Sunday, August 29, 2010

Training run

I've struggled a bit with the 10-week program I've been following to get myself ready for the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon. The first 4-5 weeks were great. They felt easy, I was highly motivated, and I could run farther and faster than the program required. Then the music school weeks happened, and the peak of the summer heat, and beginning around week 6 and 7 (which I had planned to stretch over two weeks each anyway, due to lack of time) my motivation sagged. To cap it off I had a really tough long run last weekend. I had just given up coffee, and maybe my body was missing it. Maybe trails, even fairly sedate ones, just are that much tougher than road running. Or maybe I was just having a bad day, to cap off a few bad weeks. For whatever reason during the last half of my 26 km my legs felt like lead. And the first half didn't exactly feel like a lively romp in the woods either. It was only the second time since April I'd run more than 17 km. I wondered whether my body had lost its taste for distance. Was I now destined to hit a wall at 14 kilometres?

But this week has been better. My interval run was fast: really fast (for me). I was able to run 6 x 1000 metres in the heat of the day at well under 5:00 per km. On the trails. My tempo run, in my Vibram Five Fingers along a trail with a long gradual climb, felt hard but was reasonably fast. My shorter runs this week have felt easy. But I was still worried about today's 20k run. It was the closest I'd get to the Half Marathon distance (21.1 km) between now and the race.

It was supposed to be a "race simulation" of sorts, with the first 10k run at an easy pace, to deplete one's glycogen stores, I imagine, and the latter 10k run at one's desired race pace, to see how much is left in the tank. I ran up the highway and back down, which of course amplifies the difference in the first and second half paces. But I ran based on effort, not pace. I ran "moderately" on the way out, and "moderately hard" on the way back.

You can read my pace for each quarter-kilometer off the graph above. You can see where the steep sections are -- the purple-top bars are the grunts up the steepest stuff. Overall there was 400 metres of climb which is a lot more than the 50-odd metres on the course I'll be running the race on.

I arrived home feeling pretty good, feeling like I had more in the tank if I had needed it. I know I could have run the first half faster if I'd wanted. And the handy-dandy McMillan running calculator predicts a finish time just three minutes over 2 hours, based on today's overall pace.

I can be pretty self-competitive. I've had this dream goal of doing my first Half in under two hours. A year ago my goal was 2:15, but this spring I started wondering if I could break two hours. It's stupid, everyone says, to have a time goal in your first-ever race, especially if it's a longer distance run. But secretly, I still have this hope. I figure I'll be okay with just finishing feeling strong. If that gives me a 2:25 or whatever, so be it. But after today's run I can see that if everything goes right, that two-hour goal might just be achievable. If everything goes right.


  1. Anonymous2:37 p.m.

    Are you going to run it barefoot???
    When I did my first half marathon a few years ago I never ran more than 24 km's in my training and I did have a goal time. I wanted to beat my sister-in-laws 1:45!! Well I managed to do that, 1:44:25. I think that we forget on race day our adrenline is working and I know for me that I always run faster.
    I think because of the area you train in with all the ups and downs you should break 2 hours no problem and I think you will surprise yourself.
    Good luck with the rest of the training and have fun :)

  2. No, I'm not doing it barefoot: more than half the course is on crushed pea-gravel trails! I'd been leaving a bloody trail by the 10k mark, I'm sure.

    I've never run an actual race, so I don't know how the environment will affect me. Yup, it might work to my advantage.

  3. Anonymous3:59 p.m.

    I think that you will be pleasantly surprised. The trick is not go out to hard and use up all thats in the tank and not have anything left for the end.
    Where is this half that your doing?? Is it a trail race or on roads too??
    Ann :)

  4. It's in Canmore. It looks to me like a generous third of the course is on roads, a fair bit it gravel trail and I believe possibly some asphalt trails as well maybe.

    The hope is I'll emerge feeling good enough to do the Sufferfest True Blue 25k (gnarly!) trail run in Kaslo three weeks later. We'll see. I might opt for the 10k there.


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