Being sick stinks! There’s no two ways about it. I should know. I’ve been battling a scratchy throat and lingering cough since December 27, of last year. Those were my symptoms until last week when it turned into a full-on pneumonia. But just like I tell the runners that I coach, try to take away something positive from every experience. In this case, my illness reminded me (or taught me depending on who’s perspective you like to take) that I can’t and don’t have to do it all.
My excellent assistant coaches (and one emergency volunteer) at Sacred Heart Cathedral ran track practices on Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday. The athletes may have missed my witty banter but they still got their workouts completed. We took positive steps towards our more immediate goal of having people in shape for the tryout trials next week and our longer term goal of having people prepared to compete at their best come championship time in May.
The week leading up to the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon is one of my favorites of the year. There are the countdown blog posts on this site, the data collecting of Pamakids’ projected time, and constant race tips and motivational words delivered both in person and via e-mails. On Friday night I send out the much anticipated meet sheet. Saturday I lead a pre-race run and striders, followed by Goodie Bag stuffing. Sunday morning we all gather in Golden Gate Park. Fifteen minutes before the race we take a Pamakids group photo. Then everyone gathers around me and I lead our Go Green cheer. It’s a moment I look forward to all year long.
This pneumonia thing really put a damper on things. Living in the digital age I was able to do many of the usual things. Others stepped up to fill in where I was missing. Notably, my wife Malinda, who led this year’s Go Green cheer, delivering my motto for this year’s race: “The running starts here at 8:00 A.M. But the racing starts on the Great Highway!”
The day after the race, all things Pamakids continued to roll right along even with me still lying in bed. Monica ran the Board of Directors meeting while I “attended” via speaker phone only.
The 2013 KP Half itself was a great success. Although, perhaps due to the same bug that hit me, and also due to the 49ers playing in the Super Bowl, we had a higher than normal no-show count. But the race sold 10,200 bibs and nearly 8,300 runners crossed the finish line in either the half marathon or the 5K fun run.
I was particularly proud of our Pamakids. First of all, we had ten runners race at the Jed Smith 50K on Saturday – that’s a 31.1 mile race. Of those ten, eight of them were out on the course volunteering at the KP Half on Sunday, no doubt reporting to their station sometime around 6:45 A.M. or earlier. That’s bleeding green! I’ve been recording in great detail all the finishing times and places of all the Pamakids at the KP Half since 2008. Over those six races, three people have run all six races in Pamakid uniform – Denis Glenn, Danielle Bisho Jones, and Monica Zhuang. Congrats, you three! Also, congratulations to our five medal winners. The medalists were: Adam Lucas-2nd, M45-49, Mike Axinn-3rd, M50-54, Roy Clarke-2nd, M55-59, Theo Jones-2nd, M70-74, and Patrick Lee-3rd, M60-99 in the 5K. Our Pamakid masters men continue to defy age with their outstanding races.
However, the last three runners I particularly want to highlight are three Pamakid women. First is Sarah Goins, who two years ago ran this race in 2:38:23, which is 12:05 per mile. On Sunday she was 28 minutes faster at 2:10:00, 9:55 per mile. Kudos to Sarah who knocked over two minutes per mile off her time from two years ago!
Marlyss Bird last ran this race in the rain in 2008. Since that time she has been beset with injury after injury. She saw therapists, did exercises, took a patient approach, and after five long years made her return to the half marathon on Sunday, running only 21 seconds off what she did in 2008. Well done, Marlyss!
Jodi Thirtyacre was featured before the 2011 race in the San Francisco Examiner. This year, the Kaiser employee, was even more active than usual in the lead-up to the race, arranging for guest speakers at the Saturday Sports Basement Training Runs and writing a blog to help Kaiser employees get ready for the race. Jodi’s enthusiasm for this race was rewarded this year. She’s been knocking on the door of breaking 2 hours for the last four years – 2:02 in 2009 and 2010, 2:05 in 2011, and 2:00 last year. Her goal this year was to go sub-2. And she did it! Chip time: 1:59:49. Gun time: 1:59:59. Either way you look at it, Jodi joined the ranks of the sub-2 hour half marathoners!
