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And the results are in…

The race is run, the results are in. The months of training, improvement, learning, bodily abuse (forcing myself to eat healthily and cut down on alcohol are bodily abuse, right?) are at an end. The goal was to beat a personal best time for an organised 10km race I run every year, a pb that has stood since the first time I ran it twelve years ago. And today was the day of the race.

So what happened? Did I manage it? Well, yes, yes I did. And not only by a second or two, I managed to chop off a full minute and fifteen seconds! My finish time was a shade under 45:30, far beyond my expectations at the outset. The ghost of twelve years is no more, here’s to the future ghost of 2022!

Obviously I was pleased with my performance, and lucky that everything came right on the day. Indulge me as I take us through some of the highlights.

The journey there was uneventful, parking no problem, registration took seconds. The weather was perfect: cool but sunny, breezy but not windy. No immediate concerns from the off.

All my thinking leading up to this had been around ensuring my pacing was correct. A few weeks ago I ran a 10km race but I went off too quickly and suffered in the second half, so didn’t want to repeat that. I’d already worked out my target splits based on last years race – it’s a hilly course so some kilometres are naturally slower than others. 

Before I headed out to the start, I sat in my car and jotted the target times on the back of my hand. This is something I hadn’t practised in my training, how hard could it be? Very hard, apparently. My pen was a bit rubbish and it ended up taking me ages. Next time, get a decent pen and maybe write the times on my hand before leaving the house!

At the start of the race I lined up somewhere between the 40 and 50 minute markers; these were a bit close together for my liking and I felt a bit contained with the other runners. When we set off I ran within the pack but found some space for my stride, it wasn’t long before we naturally stretched out and I had a good amount of personal space for the majority of the race. I managed to keep the right pace I’d planned and as the pack thinned I could focus on the times I wanted to run. The third km was a slower target pace, and I felt good dropping down and letting people overtake me, maybe I’d get them at the end!

Through all ten kilometres I kept to my pacing strategy, feeling relaxed and comfortable as I went. Sticking to a target pace isn’t that straightforward and I came in a few seconds under target each kilometre. By the time I came to the 8km marker I knew I was well under my target time, I just needed to keep the consistency to the end. The ninth kilometre was hilly, but I dug deep and hit that target too, and as I came through the final half kilometre the course levelled and dropped down the other side, leading to a fast finish in front of a reasonable sized and kindly vocal crowd. 

It was exhausting but felt extremely good. Once I caught my breath I saw and spoke to a few of the runners I’d been running alongside throughout the race. One of them told me he was running twenty miles today, the 10k run we’d just completed was just a short part of that. And he beat me. I decided not to talk to him any more!

This was a massive personal achievement that has been in the making since I finished the same race twelve months ago. I knew it was possible with the right levels of training, and have come out with (let’s face it) a new target to beat next year. And how do I feel about that?

Bring it on! 

Taste pace

The biggest learning from my race last week was one of pacing. There is something nice about being scooped up by the pack and spirited along for the first km or two of a race, however, this for me came at a cost: I hit a wall at the halfway point and struggled to keep any pace at all until the finish. 

Is it a problem? I still got a personal best time for the distance, maybe the first half was where my energy was best targeted?

I doubt it. It felt unmanaged and uncomfortable for a large period of the race, and in the end I was glad it was over. I guess being glad it’s over is a fundamental part of any race, but this felt wrong. 

Looking at the splits, the first half was consistent, just over 4:30 each km lap. The final one was about ten seconds quicker, so will ignore that one. Laps six to nine averaged at around thirteen seconds slower than the first five. Even with the faster lap ten, the back five km was on average nine seconds slower than the front five. 

To tackle this, I’ve been looking at my previous form for the upcoming race. I’ve mentioned before that it’s hilly, so there’s a natural rhythm of fast and slow sections, but as each km isn’t uniform uphill or downhill, it can be tricky to pace – but pace it we must, or suffer the same fate as last week!

Looking at last year’s splits, I can weight each km and target the pace for each to meet my goal – it’s all relative innit. If I’m aiming at 46 minutes (or possibly a shade under), then I now know my target splits. I’m guessing the way to store and recall these is the age old write-on-the-back-of-your-hand and hope they don’t rub off halfway round the course.

Interestingly, there’s a feature on Garmin where you can plot a course and say whether you want to go faster or slower up the hills. I’ve also done this for the race route and the calculated splits are pretty much exactly the same as my version. Looks like there might actually be some sense in my calculations.

So the theory is there, all I have to do is go out and run it!  

There’s no race like home

This weekend I had an improvised addition to my training programme. I have my “official” 10k race upcoming in a few weeks, the one I’ve been training for over the past few months. Training has been going fairly well to plan – the occasional deviation here and there due to other life events and occasion, but largely on track.

This week there was a local 10k race starting and finishing close to my house. I’d seen the hospitality tents, barriers, and finish line all being set up but didn’t think too much about it. It was only when I was chatting to a friend who had entered the 10k for the following day that I was tempted to look it up. And to some surprise, there were places left. 

After an hour or two or internal debate, I registered for the race, and the next morning I was picking up my number, ready for the off. 

This was not part of the plan. Not sure what the plan was now, but it wasn’t run my target distance as fast as I could.

Part of my thinking for running this race was that it’d give me a good idea of my fitness levels, with the advantage that it was a relatively flat course. My pb for the 10k is the hilly race I have upcoming so was confident I could get my fastest time.

In the end, I went round quickly, comfortably beating my previous best by nearly a minute – around 46 minutes. It was hard work though, and I’d clearly gone off too quickly as my splits showed a dramatic slowing of my pace around the halfway point. I managed to recover, and the final 1km was my fastest, as it should be running to the finish in front of a small crowd of well-wishers. 

Overall it was a good experience, but I’m not convinced how much it gave me in my overall training, aside from a reality check. I’m not going to smash my course pb in a few weeks time as I’d secretly hoped, but I think I’m in the right ball park to shave something off it. Two and a half weeks to go…!   

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