Crap and still no cigar – Ballycotton 10

The crap and no cigar in the title of this post relates to me and not the Ballycotton 10.

The Ballycotton 10 is the granddaddy of all the 10 mile classics (if 33 years old makes you a granddad in running terms) and today was no exception. Many of the new kids on the block could do worse than take a leaf out of the Ballycotton book on how to do things right.

My race today, on the other hand was rubbish. The only thing worse than how I finished was knowing that after 5 miles I still had another 5 to go before I could end the misery of it all.

Before I get into the description of the race I should say that I ‘finished’ it in 1:12:34. Almost 5 minutes slower than last year, 3 minutes slower than the year before and even slower than 2007! FFS?

The current press release (read ‘excuse’) for this abysmal showing is a combination of a bad start (not really an excuse as everyone else has a bad start in BallyC), a soaring heart rate (180+) and waking up last night with night sweats (change of night clothes) and the unseasonally warm day. I think it is a combination of the last 3. I have come from a family where everyone except me has been on antibiotics and had various viruses for the past few weeks. What is annoying is that these problems didn’t arise in training.

I have noticed a worrying trend in the last year or two: I target a race, train well for it and then I seem to suffer from an elevated heart rate for the whole race leading to a poor performance when compared to training performances. I don’t know whether this is from being over aroused (in the running sense!) or whether it is from over eating during the taper or some other underlying problem. When I just turn up to a race with no plan or expectation I can generally perform to my potential or better than my training would indicate.

The other problem is the heat. By heat I mean 13 or 14 deg C. If I don’t have cloud cover or sub 10 deg C I never perform well. I don’t know why this is, I mean I enjoy the heat and never have a problem with it normally. Rotterdam 09, Cork 09, Blarney 1/2 09 – all bad shows or DNFs in warmer than usual weather. On the other hand – Dublin 08, Cork – Cobh 15 mile 08, Ballycotton 09 – all excellent runs that felt good and were PBs in weather that required hat and gloves. By comparison, today we were sitting around in running vests sweating before the start.

Anyway, if anyone knows whether it is over expectation leading to high HRs, a low grade virus, problems with heat management or something else please post a comment.

The only up-side is that I am really enjoying my training and I’d rather look forward to training well and running badly than the other way around.

The race:

I got to the start a bit late but that wasn’t a problem. It just meant squeezing past a few people. A quick look at the garmin and I was showing 88 for pre-race HR. Not bad for a large race.

The gun went on time (13:30) and off we shuffled. It’s the same every year – not the cramped start but the walkers and the fun runners hanging about at the sub-60 min starting block. this leads to lots of fast, fast, slow, slow, hop & shuffle for the first mile.  This is a down hill mile and it went by in 6:50min HR avg161. Not bad for the start and all the sudden sprints and slow downs. I would have been happier with a few more seconds in the bank but mile 2 is also pretty much down hill.

Mile 2 ticked by in 6:34min HR avg 174. This was going to script (I thought) – 2 decent down hill miles, now to throttle back for 2 undulating climbing miles to mile 4. I was starting to feel the heat but not too much as we were getting a bit of a breeze from time to time and I had had a similar race last year (1:07 finish) so I wasn’t too worried.

Mile 3 & 4 were a series of gentle climbs and went by in 7:00 & 7:04 with a HR avg of 177/178 respectively. At this stage I was starting to worry about the HR as despite the slower pace the HR was still climbing. I had experienced something similar in Rotterdam last year (April 09) and had ended up on a drip in the medical tent afterwards (later diagnosed as gladular fever and a stern warning from a cardiologist when I got back home that I should not push so hard if I felt things were not going right).

Mile 5 is pretty flat and passes Ballymaloe House and this is where I knew I was in a bit of trouble. I went through in 34:5X on the clock so I knew I was ok (you can generally negative split on this course) time wise but the split was 7:11min and the HR was still climbing – now at 180bpm.

I knew straight away that this was not sustainable until the end. The motor was revving but the gears were not engaging. This was the end of plan A and the metal battle to stop plan B becoming a DNF.

I was now looking for water stations in order to cool down (and slow down). Miles 6, 7 & 8 all facilitated with a water station at each one. these allowed me to slow to a stop or a walk and take one water on board and use 2 to cool down.

These miles passed in 7:23, 7:47 & 7:39 and with HRs of 179, 174 & 174. this was manageable (although a brutal performance by any stretch). The pace hadn’t really slowed down but the stopping to walk through the water stations added time. This HR was manageable.

Mile 9 involves a killer up-hill – and it felt it – 7:44min at 175bpm. This was all I could muster. At this stage I passed the official time keeper who was calling out the 9 mile splits. The will to push on kind of evaporates when you know you’re on for a bad time. The only consolation was that at this stage I was passing people.

Mile 10 was a 7:01min at 180bpm (the garmin beeped 20 seconds before the line so this mile should be a 7:21 – for 1.06 miles on the garmin) and apart from the usual 200m lunge for the finish it was all over.

For another year.

the post race mars bar and banana autopsy showed that plenty of people felt the heat (in a bad way).

Congratulations to my brother in law (Tomás O’Riordan) who, despite just becoming a dad and having zero training done came in in 1:19:42 – bodes well if he can get out for some running.

Thomas was also there and his no-sweets diet had him looking like a whippet at the start. He was long gone when I got to the finish and even if he had a bad day his bad is good by my standards (193rd in 1:04:50).

I came 552nd (on the clock) but god knows where this was in real terms as the 35 seconds it took to cross then line wasn’t counted.

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7 responses to “Crap and still no cigar – Ballycotton 10

  1. sounds like a tough day at the office. I bet the uncharacteristically warm day (and a bit windy too ) didn’t help. All the times seem to be down. My time from last year would nearly have got me into the top-100 this year but was I was nowhere near it last year.

    Well done anyway – ther’s a long year there and many more races to enjoy!

    • Thanks. The winning time was nothing special. I’m not that annoyed by it and blogging the race makes me feel better. It’s just that when racing doesn’t equal training (or vica versa) you feel like you let yourself down. Hope the ankle is going well.

  2. Sounds like you had an underlying physical issue that only manifested itself when you put your body under stress and may not surface again now that your HR is back in double figures. As you say thank god for training – where the real enjoyment is – although I would be nice to race well also. Take care. Grellan

  3. You’re the first person so far to comment on my weight – apart from Niamh, that is.

    As you’ve said, I wasn’t too happy with my time either. I did pretty well for 8 miles and then died on the climb back into Ballycotton. I don’t think 13 degrees should affect me, but I definitely noticed that just about everyone had slower times than usual. I almost threw up twice after the race, which is weird. Mark it down as a bad day and move on, I guess.

    Take care. Hopefully it won’t be another year before we bump into each other again.

  4. A combination of resting up and race day adrenaline will give you a higher pulse rate during the event.
    when i first started racing I always used a heart rate monitor and use to get worked up about running at the right pulse level etc, after quite a few bad races one of the really fast guys in the club told me to bin the HRM and run on feel!
    After that my races improved greatly.
    try racing without it and you might well feel less wound up and run a whole lot better.

  5. Didn’t even know you had a blog Richard. Glad to have found it 😉

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