I think February 5, 2012 will go down as a race day that many of us Pamakids remember for a long time. The conditions were excellent to have a good race. The work by RhodyCo and the race volunteers ensured an excellent race experience for all. Not all of us ran personal records (PR’s) or met or exceeded time goals but many Pamakids did and I think overall we’re pretty happy with the race.
For me personally, I had several moments that stand out. As always, it was thrilling to be in the middle of the Pamakid Go Green team cheer. Along the course, my Pamakid friends who were volunteering did the perfect job, yelling for us to be patient for the first seven miles and then getting in our faces and “demanding” that we go hard late in the race. As Adam, Tim, and I ran through the park, I felt very smooth and relaxed. We made it a point to not waste energy in the early stages of the race. When we hit the seven mile mark I felt as if I had just finished a long warm-up run. I was ready to get after it on the Great Highway, which was perfect because all week I had been telling people that the race didn’t start until the Great Highway. As I surged and ran 5:49, 5:46, and 5:50 for miles 8, 9, and 10, I knew that I was having a good day. I made eye contact with Tony at the turnaround and enjoyed boisterous cheering from Jerry, Eduardo, Olga, Anne, and Janeth. When I spotted Denis I pretended to pull on my singlet ala Superman. I was feeling great and enjoying myself so much that I didn’t even care that the wind had seemingly shifted and was in my face both southbound and northbound on the Great Highway. I felt some twinges in my hamstrings at mile 11 and had to slow down a bit. One runner passed me with half a mile to go. Two more passed me with a quarter mile to go. That’s when I decided enough was enough. Malinda’s been saying I’ve had a back kick of late and I felt that I needed to stop that. When we hit the stop sign, I started my kick and re-passed two of the runners in the final 100 meters. I heard Mike, the announcer, call my name, “and here’s our first Pamakid, it’s Andy Chan, the President of the club”) as I crossed the finish line with tired legs but a tremendous feeling of pride.
Below is a table comparing various PamaStats from the 2008, 2010, and 2012 races.
|Runners in the half marathon in Pamakid uniform||24||26||41|
|Top 100 finishers||2||4||9|
|Women in the top 100 females||5||4||5|
|Top 10 in their age group||10||5||13|
|Medalists (top 3 in their age group)||3||1||4|
Special congratulations to our 2012 race medalists: Patrick Lee (first in his age division for the 5K), Theo Jones (second in his age division for the half marathon), Markham Miller (third), and your truly (third).
I would like to thank our partners at Kaiser Permanente, and Dave Rhody and the RhodyCo gang. Buzz Ayola, the finish line timing extraordinaire offered a new feature of race day live results so you could get your results via a smartphone at the expo or have friends follow you from home. Pamakid members Mike (race director), Phyllis (volunteer coordinator), and the volunteer captains do a tremendous amount of work, not just on Sunday but also in the days and weeks leading up to the race. We would never have such a highly successful race without people willing to volunteer for their fellow runners.
Please support our race sponsors (see a list of them here) and remember that your participation in the race helped support the Koret Family House, The Harbor Light Center for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and Support for Families of Children with Disabilities.
Results are now available at: http://www.buzzwordproductions.com/iat_016.htm.
Brightroom pictures are available at: http://www2.brightroom.com/96766.
One day to go. Not much more to be done. It’s just about game time.
Think positive thoughts. You can’t go back and do more training or control things like the weather. Focus on things you can control in the final 24 hours. Think happy and positive thoughts about being out there doing an activity you love (or at least like) with 9,000 other people.
