We are now four weeks away from the Coventry half marathon, and the primary goal of my current training schedule. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been a bit up and down during the recent weeks, taking massive confidence from one session and then questioning my level of fitness, perceived effort and race pace in the next.
With that in mind, I wanted to do a ‘tune-up’ race, to understand exactly where I am in terms of training for the goal race pace. However, 5k is rather short to challenge a fitness level for a half marathon, and almost all 10k races take place on Sunday’s, a day which is particularly difficult for me for getting out.
I decided to turn one of my training sessions into a ‘race.’ The issue with this of course is that it in no way simulates an actual race, particularly in preparation for the half marathon. It’s on a different day, i.e. after a day’s work, it’s at a different time of day, there’s no closed roads, there’s no support, no one to match pace with and drag you along and no added adrenaline pumping, keeping you going. That being said, I still wanted to proceed with the test, as any indication is better than no indication.
The ‘course’ I chose was one that I run quite often during club training runs. It’s a loop which is relatively flat, with just a couple of minor hills, and very few busy roads that require crossing. I was aiming for a sub-45 minute finish but I decided before setting off that I wasn’t going to restrict myself on pace. Instead of glancing at the watch continuously, speeding up or slowing down depending on the pace displayed, I wanted to run by feel, at a pace that I felt comfortable that I could hold for the duration.
This resulted in a fast first km, 4:18, bearing in mind that my 5k pace is 4:21. That first km turned out to be the fastest, but did involve a downhill and no incline. Usually, the course set out is exactly 10km, but I adjusted it slightly to exclude two particularly busy roads. This meant a search for additional metres at the end where I had to head up a slight incline before spinning 180 and heading back down it at the right time, to avoid any hold ups. Despite being slowed a few times by cars coming out of junctions, I managed to maintain a sub-4:30 pace, finishing in 44:18, far better than I had expected. This was also a PB by 80 seconds.
Readers may have already figured that I am quite a fan of Jack Daniels’ VDOT02 calculator. I discovered it a while back and have also heard it mentioned in a few podcasts since. James Dunne at Kinetic Revolution is also a fan. For those not familiar, the calculator works in two ways, both starting with the result of your most recent race. Following this, it provides you with training paces based on that result, and it also gives predicted finish times for other race distances. Putting in a 44:18 10k returns a predicted half marathon finish time of 1:38:15. Although it does make some assumptions on your fitness level and so should be accepted with caution, it has been very accurate for me in the past.
Whilst this test was not carried out under race conditions, it was also a very flat 10k (although I did measure it against a local 10k taking place just days before and the elevation was slightly more here than the race). For that reason, the above prediction should be taken lightly. That being said, I am very happy with how the session went and my confidence is growing that I can achieve the target of a sub-1:40 at Coventry. According to my training plan, my next two long runs are going to be completed at HMP plus 10 secs /mile. If I can maintain that sort of pace over the suggested 11 mile distance, then that will only increase confidence further.
As for the race itself, the ‘new’ route has now been announced, and it is pretty much unchanged. The start and finish have moved, and there was a down and back hill at around mile 9 which has now been removed due to “extensive feedback.” I.e. it was a hard part of the course that participants didn’t want in, so they’ve removed it. Other than that, it is exactly the same. Slightly anticlimactic, although the race should be slightly easier without that hill in it. It will pretty much make the last 5 miles all downhill, with a small hill to finish at the end. The image below shows the elevation profile from Garmin Connect produced based on last years race. The red box is the section that has been removed from this years route.