Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rethinking My 10k Goals (& PR, Apparently)

I'm beginning to think my goal for the Sanibel Race for FISH 10k needs to be adjusted. (And so does my PR, apparently...skip to the bottom for a weird twist.)

When I first decided to make 2016 the year of short distances, setting new PRs wasn't really a factor a goal but it was on my mind as a way to keep myself on track. I wanted to get consistently faster in a way that would mean on a daily basis I could hold a faster pace than I'd been doing since marathons entered my life. 
My average pace in 2012 was comfortable sub-9 for distances up to the 10k.
Generally, that meant I wanted to be back in the 9s, but hopefully racing in the low-9s or high-8s. That meant a 5k PR in May.

But as I look at my paces on my 4-mile runs and how much effort those paces are taking, I'm wondering if the goal I've been thinking about for the 10k is totally outlandish. 

For reference, most of my 4-mile runs are in the low-10s or high-9s right now. My A goal for the 10k was 57:00, which is a 9:10 pace. Can I run 40+ seconds faster per mile for two extra miles? I don't even know if I could push that pace for four right now!
I do know that I'm not ready to give up, but I'm already feeling discouraged. I'll continue speed work and building mileage, and I still have about a month to go until race day, but because I'm beginning to doubt my capabilities, my motivation is diminishing, too.

My current 10k PR is 58:41*, which is a 9:27 pace. I'm honestly not sure I could match that right now, let alone beat it. But I do know that if I could hold a 9:39 pace for this race and break an hour, I'd be happy. After all, getting faster is a process with no real end in mind. One race and its outcome isn't going to define the progress I've made; it will be a checkpoint on the way to continued progress.
This first year was the only year this race has been chilly (in the 60s/70s) and I was running the bridge 4x a week and running long every weekend in preparation for my first (real) half marathon.
Because the truth is, I ran 58:41 years ago when my running looked very different, and my 10k paces more recently are closer to 1:05 (on average - I've run them faster and slower in recent years). 
This is from 2014...In 2015 I ran my slowest yet at 1:14, but it was part of a 13-mile long run, so it was slow on purpose.
So if I can at least see some progress, I'll be happy.

I'm not totally giving up on the idea of a PR for this race, but looking at the work I'll need to do in the next month to get there, I'm trying to figure out how realistic that dream is, and if it needs to be deferred...at least for now.

*When I wrote the original post about the 2012 race and my PR, I recorded my time as 58:41 so I must've gotten that from somewhere. But when I checked Athlinks just now, it says my time was 1:00:05, so maybe I can readjust my goals and still technically PR. Does this mean my PR has been a lie/figment of my imagination all this time?! Where did I get 58:41 from?! Was that the time originally recorded but I somehow missed an adjustment the race organizer made later on?! Have I never broken 60-minutes in a 10k?!

This post has officially raised more questions than it's answered.

Help me out guys - what's my PR?
Do I have a chance to break it, whether it's 60-minutes or 58:41?
I'm beginning to feel the PR is arbitrary because it's so old...so how do I set a realistic and challenging goal for this race?



  1. When it comes to racing in Florida I believe it's tough to plan for a PR. If the morning is chilly I really have no doubt that you'll pull off an amazing time after training all year in the high heat/humidity. Even if the weather doesn't cool down, you PR'd the 5K on a hot morning so that should give you a lot of confidence going into this race!

    Back when I was working with a coach she used to have me structure races (above the 5K) distance as progression runs and I liked that a lot. It's intimidating to think "can I hold X pace for Y miles" when you've never done it before/are going for a PR.

    However, if you can split the race up and think: the first 2 miles I'll warm up and run slower than race pace, the second 2 miles I need to run race pace and the final 2 miles I need to run a little below race pace but my legs should be fine because I didn't go out too hard" it's much easier to tackle mentally. At least I think it is!

    No matter what happens this is one of your favorite races so enjoy it -- and know that colder weather is (probably) coming for other races! haha

    1. It's hard to bank on a PR in the FL, that's true, but all my other PRs and stellar race times were done in Florida! It's really just the luck of the draw with weather, I guess. I keep waiting for summer training to pay off but summer won't freaking go away, so I can't bask in my progress yet!!

      But yes, I do keep thinking about the 5k and that I was able to pull that off in some pretty intense heat, so maybe things will be okay.

      I think running a progressive pace is the best bet, too. Sometimes if I start too slow it's hard to speed myself up, but this race forces a slow start because it's so crowded in the beginning. So at least my strategy will be reinforced by the course, and I'm so familiar with the route that I'll be about to really plan my splits. I definitely plan to enjoy it no matter what!

  2. I'm going through this exact same thing in my own 10K training. I had a dream race pace in mind that I honestly thought would be hard but realistic given my PRs and the paces I've hit in tempo runs before...until last week when I could barely hit that pace in a MILE REPEATS workout. So yeah, I get it. I too have been constantly second-guessing myself.

    Honestly, I think this is just a challenge with short distances that we might not have anticipated with our distance backgrounds. In the marathon, the concern is more about the distance, since the pace we want to hit is not that far off of our comfortable training paces. We're not worried about being able to run a certain pace, just being able to sustain it for such a long time. Now we're in 10K training and the mindset is different - we're pushing to be able to hit scary fast paces and our marathoner brains just aren't used to it.

    As for the race time, that's weird - is it possible that Athlinks is reporting your gun time instead of your chip time? Does the race itself have an archive of results you can look at? Is it possible it was actually a different race in a different year?