Look at the course map closely. For many of you who run often in Golden Gate Park this is as close as it gets to being a “home course.” As you look at the course, pause to think about what it physically looks like in that area. What will you see when you’re out there? What landmarks can you look for? Nothing makes the miles go by faster than knowing the course. Without going crazy, try to constantly have something you are looking for during the race. This isn’t hard when you are super familiar with the area. To combat the monotony of the Great Highway, I suggest looking ahead only to the next stoplight. The stoplights are conveniently staggered a quarter mile away from each other. It gives you a psychological boost to be “seeing what you’re looking for” every one to two minutes because you feel like you are making progress. If your landmarks are every mile mark, you pass a mile mark, you run two to three minutes, don’t see the next mile yet, and start looking around for it. Then you spend the next two to five minutes looking for the next mile mark, constantly checking your watch, and consequently feeling like you are going to be out there forever! This can be quite discouraging. There is value in having a landmark to look for pretty frequently.
Spend some time visualizing yourself running fast on the Great Highway. Close your eyes and see yourself running strong and passing people. Imagine that it feels effortless and yet you are running very fast. Tell yourself how fit you are. Remind yourself how hard you’ve trained. Tell yourself you can do it. Heck, hum the Chariots of Fire or Rocky theme as you visualize. In high school, I visualized my cross country championship race over and over every night for weeks while listening to “One Moment In Time.” The race played out just like I had imagined it and to this day I have a hard time differentiating what I visualized and what I actually experienced in the race.
If you are nervous, keep this in mind. There are 1.3 billion people in China and none of them (unless you have a close relative there) are going to go to http://zinsli.com/results/ on Monday to see if you PR’ed. I also like to remind people that they’ve trained hard and they deserve to run well.
When I race, I have my game face on. I’m competitive and I care about how the race goes. That’s just how I am. I’ve been told (and the pictures and video back this up) that I get that same game face on when I coach. (Side story: At my wedding reception we had Sacred Heart Cathedral kids helping. Right before we got started Tomas, my assistant coach and wedding reception master of ceremonies, came to me and said, “Don’t worry about anything. Everything’s going to go great. Ethan has his game face on. He looks like he did before the CCS Finals.” As the coach who taught Ethan to have a game face, it was, in the middle of a busy and memorable night, a proud moment.) Anyway, if it works for you, have your game face on. After all, Sunday is the Super Bowl. And you did pay $40-50 to be on the starting line. Why not have that focused game face on that tells everyone that you are about to go out and race as hard as you can.
Good luck, everyone, it’s just about game time!
Race Day and In-Race Nutrition.
If you want to spend time pondering nutritional things this week, think about:
- What are you going to eat race morning and at what time?
- Do you plan to take water at the water stops? (Hint: this is a trick question, the answer is yes!) Which water stops? And do you have an idea of where these stops are located on the course?
- Do you plan to take the electrolyte drink that will be available around mile 6.2, 8.4, and 11.1?
- Do you plan to ingest some sort of energy gel during the race?
There are as many pre-race food combos as there are runners. Do what your body is used to. Don’t try something new because it’s race day. What do you eat before you go for a morning long run? How much time does your body need to digest it? My wife needs to eat a more substantial breakfast before a run than I do and she doesn’t need as much time to digest her food as I do. I used to eat very little before a race (half a Power Bar and water) and I tied to finish eating two hours before the race started. Now I have found that my body likes a little more pre-race fuel so I have two pieces of toast with peanut butter at home approximately two hours before the race starts. Then upon arriving at the race, about an hour before the gun goes off, I eat half a Cliff Bar. Do what is right for you and your digestive system.
You need to stay hydrated to keep running your goal pace. The course map indicates water stations around miles 1.7, 3.2, 4.5, 6.2, 8.5, 10, and 11.5. Taking water is important because your body does not function well when it is not fully hydrated. It’s often on a cold and wet day when people sweat less and are less thirsty that they forget the need to drink water during the race. Don’t be one of those people. I suggest taking water at, at least three of the water stations if not more.
