I am a hopeless jigsaw’er (is that a word). I am spatially challenged as I struggle to find patterns in shapes and colours. You may know people like me and rightly feel sorry for them as they blindly go about inserting a piece of the jigsaw in the obviously wrong spot. You may have shared a chuckle of bemusement as you watched them place an ill fitting piece back in the pile and scan looking for a more correct piece only to pick up the same recently discarded piece with the unbridled joy of a pan handler who has just discovered gold. Your chuckle is soon replaced by loud sighs of frustration as you watch this rinse and repeat cycle continue until you can stand it no more and pick up the correct piece; which is mere millimetres from the wrong piece and place it in the correct spot for them.
I have faced this scenario countless times over the course of my ‘career’ as an aspiring professional jigsaw’er (still don’t think that is a word). It was after many humiliating moments such as the one described above that I decided that I wasn’t a natural jigsawing talent. I couldn’t discern patterns and colours and I faced the fact that I was mentally and spatially deficient to the point of being a hindrance to the jigsaw team (aka random family and friend who were drawn into the web the jigsaw cast around itself). So, I decided to circumvent my disabilities by leaning heavily on my strengths which was methodical organisation. I corralled a section of the jigsaw and collected all the pieces that matched the colour of this section. I then systematically went about picking up and trying every piece of the puzzle in the empty space. If it didn’t fit, I placed it in the discard pile until I found one that did fit. I then repeated the process over and over. The mere act of picking up and touching each piece and rotating it 90 degrees gave my brain extra stimulus to remember the piece for later which meant that my initial slow speed at finding pieces grew faster to the point where I became more than a below average jigsaw’er and I overcame my deficiencies.
Now what the hell has that got to do with running a 10k PB? I am so glad you asked and stuck with me for the last two paragraphs to find out where I was heading with my jigsawing analogy. Let me start by saying my historic approach to solving a jigsaw is the same as my past approach to training which was to ‘rinse and repeat’. It was akin to picking up the same piece of the jigsaw with excitement and being frustrated when it didn’t bring the results I was looking for. Just like Einsteins definition of insanity I was doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. It was this point that I struck upon this formula for maximizing potential by leaning on pre-existing strengths. Top end speed, technique and recovery are the training jigsaw pieces that are crucial for a 10k PB. I simply leaned on these three elements to enhance the already existing skills. I have written a program which draws on these elements and is available for purchase at training peaks.
The critical aspect to this formula and training program is the one key session which is completed on Sunday every week where these three jigsaw pieces are manipulated and analysed to see how they fit in your 10k race strategy. This key session will work on breaking down your 10k race into these 3 parts of the sum total. Each Sunday you will run 10km but focusing on a different aspect of the 10km. Essentially this is like taking the jigsaw piece of your 10k and rotating it 90 degree to see if it fits then placing it in the discard pile to be picked up again on the day of your race when you will put it all together.
Key session plan overview
Week 1 will consist of 10 kilometres run as 1k easy, 1k hard, 4k easy, 1k moderate finishing with 3k easy. The focus of this breakdown is to introduce you to the concept of breaking your 10k into distinct parts rather than looking at the whole 10km as an entity. By looking at the 10 k as 10 x 1k building blocks you can look at each of the block and see what needs work over the 12 weeks of the program. Getting a feel for how you are coping at various speeds and intensities is the goal of the program. Starting with an initial easy 1k will give you a chance to make a mental note of your body. Where are the aches and twinges? This will let you know what you should do during the week and prior to the race to prepare yourself for your best performance on the day. This is followed by 1k hard which will essentially see what is your top end speed The 4k easy will see how you recover after the hard 1k and it is this easy section that will be the most telling and the one that you can use to analyse how your program is going. The 1k moderate will show you if you can change speed and how your technique is holding up after 6km of leg pounding. The final 3k easy will put you back into the reflective mindset to analyse the session with the view to making further modification for next week. This system of pushing the boundaries with the hard session followed by technique analysis in the moderate sections and mindful reflection and recovery during the easy sections are the three elements that you will constantly play with over the next 12 weeks.
Weeks 2 – 3 will see a manipulation of the easy hard and moderate blocks. Adding and subtracting to prod and poke the various part of your 10k armoury.
Week 4 you will do a 5k hard TT followed by a 5k easy recover which will give you a good idea of the goal time pace that you can possible aim for in your 10k PB. I believe the fastest 1km you can do is the pace you can hold for a 5k and the fastest 5k you can do 8 weeks before a race is well and truly within your goal for a 10k PB.
Week 5 will see you dip back into the block pit playing with the 1E, 2H, 4M, 2H, 1E. My favourite session and much harder than it looks on paper. The ability to control the moderate 4k is vital if you want to evenly spilt the 2 x 2k of hard effort either side of the moderate effort. This whole session is sandwiched between two 1k easy warm up and recovery blocks.
Week 6 is a 10kTT where you will look at riding the pain bubble as close as you can between a moderate and hard effort. You want it to be close as you can to your threshold so you can analyse the data and make some real modifications and make inroads into your training program for the next 6 weeks. This is the half way mark of your training block and your true potential will come to light in this 10k TT.
Week 7 will be a similar to week 5 with a 1E, 3H, 2M, 3H, 1E just extending your time in the higher speed zone slightly reducing your time in the moderate centric technique zone.
Week 8 is another 5k TT but reversed from week 4 by placing the easy 5k at the start and trying to go as close to your PB 5k after this initial 5k easy extended warm up.
Week 9 is a 1E, 4M, 4H 1E.
Week 10 is another 10K TT looking at matching as close as you can to your efforts in week 6. Once you add the excitement of the race day you can subtract a couple of second a K off this time and that will give you a great idea of the potential you have in you for week 12.
Week 11 is a play with speed session. 1E, 1H, 1E, 1M, 1H, 1E, 1M, 1H, 1M, 1E. While it may seem like you are all over the place with speed it is the combination of hard, moderate and easy K’s that will perfect get all the pieces to fall into place the following week when you knock your PB out of the park.
Week 12 race day. As you have spent the last 12 weeks running 10km every week you will know every square inch of the distance. You will know how your body feels from the easy blocks, you will know how your technique feels with your moderate sessions and you will have an innate feel for your top end speed from your hard session.
The most difficult part about this race day is trusting the process and simply letting yourself run to your potential!
Good luck with your training and knocking over your PB in your next 10km race.