Coach's Corner

Note: I am a newly certified RRCA Running Coach. Everything posted in "Coach's Corner" is my opinion. I am not a doctor or a dietician. As with anything on the internet, take everything with a grain of salt!

I hope you didn't think I forgot.  Feeling like a last-minute Nelly these days.  Both my girls are sick.  Since they share a room, I wasn't really surprised at the two-for-one.  But what did surprise me is that they both tested positive... for DIFFERENT illnesses.  Lily has the flu.  Paige has strep.  Good news is, they can go ahead and treat Lily for strep too since she'll likely get it.  Bad news is, they can't treat for flu if she doesn't have it, so as soon as Paige gets better from strep, she might be coming down with the flu.  Praying that doesn't happen.  And I have ordered Patrick to stay away, and have instituted a "no breathing, sneezing, or coughing on mommy" rule.  Stay healthy out there folks! 

But I know that some of us haven't been healthy... or have had life issues that are out of our control... or pains, injuries, etc... or maybe travel.  Just remember that training plans are fluid. They are not set in stone and missing a run or even a week of runs is not going to ruin things for you. Each day is a new day to start again… so get back to it as soon as you can, even if it’s only for a couple miles.

Question of the week: What's a reasonable expectation when trying to determine your race day pace? Assume a person is looking to set a PR, what margin over the previous best run would be considered a reasonable goal?

Answer: Once again, the answer to this question can be very individual. If it’s your first time racing, and you are truly just looking to complete the race, I suggest you stick to your long run training pace. This will allow you to enjoy the run and finish feeling good (hopefully!). However, if you’re looking to truly race to the best of your potential, I suggest you set aside a time to become friends with the McMillan calculator. Learn it, love it, use it!  BUT, in order to use the calculator, you do have to have a baseline race time. I’d love to just say for you to race at a certain minute/mile less than your training pace, but that’s really a dangerous statement to make in general. I will say that for a 5k, that it’s a reasonable distance to get an initial baseline. Pushing all out for 25-45 minutes is usually more manageable than over a much longer distance. As for establishing new PRs, if there hasn’t been much time lapse, going for even 10 seconds per mile faster can be a huge accomplishment, but everyone is different. Over a year’s time, some might drop 20-30 second per mile while others may be able to pull even 2 or more minutes/mile off their time. There is, unfortunately, a genetic factor at play in your running potential. The improvement curve is greatest over the first 18 months and then tapers off quite dramatically. So basically, I spent all that time not answering the question, because unfortunately, it’s just too individual. But, I will share with you my times so you can see the difference…

My typical training pace is 11 min/mile.
My best half marathon pace is 10:21 min/mile.
My best 15k pace is 10:04 min/mile.
My best 10k pace is 9:37 min/mile.
My best 5k pace is 8:41 min/mile. (FYI, my 5k pace doesn’t fall in line with the typical change between paces for different distances, because my pain threshold for 27 minutes is a lot higher than my pain threshold at longer distances.)

Notice anything, though? I do not train at my race pace, except perhaps when I do speedwork (which you generally only do once a week after you have a good mileage base established). It’s ok to set goals for yourself at faster paces. Be reasonable. Get through one race first, doing your best possible run, and go from there. (*Note: Please do not take my example times as times you think you should achieve if you train at the same pace. Running is very individual. Your competition is only yourself. I only put the times out there to give you an idea of how paces may vary between training vs. racing and between distances.)

Tip of the week: Picking a race.
-Are you going for a PR (personal record)? You might want to avoid races that have the word “Trot” or “Fun” in the title. Often those races will have larger crowds with more inexperienced racers. This means you may get stuck weaving in and out of crowds for awhile which expends a lot of energy. However, these races are great, no pressure races for first-timers… or just for a fun experience near the holidays.
-Size – Do you prefer small crowds or large? Races come in all different sizes. From 50 participants to 50,000 participants. Think about what you prefer. A lot of participants may be intimidating. It also may cause you to start in a later wave, which you’d need to plan for. But larger events often have better crowd support, and you are never alone on the course. If you like the excitement of the crowd and other runners, maybe a medium to larger race is for you (my favorite races seems to be around 2500 participants).
-Course support – Are there plenty of water stops? Water? Gatorade/Powerade? Porta-potties? Medical aid stations?
-Course Route – Does the course go through a boring abandoned desert or through a fun, hip part of town? Is it on the street or on a trail? Is it wide or a really narrow path (which might cause you some gridlock if you’re going for a PR)?
-Elevation – Check the elevation changes over the course. If you don’t like hills, you probably want to make sure you are choosing a somewhat flat course. If you’re looking for a challenge, you might desire a hilly course.
-Swag – Do you like the t-shirt and medal? You might want to check what the race offers. While I love my bling, I also run several races that are zero frills – no shirt, no goodie bag … just a timing chip, a bib, some water, and a banana at the finish.
-Cost – Always important. How much? And what value are you getting for your dollar? The more it costs, the more I expect from the aid stations and race support, as well as the swag!

Motivational Quote of the Week:

"Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it's all about."
PattiSue Plumer, U.S. Olympian
Note: I am a newly certified RRCA Running Coach. Everything posted in "Coach's Corner" is my opinion. I am not a doctor or a dietician. As with anything on the internet, take everything with a grain of salt!

(Runners and coaches, please feel free to offer more input and/or feedback on these Coach's Corner posts.)