to push the Lady’s misfortune at the start line to one side and set about trying as best as I could to keep the lead group in view and to find someone to pace me.

Sadly, as soon as we left Kompleks Raken Muda that was being used as the start/finish venue, the road ahead was full of 21km runners. they had been due to start 15 minutes ahead of us but the organisers only allowed a few minutes. As a result the 4-5 runners I believed were ahead of me disappeared into the sea of runners/walkers ahead and, as no one seemed to be on my shoulder, I was left running alone.

Fortunately, shortly after crossing the 1st of the 4 bridges on this out & back course I caught a glimpse of someone ahead that was moving through the 21km back markers as fast as I was. I decided that must be one of 10km runners that I believed were ahead of me. In the same instant, he was appointed as my pacer, and I set about slowly trying to catch him and get on his shoulder, which after about 3km I was able to do.

I don’t mind admitting it was a bit of an effort to do this. So for the next 2km, given that he was running at a good pace, I consolidated and was content to sit on his shoulder especially as the 2nd of the 4 bridges we had to run up came along and this hill was longer and more significant than the last.

Shortly after this we got to the U-Turn and I was able to confirm that there were just 4 other runners ahead of us. The first 2 were 5-6 metres a part and probably the best part of 400 metres in front and I quickly assessed them as young, strong and capable and therefore uncatchable. The other two runners were perhaps only 200 metres ahead and perhaps, if we tried hard, potentially catchable.

I spoke with the young lad who I had been running alongside for the past few kilometres and suggested this. I also added that because of my age I wasn’t going to be much help to him catching them though in the hope that he'd take the bait and the job on. Sadly, he didn’t seem as interested in this idea as i was ;-)

So, as we were now approaching the returning climb over the bridge I took it upon myself to have a bit of a dig and see if I could put a dent in the lead that the 3rd & 4th places runners had over us. Sure enough as we crested, the lead had dropped to perhaps 130-150 metres and I reassured my running partner that there was definitely a possibility of us catching these two runners.

Suddenly, he perked up and picked up his pace on the long gradual descent that we had run up earlier and we continued nibbling away at the lead although I now noticed that one of the two runners had broken away and the guy we were chasing was running on his own.

Unfortunately, at this point (we were about 6km into the race) and for the next 3km I confess that I was not much help to my fellow runner. On reflection, I had obviously pushed too hard up the hill and now needed to back off. In fact, I was struggling now to not be dropped myself like the runner up ahead had been. As a result, I found myself dispensing the same advice I’d given to the Boy’s the previous week of relaxing and breathing to myself!

Not getting any encouragement or assistance from me the gap between us and the 4th placed runner stayed constant. As had my position of 4-5 metres behind the 5th place runner and my pacer. Now though with the 2nd and final bridge in sight and my heart rate and breathing more or less under control again I started to think about one final push for home as after the bridge there would be about 1 km to go.

I realised too that the young man who I'd been running with would most likely have much better sprinting legs than me and I knew that I was only going to come out ahead of him in our personal duel if I opened up a decent gap on him between now and the finishing line. So with that thought in my head, I started to increase my tempo again and closed and passed him to take over the 5th place position just before the bridge and vowed to myself that if i was going to lose it he or someone else was going to have really hurt themselves to get past me ;-)

Sadly, the lad in front spotted me going up the bridge from the other side, as it was one of those bridges used by the motorbikes, with ramps that ran parallel to the railway line it crossed. With my cover blown, by the time I’d crossed and was coming down the ramp, the distance between the two of us had widened again to about 75 meters and to be fair to him he maintained that for the remainder of the race and I finished perhaps 20-30 seconds behind him but thankfully a similar distance ahead of my longstanding pacer.

I was busy stopping my watch while they put what I thought was the finishers medal over my head. This read 43:13 so I was admonishing myself for dropping off the pace in the 6-9 kilometre sector causing me to miss my goal of going below 43 minutes. As I started my warm down exercises it turned out that rather than a medal round my neck I had a label confirming that rather than 5th which I thought I should be, I was 3rd. This puzzled me and I went to check if this was correct and was reassured that it absolutely was. Turns out that those two strong young runners that were leading somehow forgot their way back across the bridge and ended up getting horribly lost on the wrong side of the rail tracks.

This was obviously a bonus of sorts as, I have to confess, podium finishes add a lot to race for me. However,  I really would have been happier with 5th and a sub 43 minute race. As importantly, I really would have been happier if I had not felt so stretched in the final third of the race.

The 45 year old Bomba Superintendent who presented the trophies
really wasn't too happy to hear that I was 10 years his senior :-)

The 3 most important “takeaways” after reflecting on the morning’s performance are that I have to…
  1. Start completing longer speed sessions at the track so that I can sustain a 4 minute km pace into the last 3 rd of the race.
  2. Increase the number of speed sessions to two sessions per week and drop the technical trail run I do at the end of the week currently.
  3. Go back to doing hill repeats again after riding rather than running on the flats along the river by my house.
There are now 13 weeks remaining until the trip to the ITU Cross World Championships so the next 8 weeks focusing on the above are critical to the speed of foot that I am going to need to have there to be the best I can be.

I’m off to the track tonight before the pool session and will be there again on Friday to execute on the above plan as best I can.

Over n Out for now.

The TriHard Rustman


Popular Posts