3. ELECTROLYTE REPLENISHMENT – SPORTS DRINKS
As the race progresses, even in cooler temperatures, your body is losing electrolytes via sweat. Maintaining proper electrolyte balance keeps the cells in your body communicating properly and is a key to preventing dehydration. It is said that electrolyte replacement becomes a factor after exercising for over an hour and a half. To replenish electrolytes there will be electrolyte drinks available at three spots on the course (mile 6.2, 8.4, and 11.1). I recommend sipping a little electrolyte drink as long as you are used to drinking something besides water during a run. If you are not used to drinking anything besides water, those carbohydrates in the electrolyte drink may not sit well in your stomach.
4. CARBOHYDRATE REPLENISHMENT – ENERGY GELS
During the first hour to hour and a half of the race your body produces energy from glucose in the liver and muscles, and the breakdown of fats. Thanks to the high glucose level in the bloodstream, fat metabolism occurs rapidly. But sometime around an hour and a half to two hours the glucose stores in the liver and muscles get depleted and the blood glucose level begins to drop. Fat metabolism still occurs, but because there is less glucose circulating around it occurs at a much slower rate. Pretty soon, if nothing is done to provide more fuel, you will run out of energy and experience the proverbial “hitting the wall.” To combat this runners often consume an energy gel mid-race*. Energy gels contain complex carbohydrates (glucose) in an easily and quickly digestible state. They enhance performance by raising your blood sugar and giving your body an immediate fuel source. Again, in a race of an hour and a half to two hours you may not require energy gels. You should know your body and whether you need it or not. As you get closer to two hours and further from an hour and a half you may benefit from a carbohydrate or sugar boost mid-race. But don’t try this if you haven’t done it in practice on the long runs. Any benefit from the gels may be countered by stomach distress. The race does not provide energy gels, so you’ll need to carry your own.
Race strategies and split calculating.
First of all, be sure you’ve looked at a course map, preferably one with the miles marked. You don’t have to memorize every mile mark but try to have a general idea where some of them are. You will race better when you know where you’re going.
I suggest you break the race into three sections:
1. Start to Mile 4 (Panhandle back to JFK Drive) – Conservative; about five seconds per mile slower than your goal pace.
2. Miles 4 to 7 (downhill through the park) – Use the downhill in the park from the museums to the beach to run a little faster. Gravity should help you to run five to ten seconds per mile faster than you ran for the first four miles.
3. The last HALF of the race, Miles 7 to the End (Great Highway) –See if you can hold the pace you were running downhill through the park or go faster (if so, hello big PR!). If not, lock on to your goal pace and you should still be right around your goal time.
Half Marathon split calculations
1. Establish best case and medium time goals.
2. Think about the range of per mile paces you are likely to be able to run in the last 6.1 miles. Have a best case and medium scenario. The time range between best case and medium should be :05-:15 per mile (e.g. 6:00-6:15). Perhaps a good mile pace to consider is your 8th mile at Waterfront 10 or the 8th mile of the Lake Merced workout on MLK Day.
3. Calculate how long it will likely take you to run the last 6.1 miles.
4. Based on your overall time goals and your two last 6.1 times, calculate a range of times for when you should arrive at the 7 mile mark to still be on target.
