Here we go. It’s time to get ready for half marathon number three of the 2011–2012 fall/winter season, the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon.
Pictured above is the piece of paper I used to figure out what my new goal and training plan for this race will be. But before I get into the details of how I plan for a race, I have to say that this upcoming race puts me in a bit of a strange place. My half at The Louisiana Marathon was faster than I expected, faster than I’d trained for, and overall just an awesome race. I know that March 4 won’t likely bring that perfect cold running weather, and I only have six weeks to prepare.
So where do we go from here?
At the top of the image, you can see how I’ve written out a couple goal times, with the half marathon pace and corresponding 5k time accompanying each. I did this first step to get an idea of what each goal time would translate to in terms of pace, and I made a decision on my new goal, 2:02, based on what I think is realistically possible in six weeks. This puts me at roughly a 9:18/mile pace (calculated using this bad boy from Cool Running), with the corresponding 5k time being right around 26:20.
You may have noticed the RLRF acronym next to the 5k time right under 2:02. That refers to Run Less, Run Faster, a book that blogger (and incredibly fast runner!) Stephanie loaned me last fall. The basic concept of the book is that by running three focused workouts per week—a track workout focusing on speed, a tempo run, and a long run with a specific time goal—you can substantially improve your fitness and speed. It’s a great method for injury-prone runners or people who might not want to run six days each week in hopes of improving. I’ve loosely followed this plan for my past two half marathons with great success each time.
Anyway, the suggested paces for all three types of workouts in RLRF are based on a 5k time, which I calculate using the McMillan pace calculator. This tool generates an approximation of what time you might expect to run for a distance based on a recent race time. Then I use that 5k approximation to see what goal paces would be based on the charts in RLRF. Since I haven’t run a 5k in a long time, this method is the best way for me to figure out where I should/could be for that distance, I think.
So yeah, my way of calculating a goal and goal pace might be a little weird, but it’s worked for me twice now and I think it makes sense.
If you’re having trouble following along, here are the steps:
- Dream up a couple new half marathon goals.
- Calculate mile pace for each half marathon goal time using the Cool Running pace calculator.
- Pick a goal that seems within reach, given probable race day conditions and amount of time until the race.
- Calculate corresponding 5k pace for new half marathon goal time using the McMillan pace calculator.
- Plug in 5k time to RLRF pace charts, giving me new goal paces for speed workouts, tempo runs, and long runs.
- Laugh out loud a little upon realizing how fast your tempo runs must now be.*
I should also note that in the process of setting a goal time, I also broke down my splits from the Louisiana Marathon half, calculating how far from 9:30 (right around the average mile pace I’d completed) each mile was. This helped me realize that most of my miles were actually below 9:30, and that running a faster half in six weeks might actually be possible. To get to that point, I calculated the average of the last 12 miles—I excluded the first mile, since it’s always a warm-up and a fluke, of sorts—and realized that I was right below 9:26 average. Comparing this pace to new half marathon goal paces, I realized that running a sub-2-hour half is probably out of reach for now (it’d require a 9:09 average), but 2:03 or 2:02 could work well. So I went with 2:02, because why not train a little harder and see what happens? I’d trained for the Louisiana Marathon half with goal paces for a 2:08, with hopes of breaking 2:10. I like a little bit of insurance, I guess.
At the very bottom, besides my embarrassing inability to draw an arrow, is a rough schedule of the progression of tempo runs and long runs. (The abbreviations are explained in RLRF, in case you’re curious.) This is all sort of random, and I base this off what I think my body might be able to handle in a given week. The track/speed workouts, not pictured here, are also loosely based on the schedule in RLRF. Everything I’ll do to prepare for this next race, however, must be condensed from an 18-week training plan template, so there’s a bit of guesswork.
So for the next six weeks, I’ll run based on that piece of paper. I’ll continue to spin once per week, also, and I’m hoping to incorporate more cross-training into my routine this time. Strength training is also high on my list. I think I say that every time I start training for something again, and I luckily manage to squeak by without doing much, if any, work in the weight room. That’s going to change.
What’s your next race, and what are your goals? How do you decide what your new goal will be? Are you a numbers dork like me?