Q: Rage, I love your site and candid answers. I have been a sporadic runner since high school where I ran 5Ks in the low 17 minute area (PR 16:58) with little training. Looking back I wish that I had trained harder, but I am still rather young, 27, and think I may be able to become competitive again. Being an Atlanta native I am blessed with having the Peachtree Road Race, that is run July 4th, to get me motivated every year around spring, but I want to run past the Peachtree this year. In March, I ran a fairly easy 10K to qualify for the Peachtree. My time was 40:09. Even though they say this race is typically one minute faster due to a loss of elevation, I had only put in a total of about 60 miles over the previous 4 weeks to get to that point.

June 1st, just over a month before Peachtree, I started training again. I found several training programs incorporating speed work, cruise intervals and long runs and created a personally tailored workout with no guidance. I am a little worried that I planned no hill workouts remembering the hill sessions I used to do with the old high school cross country team , the Peachtree is less than 2 weeks away, should I bother with any hills? Or just incorporate hills into my long/easy runs? Also, the training sessions that call for me to run slightly under race pace and I find myself clocking 6 minute pace without a problem for 1 mile intervals. My initial goal was simply to break 40 which is a 6:27 pace and get into the top 500 so I could brag with my name in the Atlanta Journal. At a 6 minute mile pace I would be under 37 minutes! Granted I have been working allot harder this month than I did before my qualifying race, but am I kidding myself that I could possibly improve by 3 or more minutes?! What is a good way to determine a suitable race pace without stressing myself so close to race day? Have you ever drank coffee for its stimulating attributes before an intense training session or race? I have and it seems to allow me to push it just a little harder, only bad side effects is extra gas and the vague feeling that I am in some way using performance enhancing drugs. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention since the qualifying race in March I have picked up a part-time job as a valet parker. Two times a week I work a valet shift and run between 30 to 50 100 yard sprints. Will this help me at all for the 10 K distance, or does this contribute to the surprising easy 6 minute mile intervals? Thanks for the taking time! R.S., 6/24/03

A: I'd skip the 37 minute goal for the P.T. with it coming within the next two weeks. Just shoot for a sub-40 and don't broadcast it. Don't be baited into thinking you can hang on to a six minute pace for a 10k after a few mile repeats. Surely, you haven't been away from competition long enough to forget that in order to average sixes, you should be training in the 5:35 - 5:45 range…and three of those should feel…well, at worst "spirited" for a 37 minute goal. Trust me. The first couple might feel good, but somewhere around mile 4, you'll be hating life. Save the 37 for another day. I like hills anytime, but not too close to race day at this point. I think a couple of good 30 minute hill workouts…wherever you can find a climb that long in Georgia, couldn't hurt. As far as the coffee thing goes, I like a cup before a race. I'm told it frees up fatty acids in the blood…whatever that means. I just like to get myself pumped up in the morning, that's all. My prediction for you: You'll run 38:45. Let me know how it goes. Good luck. And thanks for asking. The Rage

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10kTruth.com is a place for runners who have the attitude to train harder and smarter, who want to race faster and stronger, to better their race times and lower the chance of injury. The Rage and Manciata answer running and training questions with their own unique insight and spew. You'll also find running advice and inspirational quotes by sports legends and others who epitomize the spirit of 10k Truth.