5. Pick the middle of that range as your target 7 mile time, knowing that you have some play on either side of it.
6. Calculate the per mile pace to hit this time for 7 miles.
7. Add :02-:07 per mile and that’s your target pace for the first 4 miles.
8. Based on that target pace, calculate what your 4 mile cumulative time split should be.
9. Try to be :05-:10 faster per mile for miles 5-6-7 than you were for miles 1-4 (it is downhill).
My goal times as an example:
2. 5:54-6:04 (per mile for the last 6.1 miles)
3. 36:00-37:00 (to run the last 6.1 miles) [5:54 X 6.1 = 36:00; 6:04 X 6.1 = 37:00]
4. 42:00-44:00 (range of time at the 7 mile mark) [1:19:00 - 37:00 = 42:00; 1:20:00 - 36:00 = 44:00]
5. 43:00 (goal 7 mile mark cumulative time)
6. 6:08 (average mile for the first 7 miles) [43:00 ÷ 7 = 6:08]
7. 6:10-6:15 (per mile for the first 4 miles) [6:08 + :02 = 6:10; 6:08 + :07 = 6:15]
8. 24:40-25:00 (goal 4 mile mark cumulative time) [6:10 X 4 = 24:40; 6:15 X 4 = 25:00]
9. 6:05 (per mile for miles 5-6-7) [6:10 - :05 = 6:05 or 6:15 - :10 = 6:05]
Final points to remember about the half marathon:
- Be very patient for the first 4 miles.
- Use the downhill to go faster for miles 5-6-7 but don’t attack this section as much as it’s been recommended in the past.
- The goal is to get to 7 miles around this time with as little effort as possible.
- Almost half the race is on the Great Highway. You can still catch a lot of people and make up a lot of time (if you didn’t go out too hard).
- Negative splits are the key to success in distance races.
- The race starts when you hit the Great Hwy. Do your fastest running then. Start aggressively passing people. Catching and passing people is an exhilarating feeling. Passing the first person is the hardest. Once you pass one person, you’ll then try to pass more. With each person you pass, you’ll feel better and better and the fast pace will become easier and easier.
The 5K is a fun run and the course isn’t certified. That being said, I have run the course and because of the downhill it is a fast course. The 5K course is marked on the above pdf course map with dashed lines.
The start for the 5K and half marathon are at the same time and same place. The 5K course makes a sharp right turn after about 400 meters. Line up on the right side of the start line so you won’t have to cut across traffic to make the turn. Be on the lookout throughout the race to make sure you are on the 5K course! The first mile is pretty flat. The only uphill of any significance is right before the first mile mark as you go from MLK Drive up to Stow Lake. On this course you can really hammer out a fast last mile…which means, don’t be afraid to press the second mile (which also has lots of downhill)….you will have more left at the end than you think….gravity will be your friend and help get you to the finish line.
Dress for success.
The first Sunday in February in San Francisco can be quite unpredictable weather-wise. It might rain. It might be unseasonably warm (70’s). Check the weather forecast and then still prepare for all conditions.
What shoes will you race in? Most people can get by with regular training shoes or lightweight trainers for a half marathon. You’re probably on the pretty elite side if you have racing flats for 13.1 miles. Don’t forget to pick the right socks. Your lucky race socks are the obvious choice if you are superstitious. The sock should certainly be made of wicking microfibers so they don’t rub you raw if they get wet from rain or sweat.
You want to have something that keeps you warm (top and bottom) to warm-up and stretch in. This can be a longsleeve shirt, a sweatshirt or jacket, or sweatpants. Don’t bring your whole wardrobe because you need to put it somewhere before the race starts but do wear something to stay warm. I cringe when I see runners wearing what they plan to race in standing around one hour before the race starts shivering or jumping up and down to stay warm.
If it’s wet, a good way to stay as dry as possible (and thus as warm as possible) before the race is a garbage bag with holes cut out for your head and arms. Or an old rain poncho. Use something that you don’t mind throwing away right before the race so you can keep it on as long as possible. Your goal before the race is to stay as dry and warm as possible.
Staying warm during the race is key. Heat escapes through your extremities (feet, head, hands). You can’t do much more than wear your shoes and socks on your feet. For your head, a beanie is wise. If it’s raining, a hat with a bill will shield your face from the rain. For your hands, gloves.
Wearing something to cover your arms is often desired. This can be tricky. You can wear a shirt under the singlet for warmth. If you go with a long sleeve one, try to have it fit snuggly so you aren’t catching extra wind with your baggy sleeves. A downside to these undershirts is there’s no going back…it’s pretty hard to take it off mid-race. A new way to combat this shortcoming is to wear arm warmers over your arms. If you get too hot you can take these off like gloves and stuff them into a pocket or hand them to someone. Another option is to wear something over your singlet (long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, or microfiber shirt) that you can take off mid-race and tie around your waist. If employing this strategy, remember that you are supposed to have your race bib number prominently displayed on your front at all times.
