I love the Waterford-Tramore annual run. Luckily, I have been fortunate enough over the last 3 years to put in a strong effort on race day. The race is run over a point-to-point 7.5 mile route. It’s a relatively flat course with only a few small climbs over the last 4 miles.
My focus this year has been all about elevating my base pace. The aim: To make my goal marathon somewhat more boring and less of an unknown. As such, races and PBs have been somewhat pushed aside, despite their earlier inclusion on my plan for the year. My distance aspirations, in theory, are mitigating my pursuit of PBs over shorter routes. However, I’m not neglecting the importance of ‘speed checking’ every now and then. By speed checking, I mean to examine what my training regime is changing about my performances.
Two years ago, I ran this race with the goal of maintaining sub-90 half marathon pace. It would be my first time maintaining such a pace over this distance. I did it thanks to a lot of encouragement from a running buddy – just over 51 mins. Last year I went back with the ambition that I would break 50 mins.
Remembering race day last year: I was actually nervous for most of the day leading up to the start line. I don’t normally get that wound up about a ‘shorter’ race. However, that day was a year since I said I was going to break 50 mins for this route. I felt slightly under pressure to make it happen. I was in good shape having dedicated the first 3 months of the year to pursuing a decent mile time on the track. A significant amount of speed work had formed the bulk of my training.
I recall taking off like a bat out of hell from the starter’s klaxon. I regrouped with some others after about 1 mile, when the adrenaline had eased off a bit. We formed a good group and paced ourselves perfectly out the road. Despite the tight pacing and working together at the front, we were also lucky to have an unofficial pacer. He settled in with us and shepherded the flock all the way to the finish, making sure nobody was left behind. Sub-50 happened that day and it meant everything.
maintenance or progression?
This year, the ambition was to maintain that time. Honestly, I didn’t know how feasible it was given the lack of focussed speed training. An average of 6:38 per mile was about the fastest I have ever run beyond a 5-mile race. I wanted to prove that my training was working without a big impact on races but I had doubts. Not being completely stubborn about it, I did some preparation work in the 2 weeks leading up to this. A couple of tempos and a few standing quarters in the week of the race (see below).
Reducing my speed work to this level was far from ideal. It was a hastily executed effort in the two weeks leading up to the race. However, this was my plan for the year and I had to stick with it. A year of experiments after all: success or failure, the aim is to learn.
As it happens, it was enough. It was a PB by 17 seconds. Somebody else had to point it out to me after the race. I genuinely didn’t think that sub-50 was going to happen. I somewhat ignored my watch for the last few miles, running by feel alone. Practically resigned to not repeating last year’s performance. Only in the last 300m, catching a glimpse of the clock at the finish line did I believe. Looking back at the race on Garmin’s Connect website, I see that my last half mile was run at roughly 5:45/mile pace – that’s about as fast as I would currently run a one-mile time trial never mind the end of a 7.5 mile road race (view Garmin data).
stronger, faster, still learning
How it happened, I haven’t put the pieces together yet. I’m definitely much stronger than I was last year. The supplementary weight training over the last number of months has played its part. My ‘comfortable zone’ long distance pace has increased as was my ambition to realise. I even took my new secret weapons, the Zoom Fly SP Fast (read my previous review), to give me any benefit I could find. However, as much as I’d love to call this race a resounding success, it’s an anomaly. Strictly speaking, this time had no right to happen. Whatever about breaking 50 mins, there should not have been a PB by that margin. Especially when compared to last year’s race (also in ideal conditions) with so much dedicated speed work behind me. What’s worse is that it has me thinking that sub-49 is now very possible!