James Cunningham Race Sets Humbling New Standards


Today was a humbling yet motivating experience in the rain. It was just over ten years ago that I participated in my first James Cunningham Seawall Race.

Endurance running was never something that I had focused on so, I never became all that great at it, however I was proud of what I did achieve, including a 4:08 hr marathon after training for the half (not recommended, but I knew I could do it and that his a another story). In the early 2000s I was trying to prove to myself that my knees were capable of running great distances without giving me grief.

What is measured and acted upon will always improve. The past few months my training has solely been on the Grind; with very little endurance training in between. Entering today was a whim, inspired by a few friends who said let’s do the James Cunningham Race and see how closely our Grind times correlate. The point of today was to see how fit I was compared to ten years ago, as well as set a baseline for future training.

In the book The Running Edge, which I reviewed, the authors mentioned that a 10 km race pace is approximately equivalent to your lactate threshold pace. I had not done a blood lactate running test since a few months before Seek the Peak in July.

The Race

It was cold and raining before the race as everyone was huddled under tents trying to stay dry and warm. Unfortunately we didn’t have any warm-up time, but the rain did subside before the official gun went off. In big crowds I never seem to get my starting place right. The first ten minutes were spent bobbing and weaving as I strived to find a place to get into a running rhythm. My Garmin was set to beep and if I went below 8.3 mph or above 9.5 mph and every 1.475 miles which was one quarter of the distance. Eleven minutes went by and I was setting a good pace then a stitch hit me like a brick which made it difficult to ran faster without pain. My heart was 183 beats per minute. This is about 5-8 beats above my lactate threshold.

To continue I had to slow-down. I was holding on for the second quarter trying my best to slow down and deepen my diaphragmatic breathing to get rid of the stitch. There were even instances where I drafted behind someone to see if they were going at my pace. In a lap race like the seawall – take the shortest path, the inside lane; most of the time I hung there and somewhere above 7.4 mph. Along the third quarter someone kindly asked if I got rid of the stitch and offered advice about how to get rid of it. It subsided, but never really went away.

While climbing the Grind and now on this running race I noticed that I get a stitch if my heart rate goes above my lactate threshold; there is a lesson there. By the time I hit the fourth quarter I could see a friend ahead in the distance. 7

I repeated the following mantras in my head to stay motivated “Just keep going, place one foot in front of the other and pick up the pace a little”

I caught up to my friend as the tents of the finish line came into view. We encouraged each other as I passed by him. Seeing the finish line, I sprinted to finish in a time of 46:19. This is a minute and a half slower than 2000.

Age Graded Finish Times

How did I do? Do I compare myself to me 10 years ago? My age graded time is 57.7% and 55.6% of the world’s fastest times for 10 km. On the Grind my times are about 78% of the fastest in my age group; still in the top 30 As a fitness professional I have always believed that participation and self-improvement are important and need to be celebrated, however as a someone who participated in sport at a National level I still have the competitive drive. It is great to see where I fit on a regional, national and world-class level. To be the best at something you have to know where those standards are. When I competed in Biathlon international competition spots were given on a basis of how close you finished to the top as a percentage of time; the standard to meet was usually 90% or more.

Lactate Threshold and New Pace Zones

Today helped established new pace zones. I use The Running Edge: High Tech training for Peak Performance (p.54) Pace Zone Index to establish my training zones, which need to be evaluated every 6-8 weeks as fitness changes from training stimuli. Since my last blood lactate test this has dropped from 32 to 36.

Conclusions

Seek the Peak is awesome event which I trained for specifically by building my base then going for specific interval runs on the terrain that would be the event route. I want to in top physical condition related to my age as I age for both physical strength and endurance. That leaves me with a few things to focus on the half-marathon, 10 km, Seek the Peak and the Grouse Grind. Overall placement is not important however gradual improvements relative to previous years as well as percentage improvements relative to age group are important. I want to be in the 80% – 90% at the very least.

Now it is time to build a plan around these new standards and goals. There are striking similarities between high performance and business: the need to review, set standards, set a new plan and take actions.

PS – I find it confusing when the chip time and gun time are the same. I pressed my stopwatch when I stepped on the mat, which was a minute after the gun time (see the age group results – here). Either way I placed 16th in my age group and have four more years to reach the podium.

Find your age graded pace – click here

I am still very happy with the last six months of events and training. What are your standards? What are you measuring and taking action on?

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