A lot of people wear tights to keep their legs warm. It’s a personal preference thing. I think people who normally wear tights are used to it and like it. It has to be really freezing out (single digits) before I wear tights. I always have this (probably irrational) fear that I am going to get hot and be uncomfortable in tights.
The trend of wearing compression socks has two advantages and two disadvantages. Advantage one is that the socks, which come up to just below the knee, give additional skin coverage and thus added warmth. They also provide compression to the calf muscles. This compression is both advantage number two and disadvantage number one because the compression can become uncomfortable in the later stages of the race. The last disadvantage is the fairly obvious fact that if you start the race wearing compression socks, you are basically committed. There’s no taking them off mid-race.
If it’s raining, face it, you are going to get wet. All you can hope for (besides running so fast that you run between the rain drops) is to finish as quickly as possible and get out of the elements. Early in the race, I try to avoid puddles and go as long as possible with dry shoes and socks. But once they become saturated, I stop wasting energy and going the extra distance to dodge puddles. Remember, too, that if it’s raining your socks are probably going to get wet and muddy and may possibly never look the same again. If ruining a pair of sentimentally favorite socks is going to be devastating, don’t use them if it’s likely to be raining.
I advise people to make sure their top, whether it’s a shirt or singlet, be made of a microfiber/wicking/dry release material. These types of fabrics pull moisture (i.e. sweat) away from your body. It’s more comfortable to not be in a drenched t-shirt, wicking the moisture away from your skin decreases the chances of chaffing, and these fabrics help keep you cool on a warm day.
Carbo-loading and other pre-race nutrition concerns…at least my take on these topics….there are certainly other opinions out there and I do not claim to be a nutritional expert.
A lot of people ask me about carbo-loading. For the half marathon distance (an effort of 1:20-2:00 for most of us), carbo-loading isn’t as vital as for a full marathon. But still, I will answer the question.
The original concept of carbo-loading (by Ahlborg in 1960) involves an exhaustive workout one week before the race and a low-carb (10% carbs) diet for three days (to deplete the body of glycogen) and then a high-carb (90% carbs) diet for three or four days. This is to achieve a effect known as glycogen supercompensation. Nowadays there are other scientific methods of carbo-loading that are not as extreme.
“Traditional” carbo-loading for typical runners is eating pasta the night before a race. This method may not have the same physiological effect as Ahlborg’s method, but at least we all feel we are doing something nutritional to enhance our race performance. And by default, if you are eating pasta, you are not having a steak the night before the race. I think the traditional pasta meal before a race is part of running culture. The Sacred Heart Cathedral cross country team has a pasta dinner when we have team dinners before a meet. I believe there is much value in having a routine and eating something familiar. And if you believe the carbohydrates Saturday night are somehow going to make you run faster on Sunday, who am I to dispute it?
Don’t overeat on Saturday night. Don’t try a new pasta recipe or a new restaurant. Just eat something you like, and that you know agrees with your body (nothing too greasy or that leaves you really really full). And reap the psychological benefits of knowing you have carbo-loaded in your own way.
Welcome to Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run Week. This is a week many of us in the running community look forward to every year.
Some final week workout thoughts:
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – I leave it to you to decide what you should do. Rest is important but I suggest sticking to your routine. Don’t over do it, but if you normally swim, bike, do yoga or run go ahead and work out, just don’t go extra hard or long.
Thursday – three options:
Option 1 (medium run finishing with some “up-tempo”:
- Run four miles at an easy pace.
- Run the next mile at half marathon pace.
- Run a final mile 10-15 seconds faster than half marathon pace.
This is a total of six miles of running, with only the last two miles being at a harder effort.
Option 2 (tempo and 300’s):
Two mile warm-up, then three miles at tempo/Lactate Threshold (LT) pace, and then 4X300 with 100 meter jog recoveries. Run each 300 a little faster than the previous one.
