You vs. the Clock – solo tune-up “races” #HHR2016

My training plan for Hospital Hill specified “race a 10K” this past Saturday. A tune-up race is a great way to assess your fitness level and adjust your pacing for your goal race. What should you be doing in a tune-up race?

  • Giving good effort but not max effort. Save it for your “A” race.
  • Using it as a dress rehearsal – time of day, practice your hydration and nutrition. Wear what you’re going to wear. Nothing new on race day – now’s your chance!
  • Setting a goal for your tune-up race. If you don’t have a goal, you’re guaranteed a meh performance.
  • Racing, if possible. Duh. However…

I didn’t have time for a 10K this Saturday morning – the day was booked, starting at 9am. So, I went out to my local track (my kids’ jr. high has a nice one) and “raced” against the clock. This is the first time I’ve tried to adopt a race mentality for a training run. Those training runs on your calendar that specify a race are encouraging you to kick it up a notch, so I tried to do that. I’m a believer in competition pushing your limits. This effect can be as simple as realizing that the runner who was 5 yards ahead of you is now 10 yards ahead. Pick it up!

Before I set out for the track, I used my most recent race effort to calculate a target pace. I use a simple race times predictor that grades out an effort at one distance to predict what you can do at another distance.

Since I ran a 20:29 5K just a few weeks ago, the predictor said I ought to be able to do a 10K in 42:42. So, I backed that out using a pace calculator, which yielded a 6:52 pace. Going below that was my tune-up race goal.

The morning was very cool, sunny, with a brisk north wind. I dressed out in some sweet new black Skora Tempos right out of the box along with my usual hodgepodge of apparel. I quaffed a double espresso and a glass of water at home, did my lunge matrix, and hopped in the car for the short trip to the track. Once there, I warmed up with a half-mile jog (if you prefer, EZ pace warm-up run). After that, I toed the starting line and took off. I rabbited the first lap while getting my pace settled down. I could tell pretty quickly that I’d be able to keep it under 6:50 if I just kept my effort consistent. It can be hard to strike a balance between excessive and insufficient watch checking, but I checked my overall pace about twice a lap. I was hovering around 6:45 or so, and while my overall pace drifted up over time, I kicked it in during the last few laps to bring it back down to an overall 6:45 pace and a 42:00 flat 10K. That’s less than a minute over my 10K PR (ok, I’ve only ever really raced one 10K before, but it was a pretty good effort).

Now that I’ve put up that 42:00 10K, I’m reassessing Hospital Hill yet again. I ran a little better than my 5K race. Thus, the predictor says I can do a half marathon in 1:32:40 based on my 10K effort. I’m not making excuses in advance, but that 10K was on a flat track and Hospital Hill is anything but. On the other hand, my 10K wasn’t against competition, and wasn’t max effort – I guess we’ll see how those factors even out in a couple of weeks! I can’t wait!

(There weren’t any race photographers at my personal 10K, but I finally discovered the photos from my May 1st 5K, so here’s one:)


One comment on “You vs. the Clock – solo tune-up “races” #HHR2016

  1. neltow says:

    I figured the Olathe Half was a 7 seconds penalty / mile vs. a flat course. And I’m pretty sure I had the KC Half at 9 second penalty / mile. Hospital Hill has a little more elevation than KC… But you do like climbing those hills!

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