2 weeks ago I competed in a somewhat mentally and physically challenging 100km track race, which involved running 250 laps of a 400m track. I was pretty sure I’d be happy not to see that track again for a Very. Long. Time.
But things don’t always go the way we expect. Last Wednesday night I was back at the stadium again, this time for the SA Masters Athletics competition.
SA Masters runs weekly competitions for athletes 30 and over (and yes, I do qualify. Only just!). In summer they run track and field comps on a Wednesday night at the stadium. I know a lot of people who go each week, and I have been intending to go for a few years, but hadn’t got around to it.
I had promised myself I’d go after the 100km was over – I was worried that I might go out a bit too hard in the shorter distance events and do myself a mischief. I gave myself a week’s ‘break’ and earmarked February 10 for my Masters debut.
Looking at the events on offer, they were all new to me. On the track we had 100m, 400m, 1500m and 3000m, as well as 1000m and 2000m walks. (The programme varies from week to week. There were field events too but I decided not to push my luck! Although I do like to throw my weight around from time to time…)
As a 5000m specialist, I thought I’d give the 1500 and the 3000 a go. The 1500 was scheduled for 6:15 and the 3000 for 6:45. That meant I wouldn’t get much of a break in between – something I hadn’t really experienced before!
One reason I had been keen to get out to the track was because I was interested in competing in the Australian Masters Athletics championships later this year, being held in Adelaide. I thought I’d try a few events to see if I liked it! I definitely don’t expect to be competitive at that level – I’m sure a lot of serious Masters athletes will be competing, and I think my age group is one of the toughest, with 35-39 year old females regularly featuring in the placings at open age events!
Anyway, back to Wednesday night. I arrived at the stadium, and got my temporary bib. I entered the 1500 and the 3000, and was asked my times, as it was a handicap event. Having never run either distance before, I didn’t really have much idea! I had run 6:19 in a 1600m road run, so the lady quite generously gave me 6:20 as my 1500 time, then doubled that for 3000m.
I watched the 100m. I thought NO WAY would I even contemplate running a 100m. 100km maybe (well, I DID do that!) but 100m, that would be a recipe for disaster! It seems VERY weird that I wouldn’t think twice about entering a 100km race but a 100m was just terrifying. A stack, getting tangled in the starting blocks, or worse, a torn muscle! No thanks!
I started the 1500m at 58 seconds (the idea being that the slower runners started earlier, so everyone should finish pretty close together). It was a mere 3.75 laps of the track. Easy!
I went out at quite a fast pace for me. It felt reasonably comfortable but I was pushing it. Come the last lap, I was aiming for sub 6 minutes. 4 minute kms, that would stand me in good stead for eventually breaking the 20 minute barrier for 5km.
The clock showing at the finish line showed the time for the runners who started off scratch, but wasn’t super helpful to the rest of us, unless we happened to be good at doing mental arithmetic while running. Luckily for me, as I approached the finish line, the clock was showing 6 minutes something. With a 58 second handicap, I knew I just had to get under 6:58 on the clock. I picked up the pace down the final straight but didn’t quite make it – my official time was 6:01. Still, plenty of room for improvement! I think 5:30 is a realistic goal to aim for. And I really enjoyed that distance – it seemed to be over before it began, but it wasn’t too short. (I didn’t run the 400 because that seemed too short. I will, however, give 800m a crack when it is on offer!)
There wasn’t much time to recover before lining up again for the 3000m. My goal for 3000m is 12 minutes (again, in line with my sub-20 5k ambition) but realistically that probably will never happen immediately after a hard 1500!
I knew early on that 12 minutes was definitely not happening on this particular occasion. My first km was 4:23, as was my second. The fatigue from the 1500 was noticeable! I did manage to pick up the pace slightly in the last km, to 4:16, with an overall time of 12:55. My handicap was around 5 minutes something, meaning that some of the slower runners had completed 2 laps before I even started. I wasn’t too worried about my place in the ‘race’ itself though, I was more concerned with learning how to pace myself over shorter distances, and hopefully improving my times from week to week! It’s a good place to practice pacing, being a completely flat track.
I will definitely make Masters a regular thing. It’s a very friendly environment, and a great opportunity to test myself over distances I don’t normally run. If I can get a good 1500 it will help me with that last burst of speed in events like the 5k and 10k. Great speed training!
To any Adelaide athletes 30+, I highly recommend giving it a go! You don’t have to sign up for the SA Masters club right away, you can compete as a guest to see if you like it – you just have to pay stadium entry which is currently $8. And of course you WILL like it, so what are you waiting for?