Option 3 (track workout):
- Two mile warm-up
- 800 – easy (half marathon pace)
- 6X300 with 100 meter jog recovery (keep the recoveries short, the point is not to run the 300’s super fast).
- 800 – hard (think of it as the last 800 of the race)
- Cool-down – one mile
Friday – I always suggest taking the day 48 hours before a big race off and getting plenty of sleep.
Saturday – Pre-race: three miles easy and four to six striders. Striders are 80-100 meter sprints at 70-90% effort. The goal is to loosen up the muscles by getting the blood pumping to your legs and breaking a sweat. Then shut it down and save it for race day.
Sunday morning – Some important things to keep in mind for pre-race Sunday morning:
- The race starts at 8:00 A.M. Calculate how much time you need to get dresses, have breakfast, drive to the race, park, get to the start line, and warm-up. Then add in some extra time. Figure out what time you need to get up and set your alarm clock now.
- Parking. Remember that it’s a point to point course. Ten thousand runners means not a lot of extra parking spaces. Car pooling and public transportation are highly recommended. Check the website for event details like parking and transportation information.
- If you want to park by the finish line there are two main lots, either on the Great Highway or up above the Cliff House. You can either run to the start (approximately two miles) or take the race provided shuttle. Shuttles depart from the bus stop above the Cliff House and the corner of Fulton and the Great Highway, beginning at 6:15 A.M.
- If you park by the start line you can either run back to your car for a cool-down after the race or take one of the shuttles that will run up Fulton from the Great Highway to 8th Avenue. This post-race shuttle leaves from Fulton and the Great Highway and will run from 8:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to:
- Get in line for the port-a-potties.
- Check your sweats.
It may be a little Type A to plan out all this stuff but having a plan and giving yourself extra time to park, ride the shuttle, go to the bathroom, and check your sweats can really pay off. If you are meeting friends, have an exact meeting spot and time. You want to minimize stress before the race. Planning this stuff out is one way to do just that.
It is the last week before the 2011 Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon and 5K presented by the Pamakid Runners. The week before a big race is always filled with a mix of excitement and nervousness – for the runner and the coach.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to go into the race with a positive frame of mind. You’ve done all you can do to get into shape. There will be no more big gains in aerobic capacity, VO2 max, or lactic acid buffering. It’s too late to do another long run. There’s no need to squeeze in a super hard tempo run or track workout. Resist the temptation to run too much or too hard this week. The race is on Sunday, not Tuesday night during the final fartlek or Thursday night at the track. If you missed one of your longs runs, let it go. If you got sick and didn’t run the fartlek workout that was planned for last week, oh well. Go with what you’ve got and make the best of it. A rested body and a positive attitude can go far towards a successful race.
A rested body, a positive attitude, and a solid race plan. The strategy I suggest is certainly no secret, it is one I wrote about in a 2010 countdown blog. To reiterate, I think you should figure out what your goal time is and then divide that by 13.1 to figure out what your overall goal race pace should be. Early in the race you want to be conservative, so start out the race running five seconds per mile slower than your goal pace. Run this pace for the four miles around the Panhandle and back to the museums. Then the three miles from mile four to mile seven is a nice downhill section as you run west down John F. Kennedy Drive towards the beach. Let gravity help you to run five seconds per mile faster than goal pace. When you get to the Great Highway, the goal is to keep running the speed you were running downhill through Golden Gate Park or at least be at your overall race goal pace. Keep in mind that there is often a headwind when running north on the Great Highway (miles ten to thirteen), so it might be good to try to be faster than goal pace from mile seven to mile ten, to compensate for potential slowing due to the headwind on the return trip. I believe a strategy like this with a good finishing kick will give you a solid shot at your target goal time.
Goal Race Pace: 1:24:00 divided by 13.1 miles equals 6:25 per mile.
Goal pace for miles 1-4: 6:25 plus 5 seconds equals 6:30.
