KP Half Marathon Week 2011
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.