Sunday, January 31, 2010

The inevitable mid-taper discussion on pace....

As you know, I am running a marathon next weekend.  Maybe you don't know.   Many of the people in my "real" life don't even know.  I have been surprisingly low-key about this marathon.  Even my husband has been saying things like, "oh, your marathon is next weekend?"  Rather than obsessing all along (like I did for both San Diego marathons) I only recently started to think about it.

So now, as if to make up for lost time, I am thinking about the race quite a bit.   And, of course, thoughts are often of my race plan and what my goals are.  I have yet to have an "on" day on marathon day.  I have had a couple of "on" days for half marathons.  I know all too well how fickle the running gods can be.  You train and train and have spectacular runs and then have something go wrong on the big day (cramps, tummy issues etc.).  Of course, everyone in my house is sick right now.  Great.  No hugs and kisses for Mommy.  Like that is going to happen.

So, unlike a 5K, where you can go all out and see how fast you can run, a marathon needs to be planned out more.  I know from experience the pain that occurs from going out too fast.  And you often don't know what too fast is until it is too late.  Last year in the marathon, I started out fast, but not super fast.  I ran the first six miles or so around 8:50, which isn't particularly fast for me (although it is BQ pace for my age).  In fact, I can run thirteen miles faster than that.  However, on that day, it was too fast and I knew it before the halfway point.  But HOW do you know?  I had no indication that it was too fast during the first few miles.  In fact, I felt fantastic.

So how do I know??

According to the charts, using my recent half marathon PR, I should be able to run a marathon in just over 3:50.  McMillan shows that the equivalent effort of a 1:49:48 half marathon should be a 3:51:34 marathon (which is :35 seconds off qualifying for Boston).  My RRCA charts show a similar time.  I'm not sure I buy it.  The same charts say that last year, I should have been able to run the marathon in 3:54.  I finished over twenty minutes slower than that!

So the question is really how aggressive to I attack this marathon?  I am better prepared than I was in May, but not as prepared as I had planned to be.  I scheduled three twenty milers and was able to run almost two*.  I scheduled hill repeats and speed workouts every week and have not done them much at all lately.

I could go out easy (around a 9:30 pace) and almost guarantee myself a PR.**  I could do negative splits and perhaps even finish in the low four hour mark.  But that strategy seems like something that may have me thinking afterward, "what if."   A 4:04 (a 9:20 pace) is a GREAT time, but if I go out super easy, it is very possible that I will leave some extra minutes out on the course.  If would be a shame to get that close knowing that I could have pushed harder.

So I think I have formulated a running plan in my head.  I am going to try to keep the first miles just over 9:00.  A 9:07 average, or even 9:10,  would be perfect for the first half or so.  That will leave me within striking distance of the sub-four goal.  If I start to lose my momentum, I can slow it to a more comfortable pace, giving myself a decent PR.  However, keep in mind that my average for the first half in May was exactly 9:10 and I lost a LOT of time in the second half.  There are definitely no guarantees.

So there it is... a rambling post about how I want to run this race.  I don't have a lot of expectations for this race.  I am really hoping that I have a positive experience and can claim it as my "marathon redemption," sub-four or no sub-four.

*I ran one twenty miler and another miserable 19 miler.
**My PR is 4:16:10, which is  9:47 pace.


Aka Alice said...

First...I'll bet you're going to have an awesome race. You did lots of hill training...are there really hills in HB? (I am so unprepared for this race, it's not even funny).

I am so looking forward to the race I can do and think about pace and PRs and not just focus on finishing the thing w/o injury. Maybe San Diego RnR.

I won't see you b4 the race as you will be on your way by the time we get there. Maybe at the end. (honesly...we may be finishing at about the same time!).

Jill Will Run said...

You've got a smart strategy and solid training... honestly I just wish you the best and that you get your marathon redemption. I really want you to have a good race day and to finish feeling good about yourself and what you've done!

I hope this last week before the race doesn't drive you mad, it's always a hard period for me!

MCM Mama said...

I think the starting around 9-9:10 is a good plan. It's definitely a speed you can handle. Fingers crossed that the marathon gods smile on you and that it's a strong race. I think you could really rock this one if they do. Good luck!

Irene said...

I completely get where you're at! It's so easy to start out too fast, perhaps it's the adrenaline of race day. Your plan sounds really solid to me. Perhaps not stressing over this marathon as you had in the past will make it better? I hope everything is in the right place on marathon day.

I'll be thinking about you on marathon day!

Glenn Jones said...

Now that you have a couple under your belt you know what to expect - I think that's really key to attacking the distance. Also, - not overtraining is pretty key too. You've got to hit the start line with fresh legs and a relaxed mind and body. I read somewhere that it's always better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained. Best of luck Sunday!

Alissa said...

Oh I totally can relate to your debate. I went out at an 8:40 pace in the 2008 Rock and Roll Marathon and by mile 15 I knew for sure that had been a mistake. Ended up run walking the last 10 miles and finishing a disappointing 4:08. My best marathon we ran about 8:50's the first half, slowed to about 9:00's in the 2nd half and 9:30's last 10k and just barley finished under 4 hours. I have yet to run a marathon that I don't fade pretty hard at the end so I would just take that into account.

Try not to drive yourself crazy. Just keep checking in with yourself while you are running, you're body will tell you how fast to run. Just remember those first 10 miles should be the some of the easiest 10 miles you've ever run. If you are feeling tired at any point in the first ten miles you need to slow down.

Can't wait to hear how it goes for you. I really think you are going to surprise yourself!!!

Terri said...

After reading this post, and also knowing how you did today, I can't wait to see how you actually did it, with the race report!!


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