Benchmarking at the Adidas 10k Paris

My training year seems to follow a very predictable cycle. I start the year by training endurance, working up to the spring marathon season. It’s cold, and all I want to do is run long and pretty much forget about speedwork. Spring marathons go alright, but aren’t anything particularly special. Then it starts heating up, and by this point I’m sick of just running and running for hours on end – I crave short and sharp. I get an itching to swim and cycle, and typically this turns into triathlon season. Usually, I reach peak fitness during this summer period. After a few months, the focus moves back to long-distance and the autumn marathon season, where I run my fastest time for year/PB. This extends into November/December, when I chill out a bit and only do short, easy runs, ready to do it all over again.

So, now that it’s June, we’re squarely in the “let’s get faster over short distances” time period! With the 4-in-4-sub-4 marathons and 50 mile ultra behind, I want to get some zip back in my legs, and learn how to properly race again. I feel like I’ve totally lost this over the months of training to just complete a specific distance. My endurance is cracking right now (including my ability to get back to normal really quickly), but now I need some power and speed to go along with it. Over the next few months, this is what I’m going to be focussing on. The longer-term plan is also to build up my ability over those short distances (5km, 10km, half-marathon) and really cut back on the marathons once 26.2 is done. Theoretically, if I can get some solid building blocks in place, then my marathon time will also drop.

Which brings me to this morning’s race. The Adidas 10k Paris is the final race of the Adidas Circuit, and brought together all the different Adidas Running teams from across Paris. Once again, I was given a free bib for the event thanks to my team AR Odéon, who (months ago) I’d told I would run a sub-46min 10km. The race concept was all about ‘representing your quarter’, so all participants were given t-shirts with the name of their team written on the back. It was a pretty amazing sight to see all the different coloured names running through the streets of Paris!

Photo by Florian Magnien

When I tried to do a little warm-up before the race set off, my legs pretty much refused to co-operate. OK – this was not going to be a great race. I did have in the back of my mind that I would like to come close to the time I ran at the Bois de Boulogne 10km a month ago pre-ultra (46:35), but I also just wanted to see what I could do today. This race was to be a benchmark for all the speed work over the next few months. It would be a great way to track progress and see the improvements coming from targeted short-distance training.

Unlike the last 10km, I didn’t line up at the front of the pen and go out all-guns blazing. Instead, I hung back and tried to execute a proper race plan: start steady, pick up at 3km, pick up again at 6km, then just hold on. I did feel pretty comfortable for the first 3km, despite the fact that I was passing people. I kept an eye on my watch to ensure I wasn’t going out too quickly, and a few times had to rein it in a bit.

I had started in the 47min pace group, somewhere behind the corresponding blue-flagged pacer. The next few kilometres of the race then became about catching up to said pacer, incrementally gaining in speed and distance. I definitely sped up too fast – my 4th kilometre was the fastest of my whole race. That’s also when I started feeling that yes, this is pretty hard and maybe I won’t hold it out today.

By 6km that was confirmed, and within 500m my legs had just stopped cooperating. I had almost caught up to the pacer, but now I saw him disappearing into the distance. Perhaps I could have found another notch of speed, but my brain also wasn’t playing game. I pretty much resigned myself that this would be the rest of the race, but factored in possible pick-up points each kilometre if I found my energy again.

And then we hit the tunnels – complete with decent inclines down and up again. I was jogging the uphills and still just trying to keep my feet moving in a decent rhythm on the flats. The last tunnel exit came just after 9km, which is just cruel! Couldn’t even give me a decent last kilometre to smash through. I did eventually find a sprint for the last 100m when I realised I could get in under 48min, but the second half of that race was fairly pitiful.

10km, 47:49min, 4:46/km. Bleugh, really not great – but it aptly describes where my fitness/endurance/speed is at right now. During a recent threshold interval sessions I averaged ~4:30/km for 6min and that was tough, so I can hardly expect to suddenly average that same pace for 10km. In this race there also wasn’t as much of a do-it-for-the-team spirit, because we had 250 runners representing Odéon, rather than 30.

I’m not disappointed in that result, I’m just excited to see how it improves! The ‘racing’ side of training is going to be just as important as being able to run faster, because the brain does play such a big role in determining what you are capable of. Straight after the race I was pretty knackered, but that went away within 10min and I’ve felt fine for the rest of the day. That goes to show that physically I could have pushed it more – I just didn’t let myself try. Oh well, it’s all lessons learned. Bring on the next training cycle, and let’s see what’s possible from here.

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