Race Report: Winnipeg Police Service Half-Marathon
- What? Winnipeg Police Service Half-Marathon
- When? May 7, 2017
- How far? 21.1 kilometres
- Where? Winnipeg, MB
- Website: http://www.wpshalfmarathon.ca/
- Strava activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/975283867
A: Sub 90 / 1:30
B: Race smart
I’m currently doing a marathon training plan from Daniels’ Running Formula. It is in the 18-week 2Q program, 56-70 miles per week (90 - 113 kilometres). If I could summarize the program, it is basically 2 workouts a week: one medium-long run and one long run, with lots of tempo, interval, and marathon-pace running in the workouts. The rest of the mileage is easy or recovery and is basically up to you how you spread it throughout the week.
I’m training for the Manitoba Marathon on June 18th, and the week leading up to this race was Week 12 of the program. I had a decent stretch of training throughout April, with 4 weeks over 100 kms, so I decided on a whim that now might be a good time to chase a half-marathon PB to give me some confidence.
After a lazy January of 40-50 kilometres per week with almost no workouts, training started in earnest in February. I averaged 80k per week with one down week due to weather (it’s cold where I am and I’m a wimp). My long runs were between 24-26 kilometres, and I had one solid marathon-pace (4:35 /k) workout with about 18k of volume at pace. In February, I did a grand total of one workout at (or faster) than half-marathon pace, which was actually an interval workout in Daniels program: 6 x 1k @ 4:10 /k.
March got off to a terrible start because it was cold and miserable outside, and I took an entire week off. I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is. I ran one 80k week in March, with one tempo workout (3 x 3k). I also travelled to LA but managed to run 40 kilometres that week, far short of the 90-100k I’m supposed to be running on this plan. I closed a terrible month of training with another 80k week with 2 workouts: 2 x 7k @ Goal HM Pace (4:15) and a long run with 16k @ MP (4:30).
As the calendar turned to April, I realized that I had less than 12 weeks until the Manitoba Marathon, so it was time to either get serious or quit running altogether.
The next four weeks were solid: 100, 103, 90, 110. Long runs were up to 30k, with some work at marathon pace as per Daniels. Key workouts that were somewhat successful included:
It was workouts #2 and #3 where I realized that I might be in better shape than I thought, especially given my mediocre and inconsistent training. Nonetheless, this was my first month where I ran more than 100 kilometres a week, and the volume was clearly working.
At the end of April I decided that I wanted to jump into a local-ish half-marathon as a “training run” for a hard effort. I planned on training through it and ended up running a 90k week leading up to the race. Daniels also had a monster training run planned for me so I ran it on Tuesday and prayed to the running gods that I would recover in time:
My workouts were generally going well (with a couple exceptions), so I figured I could give a decent effort at the half-marathon. I set my PB (1:32) last year at the tail end of marathon training so I had my sights on the elusive sub-90.
There was one problem, though. I’m on a marathon training plan, so a lot of the workouts in the Daniels plan are targetted at marathon pace. In case you weren’t keeping track, I did a grand total of six workouts at or faster than half-marathon pace. That doesn’t seem so bad unless you think about the fact that it was over 4 months of training.
Stay tuned, because this lack of HM-specific training becomes important, and I learned a valuable lesson yesterday.
I was in Winnipeg for a work conference at the end of the week. I was intent on keeping my weekly volume up, so I wasn’t fully committed to a taper. I ran 8 kms (recovery) on Thursday, 14 kms (easy) on Friday, and 6 kms (shakeout) on Saturday.
I stayed at a friend’s house and avoided drinking too much, but Saturday I went out for a few beers at a brewpub in the evening. I still managed to fuel well and stay hydrated and was into bed by 9:30.
I was up early on race morning and my routine was going perfectly: coffee, water, and snack (trail mix bars). I had to drive about 20 minutes to the start. I was merrily on my way to the event when I realized that I forgot my watch! Thankfully I had banked quite a bit of time when I left, so I could go back and get it and still make it to the start with time for a warmup. I felt a bit hungry, too, so I stopped for a plain bagel with peanut butter.
I ran a few strides and did a few drills, but my warmup was ultimately rushed and pointless. I probably went to the start line just as cold as I would be if I didn’t bother with the warmup.
Conditions were basically perfect: 10 degrees C with a tiny bit of wind and scattered clouds.
My plan for the race was to go out at 4:10 or 4:15, the latter of which is just under 90 minute pace. From my training, though, I really didn’t know what would be comfortable, so I planned on adapting after the first few kilometres.
I felt really cold and tight the first 5k and it showed. Still, I was running around what I expected, with only my second kilometer (4:18) being a bit tardy. Several runners had taken off in front of me, probably a total of 20. I didn’t get passed by many in the first 5k, but a lot of the runners were pulling away from me. I didn’t mind because I was running my own race. I knew at the time that there were probably fewer than 10 people who can run under 4:00 pace in this race, so there was no point in trying to challenge the people who were going out that fast.
After 5 kms I picked it up a bit, but I don’t remember consciously doing so. I think I was just feeling looser at that point and decided to stride it out to see what my body could handle. After feeling tight for over twenty minutes, I was starting to feel more comfortable.
I don’t remember how many people I passed, but suddenly I’m running 4:00 - 4:05 pace and surging to catch and pass people who are in front of me. This was a terrible strategy that somehow worked, because no one I passed ended up catching me, but I was right on the threshold of pushing too hard. In the moment, I think I used it as a bit of motivation to not fall off pace – basically, I would pass people and try to keep holding on for fear of them catching me and making me look like an idiot.
While all this is happening, I’m scolding myself while looking at my watch every split. I’m running 4:00 pace in a half-marathon, which is my interval pace for workouts of 1k repetitions! This is stupid and reckless. Still, I didn’t feel like I was falling off, so I just tried to stay in rhythm and focus on a steady cadence.
From kilometres 17-19, my pace dipped a little to 4:08, which is closer to a more realistic goal for me. I think it was because of the wind. Nevertheless, I still passed a few people as I came up to the final stretch. I managed to get my pace back down to around 4:00 for the last two kilometres, where the crowd support was a lot better and I felt like I wasn’t going to crash and burn like I have in sub-90 attempts before. For a pace that I didn’t train specifically for, I felt incredible. I couldn’t close any harder than 4:00 pace but I felt like Eliud Kipchoge coming down the straightaway in Italy.
I came in at 1:26:14 in 11th. As I crossed the finish line, I was basically in disbelief.
I was ecstatic about my performance but I didn’t know what to do next other than grab some breakfast and linger around. I knew a couple other people from my city were there but I only found one of them and we chatted about the race and training.
The biggest lesson, I think, is that volume is king. I only did 6 workouts that were remotely close to the pace I ran in this race. The rest of my running was either easy or moderate intensity – 45 to 80 seconds (per km) slower than race pace. But I ran the highest mileage I’ve ever attempted, and I’m only two-thirds through the training block.
These are from my watch, not Strava. It’s hard to say which is more accurate, because they’re both based on GPS data.
Mile Splits (based on Strava): 6:44, 6:53, 6:46, 6:39, 6:37, 6:39, 6:27, 6:27, 6:31, 6:38, 6:41, 6:39, 6:25