Final hit-out #FAIL

(Note: This was actually posted a few days after Hervey Bay, when I finally pulled my finger out and got around to publishing the bloody thing!)

It’s 7am and I’m back at home, legs-up, coffee in hand, laptop out, contemplating yet another failed final hit-out run.

It’s not that I didn’t finish the run – finishing was never in doubt. I just totally missed my targets, right through the run. And this was my final long run before the Hervey Bay 100 in two weeks – a triathlon that finishes with an 18km run. This was to be a confidence-booster that would confirm I had my target race-pace nailed, and my nutrition nailed. I either totally misjudged my fitness and ability, or I had a shitty run. The aim of this bog post is to find out which!

It’s not the first time I’ve had an epic fail on a final hit-out run. Earlier in the year, two weeks before the Gold Coast Half Marathon, I also totally missed my targets. This led me to tone down my expectations for that race, but then on raceday I hit it out of the park – running much quicker than the pace targets I’d failed to hit two weeks earlier. So I’m not too put off by a crappy final hit-out run. BUT, I don’t like them, and I don’t want to have any more!

Once again I’d decided to split the 20km run roughly into thirds. First third at easy pace (5:00-5:10 min/km), the middle third at my target race-pace (4:15-4:20 min/km), and then the last 6km at faster than race-pace (hopefully 4:00 – 4:05 min/km). I had pretty much pulled these numbers out of thin air. I had run the GC Half Marathon 4 months ago at 3:55 min/km pace, but my running form has dropped significantly since then and I’m carrying a few niggles. So I figured 4:20 min/km for a slightly shorter distance, after a 2km swim and 80km bike ride should be doable.

Good morning.

The alarm went off at 3:45am. I was up and out the door just after 4am to be greeted by a sight we haven’t seen for some months on the Gold Coast: rain. I enjoy running in the rain, but I have to make a few changes: no iPod, lace the shoes tighter so they don’t loosen when wet and heavy, and wear my tri-pants to avoid chaffing.

And we’re off!

The first 10 mins of every run sees me build from a laboured plod to my relaxed running pace. I’m not sure that it’s always been this way, but it certainly is now. My runs start slow! Cadence starts at low 80s and builds to 90. Pace starts at 6 mins/km and builds to 5 min/km. By this point, any stiffness or niggles should be gone. But today my current arch-nemesis, the sciatic glute/hamstring pain, is alive and aching. Not a good sign. From past runs I know that this pain won’t subside and will probably increase to the point where it hurts so much to lift my right leg that I can’t run with proper form.

By 4km in I’m seriously contemplating bailing on the run. It’s not helping that a few days earlier I’d gotten a scare. I’d figured out that nerve pain was not an injured muscle telling me that it needed to be protected, but rather a phantom pain that could be ignored. I’d been thinking a few panadols to numb the pain and I’d be able to race at full-speed without fear of damaging myself. I’d mentioned this to the local tri-club coach. Then she started talking about nerve damage and paralysis!

PARALYSIS!! Not the thought you want in your head when you’re trying to tough out a long run.

It was apparent that already the mind games are beginning and I needed to complete this run if I was going to have any show of pushing through adversity in my coming race. So I pushed the pain to a corner of my mind where I could keep an eye on it, but not focus on it. Before long the pain wasn’t an issue.

Shortly after 6km I hit the Miami boardwalk. My HR had stabilised at an easy 76% and my pace at 5 mins/km. This is a lovely elevated stretch with views out across the beach and ocean – always inspiring – and the perfect place to ramp up the pace to a steady effort.

1st third completed: pace 5:07min/km, HR average 73.5% of max, cadence 89 steps per minute

My original plan was to run this second leg at 4:20 min/km. But the way I’m feeling, that’s out the window straight away. I quickly revise the plan: I’ll run this third at a ‘steady’ pace, and then the final third at race-pace. But I struggle to maintain even a steady pace. I’m trying to run by feel, but whenever I check my watch I find I’ve slowed down too much. 4:40min/km is my target, but when I switch off I drift back out to 4:55min/km. It’s a seesaw and I’m forced to stay focussed – not a good sign when the fast running is yet to come! The 10km turnaround at Burleigh SLSC seems a long way away.

This part of the run always appears slower in my GPS tracks. There’s a 50 step climb to the top of Nobby’s head (aka Little Burleigh Hill) that has to be done on the way out and again on the way back. And there’s my nutrition break. The plan is to try these new Powerbar Shots. At the hour mark I slow to a walk and wolf 3 down (equivalent to half a typical gel), followed by a drink of water. 10 mins later I stop for another drink of water. The gels stay down well during the run, but I do have a case of the “gotta-go”s once the run has finished (about an hour after I first took them). The jury’s still out on these gels and they won’t be getting used at Hervey Bay.

As I run back past the Miami foreshore, I watch the surfers bobbing in the chop and I listen for the 14km lap to bleep on my watch. That will mean 6km to home and time for the final test.

2nd third completed: pace 4:59min/km, HR average 81.4% of max, cadence 90 steps per minute

BLEEP! I hold 4:20 min/km for two minutes. I stay within cooeee of 4:20 min/km for another eight minutes. Then it’s surge and slump all the way home.

Once again, I’m inexplicably unable to push myself hard and hold it, and I can’t get my heartrate up. I never used to have problems with running motivation and frequently pushed my heartrate up to 95% and beyond in hard runs. Perhaps I’m too tired? Or perhaps I’m attempting a run that is too far beyond my current capabilities? Or perhaps I need to find myself a run group to push me harder? A lot of questions – but no answers.

3rd third completed: pace 4:30min/km, HR average 83.5% of max, cadence 93 steps per minute


So this run gets a big, red X in the “Fail” column for race preparation. I have no better idea of what pace to run the Hervey Bay 100 18km run in – I’ll have to take a stab.

But hopefully, like the Gold Coast Half Marathon, it’s a sign of a great race to come!

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