My training plan seems to have gone to pot over the last week or so, but as I made the whole thing up myself, I’m not too worried. One of the problems is that I find it hard to not treat every run like a race, which means that I generally need more time to recover; and the other problem is that I’m still getting to grips with the whole nutrition thing, which also affects my recovery. The result is that I end up doing fewer sessions than planned because I’m just too tired.
However, it’s not all bad. In fact, despite skipping over a week’s worth of runs in the first three weeks of the plan, I am making some good progress. Last weekend I ran 12 kilometres, which is further than I have ever run before. Even though it left me feeling exhausted for the rest of the week, the psychological difference is huge. If I managed to run 12K, then I can definitely run 10K, right?
With four weeks to go until my next 10K race, I decided that even though I was still feeling pretty tired, I had to get back out and run this weekend. The training plan said I had to do 12K today, but as I did that last week, I figured I’d just do 10K and see how it felt.
My goal for the Brighton Marathon 10K, apart from just being able to complete the course, is to try to beat my PB of 1:08:00. So in order to do this, I would need some kind of race plan. I know from my training that I can easily sustain a pace of 6:45 mins per kilometre over a 5K course, so I reckoned that this would be a good benchmark for the first half of the 10K, hopefully leaving me with enough energy to complete the second half at a similar (and hopefully slightly faster) pace.
But it’s the last part that is the key here. Would I have enough energy left to sustain me for the final stretch? I had no idea, so I decided to use this morning’s run to try it out.
The aim was to keep the pace as close as possible to 6:45 for the first 5 kilometres, and for a while it seemed to be working. I was feeling pretty good. The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze in the air and I was feeling relaxed. So much so, however, that I forgot to keep an eye on my pace and ended up running negative splits.
When I realised this, I eased off again for the 6th kilometre. But it was too little too late. I was already starting to feel tired. The sun was getting hot. I was wearing too many layers. I needed a drink. My legs were hurting. And my pace dropped back to around 6:50. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, but I knew that I was learning an important lesson about pacing. I had chosen 6:45 because I knew I could sustain it; but then I went too fast and couldn’t. I’d proved myself right. That was all.
But then something interesting happened. When my Garmin beeped to tell me that I was on my final kilometre, I looked at my time and realised that I had only been running for a little bit over an hour. That meant that if I could keep my pace just a bit faster than 7:00, I had a good chance of beating my PB of 1:08:00.
I knew that I didn’t have much left in me so it I wasn’t going to push it. There wasn’t going to be a final kick and a sprint to the finish line. But there didn’t need to be. As long as I focused on the breathing, kept the legs turning over and let the momentum carry me on, I could get close.
So I focussed on the breathing: breathe in for three steps, out for two; in for three steps, out for two; in for three steps, out for two… It wasn’t easy and I had to keep glancing at my watch to see how much longer I had, trying to reassure myself that all I had to do was keep moving and I’d get a PB. So I kept at it, breathing, counting, moving forward. And then I finished.
Somehow, despite the poor pacing and lack of training this week, the plan had worked and I managed to get my PB down to 1:07:22. But the weirdest thing about it was that, in the end, my pace averaged out at 6:44, which was pretty much what I had been aiming for all along!
So, I guess this run has taught me some important lessons: firstly, the training is working, even if (or perhaps because) I skipped some sessions; secondly, I need to stick to what I know is sustainable during the first half of the race; and thirdly, if I can just hold back for that first 5K and preserve some energy, I might have some kick left in me for a good strong finish!
Next week, with the right nutrition and more attention to pacing, I’m hoping that I can get my training back on track. After all, running days are so much more enjoyable than rest days.
How’s your training going? Have you got a race lined up? Do you have a race plan or do you wait and see how you feel on the day? Please share your thoughts in the comments.