I returned back from the trip from hell at 1 a.m. this morning miserable, cranky and with a new, violent aversion to people who whistle in public. I haven't managed to do a decent quality workout for quite a while and for the first time that I can remember I couldn't contemplate trying.
It was time to use my get out of jail free card and use a race to pull me out of the doldrums. You can't do this often during a season - it's a harsh solution that must be used sparingly, like electrodes on your bollocks. Using a race to give you confidence when your own is low is the sort of strategy that is more likely to blow up in your face than be a success - particularly with the sort of preparation I'd had. But every now and again you have to volunteer for the Forlorn Hope and trust in something beyond cold, hard rationale.
So it was off to Watford in the evening to compete in my first 800m of the season. Watford organise their races according to seedings so I entered at 1:58 because I felt anything between 1:57 and 2:00 to be realistic. That got me in the top race with the slowest seed time. Knowing at least one person was seeded at 1:52 I was expecting a very quick race, so resolved to hang back and run my own race – particularly as I was in lane 1 (10 runners in total). The 800m is a weird race in that it’s one of the few where accepted wisdom leans towards a positive split – combine that with the first 100m in lanes and early race excitement and you get half the field committing suicide in the first lap.
Unfortunately when the field split out of lanes at 100m I found myself about 5 metres off the back and this gap was maintained for the first lap. I wasn’t panicking, although you could imagine the “why did the old fart end up in this race?” comments. I’ve been here before but when the leader’s split was 57.XX and mine was 60.XX I did note that the pace wasn’t as quick as I expected.
500m into the race I was still well behind but one runner had pulled out and some of the others’ form was getting sloppy. I felt pretty damn good so by 600m I was latched on to the pack and starting to get involved. I started to push hard and went past 3 round the bend (not ideal) pretty quickly – legs were still in good order but breathing very heavy. With 100m to go I still had room for a kick and started closing on positions 2 to 4 quickly, but with about 50m to go the absence of lactic tolerance training meant my thighs couldn’t carry on. Interestingly my glutes, calves, feet and upper body were still in pretty good order – reflecting my recent gym training perhaps.
I ended up with 4th place and a time of 1:58.12. Satisfied with that – as I ran a solid race and I learnt a valuable lesson. In hindsight I should have run the first lap much quicker and probably would have got at least 3rd . I made an incorrect assumption about the expected pace – although in my defence I would usually judge the pace myself but it’s difficult without much 800m pace work this year and a new pair of ultra light spikes. My best last year was 1:57.12 and my avid memory from that race (which I won but was way back at half way) was that I was barely hanging on pace-wise all the way round. This time I felt the pace was pretty easy – therefore I think my speed is a fair bit better than the 52.0 for 400m I managed last year.
Life in the old twat yet (as the oldest prostitute in the world once said).