    I don't know if you'll PR or if I'll run my dream times. It's so hard to tell because everyone is different - some people have a knack for running 90% slow and then pulling insanely fast paces out of nowhere on race day, while others run closer to their training paces. It's almost harder to predict short distance race performance for that reason - it's easier to pull off a renegade pace and scrap together a decent finish from a fast start. What I do think is that your slower paces are really probably related to the weather more than anything else. You yourself said, this has been the worst summer on record - and it's not over yet. Let's just cross our fingers for chilly race mornings!

    1. Hanna, I'm so glad you're training for 10ks, too. It makes me feel like I'm not going crazy!! I think you're so right that the shift from long distance to medium-short is really a mind-bender. I mean, a 5k is so short you can really gut it out, but a 10k takes some strategy and thinking that focuses on an entirely different aspect than a marathon or half. I just haven't had the practice at this distance lately and my mind is freaking out.

      The race is small and local, so their website now links to Athlinks for times. (They used to post their own but I think because I'm looking back at the 2012 archives, they've just wiped them and linked to Athlinks.) It might be gun time, but I don't remember starting really far back from the starting line...although I may have.

      I've never run a renegade pace for a 10k - only a 5k! So this will be something to play with. Sometimes I've found positive splits get me my faster times! :) I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of your race, too, since we're in the same boat.

  3. I agree with the above comment. That is probably your gun time. Thanks what they use for awards. I pisses my off but it's not my real time. Sometimes there's only gun and not chip time because there's no starting mat.

    PRs are tough. I never know when or if they'll happen. I have to feel great, have no humidity and a flat course. When does that ever happen.

    In the end, we just do our best.

    Good luck.

    1. I wish I could remember if I started far back from the mat in this race - it was so long ago! But even if I started at the very back, I don't think it would have taken me 2 minutes to cross the start because it's a smallish race. But I do think the chip/gun discrepancy is probably the best explanation and pretty darn annoying!

      It's rough that we can train beautifully for a race and then have race day just suck. It really is partially up to luck!

  4. I like what Kristina recommended above. It's hard to switch between distances and have a good feel for what you can do and I think the 10K is particularly tricky since it's long enough that you can't put it all out there at first but short enough to want to. Especially if you're used to running long! I look at my speedwork sessions from 2-3 years ago and I just know I'm nowhere near able to pull those out.

    So, given that weather is such a factor at this time of year (will it be hot/cool/humid/dry?), break it into thirds and go by feel, steadily increasing as you can. Then regardless of actual time you'll know you did the best you could in that day.

    Good luck!

    1. I definitely think I'll be taking that advice. A steadily increasing progression run should get me to the finish line with some pride, even if it doesn't garner a PR.

  5. Honestly, I think that your PR is within reach. Last spring, most of my training runs were between 10-11 minute miles and my fastest 10K of 57:31 was achieved during a longer race. I think you've been doing great with your speed work and I think you may surprise yourself when the big race comes. I think aiming high is great, as long as it doesn't become a source of stress. You got this!

    1. Yes, part of me is still thinking I'll surprise myself like I did for my 5k in May. I didn't feel super fast/prepared for that one and managed to scrape it out. So maybe this will be the same!

  6. Athlinks has one of my race times wrong too! If you truly think you ran a 58:41, then that's your PR! Apparently I am not good at setting race goals because I have not achieved the goals I set for myself at all this past year!

    1. I think I'm terrible at setting goals, too. I either set the bar way too high and chicken out/decide to just "race for fun", or I set it really low so I'm guaranteed to meet it. I have a suspicion that maybe that's what's going on here - I know 57:00 is a lofty goal, so I'm starting to chicken out!

  7. Couple thoughts...first off I agree with the person above who said it's tough to plan for a PR in Florida. Especially with it still being pretty hot and humid. Your current training paces may not be a reflection of your true capabilities since we don't have ideal weather right now. I know earlier in the year I had no issue keeping miles in the 9s for short races but I struggle with that now.

    Keeping in mind that your PR is several years old, maybe set an A, B & C goal. Like your A goal could be the original PR you want, B goal could be a slightly more conservative time goal and C goal could be to run even splits at a fast for you pace that you can maintain to the finish and see what happens. This way you're not disappointed if you don't hit that original goal because you still have other goals you can hit?

    It's hard to realize your goal may not be within your current reach. I set a goal to sub 1:05 in the 10k this spring and I was on target until I fell. So I was pretty disappointed about that. Now I feel like I need to do another 10k to try and get that goal. That's also an option- pick another 10k this winter, maybe one in January or February when you know you're most likely to get great weather?

    Good luck with your race! I'm sure it will be a great race :-)

    1. I always set A, B, and C goals. That's why I said my A goal was the 57:00...But I like my A goal to be challenging but still achievable. I don't want to set a goal for this race that's totally beyond reach and unrealistic, when maybe my long term goal should be 57:00 and THIS race's goal should be 58:30 or something, you know?

      I definitely think I'll need to search for a 10k in winter. I'm not ready to get back into half marathons yet but I'd like to race middle distance a couple times this year. They're just so hard to find! Do you know of any nearby? :)

  8. Trust the running and cross training....you might just surprise yourself. I find that races bring out the speed. Having said that....I'll pray that you have low humidity on race day because I know that would make it even better!!!!

  9. Last summer I struggled through heat and humidity while training for a PR half, I know that your seasons last longer, but have faith thatwhen the humidity drops a bit - I suspect your pace will improve! Plus race day always brings out more ! As for the timing, athlinks also isn't perfect, have you checked the races direct result page?

  10. Ha! I'd go by the official race results if they're still there! With the race still a month away, it's bound to be cooler. Weather is such a critical component. You've been training in really intensely hot and humid weather all summer that I bet you'll downright fly on a cooler race morning. Don't give up hope!