Some good things about a bad race

Today was:

  • the first run in June
  • the first fixture in London’s Summer League
  • the first time trial of my marathon training
  • the first time I have ever been reduced to whimpering because of a side stitch during a race

That’s right, I got a stitch. And do you know what? It really bloody hurt! I’ve never had one during a race before and so I don’t think I’ve ever been than sympathetic when people say they had a stitch so bad it made them walk (you just jog for a bit, suck it up and push on, right?). But I whimpered, and I walked and by my estimations I added at least a minute on to my finish time.

Needless to say I was a bit stroppy afterwards, but I’m determined not to be bummed out about it. Therefore I promise to be feeling positive and ready for marathon training by the time I finish this post. Here is a list of reasons why it’s OK that today sucked. If you have any other positive thoughts about crap races stick them in the comments below!

1. Today was a time trial, not a race
I haven’t been training for a 10K – I’ve just been running to maintain fitness – and so today was never going to be a moment of 10K glory! Today was a time trial, to compare my fitness to 6 months ago, and to give me a bench mark to measure against during my marathon training.

I set out to chase the 10K time I ran before my half marathon training 6 months ago as a minimum, and I more or less equaled it despite doing a walk. Yes, I could have run a bit faster in the last mile, but ultimately I am still running strong. Considering my intentions for the race, surely we can say it was actually a success!

2. I have rediscovered my lactate threshold
Side stitch aside, I felt alright while running. My glutes felt a bit weak (normal considering my strength training has slackened recently) and it felt tougher than my last 10K (again, normal considering I’ve not been training properly), but right up until the stitch set in I actually felt alright.

Well, ‘alright’ considering I was running a 10K, by which I mean I felt the usual amount of tiredness, achey-ness, out-of-breath-ness and all round exhaustion – all of my body’s natural indicators that I am going at 10K pace.

Experts say that your lactate threshold pace is roughly your 10K pace, i.e. the pace you can sustain for 10 km/6 miles before cramp and fatigue set in. I deliberately didn’t check my pace on my GPS watch during the run because I wanted to run to feel and find out roughly where my lactate threshold is these days. All things considered it appears that 6 months of hard training has raised my threshold slightly (yay!), which brings me on to my next point…

3. I should push a bit harder
Recently I’ve wondered if I’ve been pushing hard enough in training – could my threshold reps be a little faster? Should they? Should they be a little longer perhaps? And the answer is yes, actually, they could.

Threshold reps are typically run 10-15 secs/mile slower than your 10K pace. Considering my average 10K times over the last 6 months, I’m running mine closer to 20 secs/mile slower. Today I held some very even mile splits, all around 7:30/mile (until the cramp set in during mile 6) and, like I said above, it felt like a solid 10K pace. This indicates that I could push myself a bit harder during those threshold sessions and aim for a slightly nippier 7:40-45/mile.

And that brings me on to my next point (this post is turning out to be seamless…)

4. It has been a good measurement tool for my forthcoming training…
…And that is exactly what I intended today’s run to be! Not only has it has confirmed my pre-training fitness levels (see point 1) it has also indicated my training paces for the next few months. Unfortunately discovering your lactate threshold is never pleasant, but I’m sure it will be worth it.

And finally…

5. It was really fun
Today was the first fixture in the Summer League, a series of races hosted by different London running clubs throughout the summer. Today was well attended, really sunny, and it is always wonderful to see my clubmates and my friends. Also as a couple of them overtook me in the last mile I got to cheer them on – in between whimpers!

Phew! I’m feeling far more positive about the whole experience now, and it only took 750 words! Thanks for sticking with me throughout this difficult time/rambling post. It’s much appreciated.

For now though I am off to plan a week’s meals, foam roll (is that a verb? How should I say it – foam roller? Foam roller-er? Roll on foam? Self massage? No, I can’t write that), and get a good night’s sleep because marathon training starts tomorrow!


3 responses to “Some good things about a bad race

  1. Sounds like a great start to marathon training. If you have another comparable 10k race later in training, that will help you see how far you’ve come. Sounds like you’ve got a minute spare in the bag already, so when you come to the race you’ll get a hearty confidence-building PB. And, as any marathon runner will tell you, confidence and self-belief make all the difference come the latter stages of the race.

  2. It’s a great way to set realistic expectations. There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ race as there is so much to learn when things don’t go quite how you planned – or in my case it’s often a lack of planning. This is what training is for! A not so great race reminds us that we are all human – it even happens to the super elite. We should be grateful we finish (I’m an advocate of always finishing) with clean pants!

    • Thanks Mairead! Yeah, even though it was a horrible race I learned a lot from it. And you’re right – it’s silly of us to think that no one else has bad races. Here’s to dragging our sorry asses over finish lines!

      P.S. I am not looking forward to stepping up to a distance where finishing without clean pants is a real concern…

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