April 16, 2016

A recap of my 10K PR training (how I improved so much in a short time frame)

This is going to be a rather boring post to most of you, but I really wanted to write this for myself. Because I set such a difficult goal last year, trained hard, and completed that goal, I wanted to put all of my training info in one spot for future reference.

If you missed it, back in August, I set a goal to get back to my goal weight and PR my 10K (my PR at the time was 49:23 from March 2013). I dropped the weight and reached goal (133 pounds) just before Thanksgiving, and started 10K specific training at the end of November.

Last Sunday, I ran my goal race and finished in 49:03! (Early in 2015, my weight was up to 160 and my 10K pace was around 11:00/mile.) I was thrilled with the PR, and I'm still kind of in shock that I actually pulled it off.

Anyway, here are some bullet points about my training:

  I started doing my easy runs REALLY easy (by keeping my heart rate low). I think this was a huge factor in getting me to my goal. (I started doing this on 12/24.)

  I got to my goal weight before I started 10K-specific training. I knew that in order to run my best, I couldn't be carrying any extra pounds.

  I ran a 5K race at the beginning of my 10K-specific training to see where my current fitness level was. I am so glad I did that! It helped to see the numbers improving during training.

  I tried to keep 80% or more of my weekly training at a truly easy pace, and less than 20% at a moderate or hard pace.

  I started out by following this plan, but after several weeks, I used a more intuitive approach. I kept with the pattern of five days of running per week, including 1-2 speed sessions (maintaining the 80/20 ratio), but I used my intuition to tell me how many miles to run and on which days. A lot of times, I didn't even know what type of run I was going to do until I was half a mile into it, so that I could see how I felt. (I don't recommend that beginners do this, but it worked well for me.)

  When I did my speed sessions, I gave it everything I had. My interval pace improved pretty much every time I did a speed session. I think this is because I did my easy runs VERY easy.

  I rotated four different pairs of shoes so that my feet wouldn't get used to just one particular model. Not sure if this helped at all, but I figured it was worth a try. I do have a "favorite" pair, though--my Brooks Ghost 8's--and that's what I used for my race pace runs and the race itself.

  I did two tune-up races: a 5K at the beginning of February, and a 4-miler at the end of February. The 5K went really well, and I actually set a new PR. The 4-miler was a bad race, and I crashed at the 2-mile mark.

  Race pace runs were the biggest confidence builder in my training. Once I did a few of those, I felt much better about my training. Next time, I don't think I'll do them--I'll just stick to tempo intervals (2- or 3-mile intervals near race pace)--because I don't think they are necessary to my physical performance (they just helped with my confidence).

  I averaged about 21 miles (a little over 3.5 hours) per week.

  I included a warm-up for all of my speed sessions (and sometimes a cool down).

  I knew that having someone pace me during the race would help, so I enlisted my BFF Thomas. I chose him because he's not afraid to call me out on my bullshit, and when I inevitably would try to quit, he wouldn't let me. It worked very well at mile four of the race!

  I chose an out-of-state race, but next time, I don't think I'd do that. My stomach felt all messed up a couple of days before the race, probably due to drinking and eating food I'm not used to.

  I did all of my training on flat roads, knowing that the race course was flat. I didn't expect the long gravel portion of the race, and I wish I'd trained better for that. It threw me for a loop, and messed with my confidence during the race. Next time, I want to look at the race course well to be prepared.

  I had no plans of running faster than I'd stated in my goal. I knew if I went out too fast at the beginning, I would likely crash during the race; so, I told Thomas not to let me go any faster than 7:50, even if I felt on top of the world. I'm glad I did this, because I had a very difficult race starting around mile 3.5, and I had zero energy to spare. Three of my splits were actually over 8:00/mile.

  My race morning breakfast was a Larabar at 5:00 am and another Larabar at 7:00 am (450 calories total of mostly carbs). No coffee or tea. Five cups of water at 5:00 am. I had no stomach issues.

  It was 50 degrees and overcast for the race (PERFECT running weather). I wore HeatGear capris and a tank. I left my phone in the car, because it felt heavy around my waist, and I'm glad I did that. I didn't need it during the run, obviously, so leaving it the car was a good idea.

  I was VERY public about my goal from the beginning, and I later regretted that because I felt so much pressure to hit it. However, I don't think I would have hit my goal if I hadn't been so public about it. Since everybody knew my goal, I worked extra hard to make it happen. It would have been embarrassing not to do it!

I'm still so excited about hitting this goal! It makes me look forward to choosing another challenge and working hard to make it happen (not sure if I'll announce it or not--I'm enjoying not feeling any pressure right now! haha).

Anyway, here are the weekly stats of my training (these stats include my easy runs AND speed work, so I'm not sure how helpful they'll be):

If you're interested in trying my method to PR your own 10K, I've written this training plan: "Your Best 10K". This closely resembles my own training as I reached for my goal. 

I've also used the same method to create a 5K training plan: "Your Best 5K".  It's tough, but I'm confident it will get you to your goal. Let me know how it goes for you!


  1. You've convinced me to try this 80/20 thing! I bought the book and am about halfway thru it. I used my heart rate strap for the first time this week (got the garmin watch about 5 years ago) and I had to slow down to about 14 mph to keep my heart rate low. Before that, my default was 10 mph and I always tried to speed up if possible. But I am looking forward to running and I can run in the morning before eating anything and not feel icky and I love how I feel the rest of the day! It's only been a few days but I think I'm hooked. Congrats on hitting your milestone. My goal is to run a marathon next year at some point.

  2. I just love reading about your running progress! Awesome job!!!! I just ordered the 80/20 book on your recommendation and I bet I will need to slow way down, but it will be interesting to see how it goes. Thanks, Katie!!!!😊
    Laura B.

  3. Bought a book for myself along with 3 more for others wanting to try this method! The weight first for me then a race. Looking at a 10k in the fall!!
    Thanks so much for this blog
    Rose T

  4. While I love to hear about and help you celebrate your running victories, I miss hearing about the family. Can you sprinkle a little more of that in your blog?

  5. Not boring to me...I'm a runnerd who loves stats and math. :)

  6. Congrats on your PR! I'm watch shopping and want to try the 80/20 method. Which HRM do you use? I'm kind of afraid of chafing from the strap...

  7. I love this and am also a fan of the 80/20 method in practice. I run oh so slow on easy days and it really is glorious and helps you stay focused for the hard effort days! Congrats again!

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