Saturday, April 22, 2017

My 2017 Illinois Half-Marathon Race Analysis

I ran the Illinois Half-Marathon this morning. I finished in 1:36:50. Not what I planned. I was shooting for a 1:35 (or better). The temperatures were great (42-45F), but there were pretty strong winds (10-20mph). The winds were annoying, but that's not what slowed me.

I was ill-prepared for this race. I'm an ultra runner. I can run long and slow. Not short and fast. Yes, 13.1 miles is short. I rarely run 5Ks, 10Ks, or half-marathons. I don't have the pacing and discipline to run them efficiently. I don't have the experience. Today, my legs gave out around 7 miles. Felt like "the wall"--but I couldn't be glycogen depleted so quickly. I'm sure it was related to running too fast and not being trained for fast road running. I was toast. Maybe extra calories would have helped, but I also need better training and more racing at distances from 5K to half-marathons.

For next time (yes, there will be a next time), I need to do more long steady-state tempo runs (5-8 miles), regular tempo runs (3-4 miles), and tempo intervals (4-8 x 1 mile repeats). And more long runs (10-15 miles). It would help to get in a few 5K races too. I need to feel comfortable with speed. Road speed. Maybe an extra gel will help on race day. Plus consistent and disciplined pacing from start to finish. I'll be back next April for another attempt at a fast half-marathon. I know I can run 1:35. Probably 1:34. Maybe 1:33. Instead of trail ultras, maybe I should specialize in road half-marathons? No, that would just be crazy!

A big thank you to the race staff and volunteers (especially the KRR buffalo aid station). It was a very well-organized event. I'll be back in 2018. And I'll be ready.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Goals for 2017 Illinois Half-Marathon

Illinois Half-Marathon Course
When I signed up for the Illinois Half-Marathon (a long time ago), my original goal was to set a new personal record (currently 1:32:35). I'm pretty sure that is not going to happen. Training has gone well, but I'm simply getting older and slower (or at least, "not faster"). I still have some speed in these old ultra legs, but 1:32 seems out of touch. Here are revised goals for this Saturday's race...

1:32:34 = New PR. 7:04 pace. Not going to happen.

1:33 = Dream goal. 7:06 pace.
1:34 = Maybe. If all goes perfectly. 7:10 pace.
1:35 = Realistic stretch goal. 7:15 pace.
1:36 = Fast, but feasible. 7:19 pace.
1:37 = Definitely doable. 7:24 pace.
1:38 = OK, but not happy. 7:29 pace.
1:39 or slower = Major disappointment. My running buddies Riddle and Rose could run this fast/slow. Unacceptable!

Weather forecast is for a low of 44F with a high of 52F. Very nice. With a chance of wind and rain. Not nice. If weather holds up (no rain and little wind), I believe I can run a 1:35 half-marathon this weekend. I'd be happy with that finish time.

Next year, 1:32:30!  Did I just say "next year?"

Sunday, April 16, 2017

My Favorite Run Workout

All runners have favorite workouts, right? You'd think as a self-identified ultra-runner I'd favor long trail runs. I do enjoy them, but they are not my favorite type of run. I like to run fast. Don't we all? 20-mile slog fests on hilly trails are not done at a fast pace. They are endurance survival runs. They build character and confidence, but not speed. And they leave me wasted, not refreshed. I like a tough workout that gives me energy, rather than draining energy.

My favorite workout is tempo intervals. I learned about these from Greg McMillan's running site. Specifically, I prefer 1-mile repeats done slightly faster than regular tempo pace with a 0.1 mile walk rest interval. For me, these are run between 6:45-7:00 pace. Fast, but still relaxed. Repeat 4-6 times for a nice stamina builder that tests both speed and endurance. Extends your lactate threshold, builds mental focus, and improves leg turn-over. Did one last week as my last real workout before the half-marathon (this Saturday!). Felt wonderful.

Hope I can continue them on a regular basis as I switch to more endurance-based training after the half-marathon. While I need more endurance for ultras (like Howl at the Moon 8-hour in August), I still need to keep speed. Just because I'm entering ultra beast mode doesn't mean I should give up on fast running. As always, a mix of training paces and distances usually works best--with a focus on one training that best fits your goal race.

Looking forward to the half-marathon race on April 22, then a turn toward endurance training for ultras this summer. Endurance training with an element of speed and stamina via tempo intervals!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

13 Days to the Half-Marathon

I now have 13 days until I race 13 miles (+.1).

This weekend I did a 10-mile trail run at a moderate pace and an 11-mile trail run at an easy pace. I now have 13 days until the Illinois Half-Marathon! Am I ready? Not really. I hoped to set a new personal record (currently 1:32:35) at that race. I don't see that happening. I ran 13.1 miles last weekend on the trails in 1:49. If I was on flat roads in a race setting, I believe I'd run about 1 minute/mile faster. That would be a 1:36 half-marathon. With rest and sharpening between now and race day, maybe I could pull off a 1:35. Still not a new PR.

I am feeling stronger and faster every week. Maybe 2 weeks is enough to sharpen and be ready for a fast race. We'll see. If the race-day temperature is cool, with little sun or wind, maybe a personal best is possible. Hope springs eternal.

If I run a 1:38 half-marathon, that predicts a 3:27 marathon. That would get me to Boston! I'm fairly sure I can run a 1:38 (or faster) half-marathon. I predict a 1:35 or 1:36 on April 22. Then I train all summer and fall to run a solid marathon in October or November. Boston in 2018?