Race Report: NEMAA Open Relays 2023

As I mentioned in my race preview, I wanted to use this short relay race as a test of where I’m at with the aim of averaging around 388w power output for the almost 2 mile, 2 lap course.

I can then use the data to dial in training between now and early July where I’m (hopefully) entered in the Great North 10km.

The Stryd race time prediction was around 10:10 which I kind of knew was a tall ask given the training I’ve completed this year. That said short races are potentially my forte and I always feel somewhat confident I can find some speed in my legs from somewhere.

The big unknown was the course distance  measurement as I was using my Strava GPS data from 2019 which measured at 1.91 miles. The race is advertised as two miles.

Anyhow, one of the benefits of running to power is that it is an unemotional metric and you can just focus on pumping out an effort level without emotional attachment to pace or other metrics like heart rate.

As is always the case with weekday races the key challenge is navigating the life stresses of the day and trying to get on the start line feeling in the right mood to race. Without going into detail my day went pretty poorly, starting with waking up with (another) slight sore throat and generally nothing going to plan. But I did feel up for racing still and, despite arriving late at Monkton, got a decent warm up done.

I was down to run 3rd (last) leg for the mens age 35-44 B team and so had plenty of time to decide on shoe selection. Part of me was tempted to wear a battered old pair of Nike Streakfly but ended up wearing the Next% that I last raced in at the Manc Half in 2021. I wasn’t sure how they’d handle the sharp turns but noticed others had gone for “super shoes” and so went with that.

The race got away late but before I knew it Chris Stockdale had finished first leg handily and Paul Turnbull handed over in maybe 4th or 5th but very isolated. I knew this could be a solo run with not much to hunt down other than lapped runners. Sunderland Harriers had a team fairly close behind us.

The first few hundred metres always feel remarkably easy. So easy that my original plan was blown out the water. Going into the first left bend my average power was >400 watts – well above where I wanted to be. I decided to commit to it and the aforementioned sharp bends naturally pulled avg. power down to high 380s through the first half of the first lap.

The first lap felt pretty good but reminded me of how challenging maintaining effort/pace can be second lap. Indeed it’s a well known fact that effort needs to increase to maintain pace when tiring as form inefficiency exacerbates slow down, made even worse by the course twists and turns. The slow down to get round corners becomes more pronounced and the acceleration out gets harder and harder.

I also ditched my initial plan of clicking off the first lap on my Garmin as I was right on the money around 390w power average on starting the second lap – I just needed to focus and hold it about there.

At about half way round the second lap I started to hear faster steps behind suggesting someone was coming to challenge for our position. This was my biggest disappointment of the night – I didn’t have any race craft or any ability to decide to put the hammer down to at least ask a question or, once they got alongside/past me, hang on in there for a later counter attack.

The fact is I felt a bit one paced and was starting to just look for the finish. The lack of race sharpness/awareness told here and I accepted defeat without too much of a fight.

Fortunately there were still plenty of lapped runners to go at and I feel like I did pick up a little the last 300-400m, perhaps finishing as strongly as I’d started.

I crossed the finish line, not overly winded which suggests I had a little more to offer overall. My clocking of 10:30 was disappointing initially as it’s the slowest time I’ve ever recorded at this event. However, deep down I was satisfied and the process goal of holding 388w was exceeded as I managed to hold 392w. This is almost identical to the average power I held for my 16:01 5km PB from 2021 (on a much faster out and back course). The rest is down to the vagaries of course distance – Stryd clocking it at 1.97 miles this time.

Now I’ve been here before, wondering about course measurements and the like and whether Stryd is over egging distance. But I do trust Stryd 100% based on my experience from 2021.

By managing to hold 392w for 10m 30s my Stryd is now predicting I can run 16:18 for 5km, in effect proposing that I could hold the effort level I achieved here for another mile. I think on the right course that sounds reasonable, especially if I got specific in training for 5km. But my attention now turns to dialling in for the 10km in July.

This is a step in the right direction. The data from this effort translates to a Functional Threshold Power (FTP or the power I can hold for 1hr) of 347w. I can now use that data to train properly and I will write more on this in upcoming blogs.

Unfortunately I did have an adverse reaction after the race in terms of the sore throat and I woke up feeling like I had a slight cold. It is possible that this affected my performance on the night but overall minimal given the power data.

So I’m going to monitor the recovery and try to plan how to approach training between now and the Les Allcorn 10km next Tuesday which overall will be a hard training run with the potential to follow up with another 2 mile relay at the Gordon Smiths the day after.

But that will all depend on how I feel following this decent if not spectacular season opener.

The official results from the NEMAA Relays had the Tyne Bridge Harriers 35-44 A team in 2nd overall and the B team, of which I was a part, came 6th. My time of 10:30 was 23rd fastest overall in the race and 7th in the 40 category. Summary: can do better but better for the trying.

Thanks for reading.


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