How to train for a 10km personal best … without bitterness

Apparently running an ultra marathon the week (OK one week and a day of we are to be exact) before your 10km race is a super way to end up doing a personal best …

OK that would not have been possible the first year I did my first ultra marathon … I remember that year it took me a couple of weeks to recover. But also then I did not know about active recovery (ie using biking to recover for example – I had been told to do a jog the day after the race, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that as I was in such pain etc.) and I also didn’t know about the cold/hot water thing, where after a race you basically ice your legs and hips in cold water, then hot then cold, then hot etc. finishing with hot, to basically flush toxins out of your muscles more quickly. I only learned that in the 2nd year. But … now that I do know about that and now that I can recover quicker and continue to make plans to do things immediately after the race (even though for example the first climb 3 days after had some painful moments!) it is definitely a much better way to get through the ugly first few days after your ultra where your legs are puffy with toxins and still have that odd ache from the accumulated fluids.

I signed up for a 10km race on Wed last week which ran yesterday in a town called Annecy an hour and a half from here. People in my running group thought I was a bit nuts to sign up for another race so soon after doing an ultra, but in the end it was really good for me and for the recovery and I think my continued training for the next race at end of October. I didn’t want my body to feel like after the CCC the exercise season was over, since I will have to go 72km again in about 7 weeks.

Rather than feeling tired and worn out as I feared during the race, I ended up with a personal best time in the 10km! Well, at least personal best since I took up running again about 4 years ago when a good time for me was about an hour. (I don’t remember all my past 10k times from when I was younger but I think I did not even sign up for more than 5k races when I lived in Chicago – though I am not 100% sure). Now I am very close to running 7.5 minute miles consistently again over these shorter distances (7.6 minute average for this race, but in fact at the 5km mark I had been running at a 7.4 pace … I slowed over the course unfortunately). This was the pace I remember I used to run 5km when I was in my 20s working as a sexy mean dominatrix ….

I think a huge chunk of my improvement is due to my weight loss earlier in the season. I just found an interesting calculator on a running website that actually shows how many minutes you save over distance by dropping weight : http://www.runningforfitness.org/calc/weighteffect.php . And this seems to show that if I do manage to get down to my target weight, I could cut 2 minutes further off my 10km time. Not a bad motivator … 2 minutes faster in this race would have moved me from up 7 places in my age group.

So I highly recommend running an ultramarathon of 98km with 5500m of uphill and downhill at altitude the week before your 10km race if you are going for a personal best. Doing that will make the 10km seem like a piece of piss, believe me.

Secondly you will be so used to running through the pain that when you do a faster pace and find yourself breathing hard, you can say to yourself, ‘I only need to hang on for another x minutes, I know I can do it’ with extreme confidence and you will get through it. Especially since it is merely a fraction of the time you needed to say this to yourself to get through the 98km race.

Thirdly your leg strength will not be the limiting issue in your 10km race. Yes I started the 10km still having a downhill quad sore in each leg, and one ankle wondering about downhills … but since the race was basically flat (they claimed it was a rolling course but I challenge them to tell me where the up and downhill was – after all the hills I did last week it was again, unnoticeable to me) these muscles were not an issue.

I did eat 2 Power gels before starting the race, knowing that likely my reserve of carbs was not built up yet and that my muscles might need the immediate fuel but in some ways I think it was simply a bit of paranoia on my part. Also I’d gotten up at 5:30am for breakfast (a good couple hours earlier than normal) so knew that would be wearing off after the drive in with friends. The start was at 9:15. The weather cooperated as well -cool and cloudy so no pounding sun to deal with. I thought I’d maybe feel the ankle but it did not bother me one iota. In fact, during the whole run my legs felt nothing but really strong which gave me a sense of security allowing me to push the whole breathing thing.

The only limiting factor I found that I had this short race was my own V02 max, and how fast would I be able to breathe in a rhythm rather than raggedly while making my legs turn over faster than I was used to. The altitude training had helped too … this race was 500m lower than my home town and 1500m lower than a lot of the race that I did last week. So I started out at a pace that seemed a bit fast but on the other hand, didn’t seem to put me into an anaerobic state where I would hit threshold. Another benefit of running for 22 hours is you get to know your running body pretty well in these kinds of ways. So I was able to find the exact ‘edge’ that I am at right now where I knew how much to push the breathing without getting into a bonk state. I started out with a 2 steps, breathe once pace and I think I finished the last 2km on a single step single breathe rhythm.

Also, finding hotties to follow is another great inspiration. After about km 4 or 5, I found a very cute French chick running in front of me, with a great ass and basically followed her slim sexy bouncing bum the rest of the way since she was running slightly faster than I normally would have thought to run myself. I hoped to have a sprint left at the end to try to get even closer to her bum, but sadly only had a small one left (I suppose this is another good sign in that I was really running at the edge of what I could sustain over that distance) for the last 400m or so (which finished inside a real track and field stadium).

After I stopped at the end, I felt briefly like puking but that passed in about 10 seconds, and then my recovery was so fast it was not even funny. Another great benefit of training for ultras is your recovery time after less than an hour of running is a walk in the park, even when you push it. I was neither thirsty nor hungry after the 10km. I looked at the drinks stand at the 5km mark and thought it ridiculous and passed at least 2-3 people who’d been ahead of me running at a good pace who broke their whole pace to stop and choke down a cup of water. Another great benefit of having run a mountain ultra done in ‘semi autonomy’.

As we walked to lunch I did develop an appetite. However, it was more of an appetite for the cute men walking all over town wondering which ones of them were available for a shag or not …. I am seriously in sexual deficeit at the moment and need an outlet … ! The more I lose weight the more it seems that I to want to shag …

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