Goal pace for the downhill section, miles 4-7: 6:25 minus 5 seconds equals 6:20.
Goal pace for the rest of the race: 6:25 or faster.
Now that you can calculate your goal times, here is one last thought about checking your splits. There is value in taking your splits during the race so you know how you are doing. But even with this, I think there are some right things to do and some unwise things to do. I’ve seen runners with split times for every mile written on their hand. I think it’s more important to know your split from the last mile, rather than your overall time at each mile marker. For example, if your goal is to run 6:25 for the first four miles and you run the first mile in 6:15 and the second mile in 6:35, your two mile split of 12:50 suggests that you are right on. But in reality you just ran the second mile too slow and if you continue to run the same speed you will arrive at mile three too slow. If you are ten seconds fast on mile one, so be it. You can’t un-do that. But that doesn’t mean you change your goal for mile two. The goal for mile two is still 6:25, which means arriving at the two mile mark at 12:40. That’s why when I race, I pay very little attention to the overall time and concentrate only on what the last mile split was.
I don’t start looking at the overall time until much later in the race, like mile 10. That’s when I’ll check to see what I have to run the last 3.1 miles in to achieve my goal. Being a math geek, I might also start doing calculations in my head like, “if I run X for the last 5K, my time will be…” But I try not to look at my cumulative time or play these math games until mile ten. Before then I just want to click off the miles, one at a time, according to my race plan.
This is just one way to approach race splits and it may or may not work for you. But if it does, you can save a whole lot of money on the ink you’ve been using to write all those mile splits on the back of you hand.
Although running is thought of as an individual sport and there are often references to the solitary nature of running (“The loneliness of the long distance runner” comes immediately to mind), I find that running is an activity best done as part of a group.
There are certainly some nice aspects of running solo: 1) no one to schedule with, 2) alone time, 3) time to think about the meaning of life (or plan your next blog article). These are why I think it’s great to get out and run by yourself every now and then.
But for the most part, I think a group to run and train with is the best way to have the most success. The recent resurgence in distance running by Team USA has coincided with the formation of training groups like Hanson’s Brooks, the Oregon Project and Oregon Track Club, Team Minnesota, Zap Fitness, McMillan Elite, the Mammoth Track Club and the Bay Area Track Club, just to name a few.
Closer to home I’ve been fortunate to be in the middle of group training. It started with the Thursday night track workouts at Kezar. Every Thursday evening since 1994 I’ve been leading track workouts for anyone who wants to train with a group. What you get for attending is not only a coach giving you a workout but also, and maybe more importantly, people to do the workout with. Even if the people at the workout run a different pace than you, you still have the feeling of being with others.
With social networks like Facebook you can even feel like part of a group when you are all by yourself. This past Christmas, during the two-week holiday from school, I started a Facebook conversation with several of my SHCP colleagues who were training for the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon or 5K. I offered some holiday training tips and then challenged all of them to keep training consistently despite the distractions of bad weather, travel, family and holiday obligations. Everyone started posting their workouts to Facebook and a little bit (OK, not a little bit, but a lot) of peer pressure developed. The group members felt compelled to get in their run so they would have something to post. We even had a fun competition to see who could post a picture proving that they ran in the most extreme winter conditions.
For the Pamakids runners the month leading up to the KP Half Marathon may be the only time of the year that virtually everyone on the racing team is focused on the same race. It made it easy for me to build excitement for the race with workouts and training tips geared specifically for getting our runners from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park rose garden to the windmill via the panhandle and Great Highway as fast as possible. You could feel the team’s energy as they helped lead the Saturday Sports Basement training runs in January. Some of the runners were so caught up in the excitement that they took my advice and came to a special two times Lake Merced workout on Martin Luther King day (sorry about the storm, everyone) and attended the Dolphin South End Waterfront 10 mile race as a final preparation race for the KP Half.
I give the credit for the Pamakids’ race success to the energy of the whole group.