Wednesday, 26 September 2012

5 and a bit miles at race pace, and a race plan emerges!

Man this was a great session! I headed down for about a K to the dock area near my flat and aimed for marathon gradient simulation. 3 km flat and then progressively steep hill and back (average 4:19/km) and then a circuit of much steeper to downhill about three times to take me close to a total of 6 miles at race pace. This averaged 4:26/km. I actually think that this second section was perhaps slightly too fast, but it was good - very good - to nail the average pace of 4:22/23 on a whole variety of gradients.

So at last a race plan is forming for the 7th October, my big race day! I have divided up the race into 6 chunks that correspond to the elevation variations. Each of these 6 are at least 6 km long and contain a goal pace for that section (see the plan here). So for instance, in the first section, which measures approximately 12.5 km with quite a lot of climbing, I am shooting for average section pace of 4:28/km. The next section, which I remember well, is almost pure downhill for a shorter distance, and I am aiming high at 4:08/km. Next 4:28 again, then 4:10, then 4:30 (this section really is tough, although more because you have to attack it on such tired legs), and then... well know knows?! There's some long slight downhill and some real slow stuff too, and then the end is very close. There's no point at fixing a goal pace for this section, as I will aim just to run it as fast as I can. However, to reach an average of 4:22 for the entire distance, I need to average 4:24 for this final section. My actual goal is 3:05, which is 4:23/km (assuming that the race organisers have correctly measured the course), but it is wise - I feel - to keep a second/km in hand so that I don't feel like I have to make it up should I struggle at one point. Like a wild-card!

So what does today's session teach me? What have I learned? The contrast of the two parts reminded me that intense hills, even if there is exactly as much descent as climb (I was doing those circuits at the end) are a lot harder work than simply maintaining pace over flatter sections. What that means then is that pace on the flat must be faster than the overall average, 4:22. And yet, of course, it's more art than science, because that perfect flat hardly exists on this course, and so the question "well, how much faster?" is totally irrelevant. A bit!

Random other factor to watch out for: the weather. Last year, the temperature on 2 October 2011 in Pertuis reached almost 30 degrees. This year, there is a projected risk of rain and possibly 15 degrees less than that. Perfect!

To conclude, I feel so much more secure and ready than I did a few weeks ago, and now even with what seems to be a fairly well-thought through race plan, I feel ready. Despite the knee hiccup, this is probably the most rigorous training I have put myself through, and over this last year, so, so, so much has changed in my understanding of the sport, technical aspects, spiritual and mental approach, and I hope a bit of extra fitness too (although I suspect this is the most minor aspect). I just pray that God continues to keep himself part of this love for running he has given me, and that I would run with a great attitude that is thankful and honouring to him, and also to my wife who has put up with much over the last 12 1/2 weeks. I also pray for wisdom on the day with the choices I will make and for health (I am so aware of my dependence on this - for me, this is a big part of the by God of my spiritual journey in running: With him, by him and for him.

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