Thursday, April 16, 2015

Predicting My Marathon Finish

I always like trying to predict my finish times. Whether it's a 5K road race or a 100 mile trail ultra, it's fun to think about best and worst case scenarios. It's never easy, often the predictions are wrong, but it's a neat excercise. With the Illinois Marathon only 9 days away, it seems about the right time to be predicting my finish time. And you can play along too!

To provide some context, here are predictions based on the McMillan Running calculator:

My most recent 5K time (20:28) predicts a 3:19:26 marathon
My most recent half-marathon time (1:32:35) predicts a 3:14:51 marathon
My most recent 50-mile time (9:04) predicts a 4:05:12 marathon

My goal is to qualify for Boston. I need a 3:30. Based on my 5K and half-marathon finishes (about 6 months ago), I should easily be able to achieve a 3:30 marathon. I'm probably not in as good of shape as I was back then...at least for pure speed. I could probably run a 20:45 5K and a 1:34 half-marathon now.  I could likely run a faster 50-mile trail race (same conditions). What does that mean for my April 25th marathon?

If weather is good (cool, overcast, and no wind), I predict a 3:29 marathon. Just enough to qualify for Boston, but probably not enough to actually register and get into the race! (You often need about 1.5-2 minute cushion to get into Boston.)  That time would still be a PR, but it would be disappointing. Very disappointing.

If the weather is warmer, or otherwise not ideal, I think I'm looking at around a 3:35 finish. Solid, but not what I want or need.

So, how fast, or slow, do you think I will run at the Illinois Marathon?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

What is (my) Marathon Pace?

What is marathon pace?

pace
pās/
noun
  1. consistent and continuous speed in walking, running, or moving.
    "most traffic moved at the pace of the riverboat"
    synonyms:speedratevelocityMore

So, "marathon pace" is the average pace that you run a marathon. Easy. I understand now. Whatever my finish time is, I divide by 26.2, and I have the average pace per mile. Nice.

I have the Illinois Marathon coming up in 2 weeks. So, my marathon pace will be the average per mile pace when I run the Illinois Marathon. One problem...I don't know what that pace should be! Easy enough to calculate if I knew my finish time. That's the problem. I don't know what my finish time should be, or will be, but I do have several targets.

First, basic goal, is to beat 3:30. That is my Boston qualifying time. A 3:30 finish is an 8:00 pace per mile. That seems doable (if the weather cooperates).

Second goal is to run a time that will not only qualify me for Boston, but also allow me to register for the race.  that usually means beating your qualifying time by about 1.5-2 minutes. Let's say a 3:28 finish. That's 7:56 per mile pace. Might be possible.

My ultimate goal would be a 3:25 finish. Plenty of wiggle room for Boston registration. And, it just seems like a fast time. That translates into a 7:49 pace per mile. Hmmmm...that seems fast. Maybe too fast. I can dream.

I guess my marathon pace is somewhere between 8:00 and 7:49 pace per mile. Split the difference and I get about 7:55. I suppose that's what I'll aim for and if things feel good after 20 miles, I can pick up the pace. Right, that'll happen.

Not sure if any of these marathon paces are really achievable with my current fitness level, but they sure seem feasible when I look at race prediction charts. My last race, a half marathon in October in 1:32:35, predicts a 3:15 marathon! I actually think I could run a 1:32 or faster half-marathon right now, but not a 3:15 marathon (7:26 pace). I'll be happy with anything under 3:30 (8:00 pace). It's nice to know the fancy prediction charts think I can run faster. Maybe some day. For now, my heart says to "give it a try." That's what I'll do on April 25.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

3 Weeks to the Marathon

I now have less than 3 weeks to the Illinois Marathon (April 25). I think I peaked too early. If this race was in mid-February, I would have aced it. I had a great November, December, and January. February sucked for training, but could have been a nice taper period. Alas, the Illinois Marathon is at the end of April. I feel good about my endurance and I do have basic speed. I'm worried about my stamina--can I maintain moderate speed over the full distance? Right now, I'd say not likely. But I still have 3 weeks of "training" to peak for the marathon.

My plan for the next three weeks is simple...don't screw anything up...and try for a little speed. Endurance is complete. I won't run anything longer than 10-12 miles. I'll try to incorporate marathon paced runs (7:55/mile) and marathon effort runs (75-78% HRR). I'll try to get in one or two progression runs, ending sorta tempo like, at about 7:30 pace. No short and fast intervals. No serious hills. As usual, and possibly a mistake, most of my runs will be on trails. Gently rolling grass and dirt trails. Maybe I should do more road runs in preparation for the road marathon, but I don't like roads. Last year's Illinois Marathon showed me I could do fine at the marathon with mostly trail training. Trails make you strong. They make roads seem easy and smooth. I'm counting on that on race day!

I have about 2 weeks of good training left. Then one week of really easy taper. Essentially, from now until the marathon is really a taper, but I can still do some confidence building workouts that won't drain me. It's time to heal and build. And hope for cool weather come race day. How about 45-50 degrees, overcast, and no wind?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Clinton Lake Race Report: Pacing Perfection!


This past weekend was the Clinton Lake 30-Mile Trail Run. One of my all-time favorite races...yeah, I founded the race, but it's more than that...this is a local gathering of all my ultra friends. Great volunteers and superb aid stations. It's a special race.

As noted in my last two blog posts, my goal was to utilize Clinton Lake as an extra long, but easy-paced, run in preparation for the Illinois Marathon on April 25. My predicted finish time was 7:59:59 (race cut-off was 8:00). I finished in 8:00:02. Yes, that counts as an official finish (there were still three runners after me that also counted). How many people can run 30 miles on muddy, hilly trails and predict their finish within 3 seconds? Pacing perfection!

In addition to the predcited finish time, I had several related goals:
  • Remain uninjured. Yes indeed, crushed this goal. I cruised through the race and only fell once. No injuries. Only two days later and I'm feeling good. A little tired, but OK. No nagging aches and pains. No blisters. No nothing. 
  • Enjoy the trail with friends. Done! I loved going easy and not worying about a finish time. I hung in the back of the pack, often in last place, and also lingered at the aid stations chatting with friends...and even sampling a little home-brewed beer. One surprise was the lonliness at the far back of the pack...I was often running completely alone. Eventually, on the third 10-mile loop, people started coming back to me...and the fastest racers passed me on my second loop (as they were finishing their 3rd and final loop). The fast people didn't talk.
  • Get in a long run. Accomplished!  I was afraid I might drop out after 10 or 20 miles. Nope, kept at it until the end and managed a nice 30 mile long run. I could feel those mitochondria multiplying in my muscles. I was building extra endurance with every step beyond 20 miles. Let's see if this will carry over to the marathon in 4 weeks. My heart rate averaged 120 for the whole race (that's a 50% HRR). Definitely a fat-burning extravaganza.
  • Finish in last place. Nope. But I was close! I was 88th out of 91 finishers. About 30 DNFs (a few were actually DNS). No matter how slow you run, there's almost always someone even slower. Dang. 
In addition to these stated goals, I also wanted to test out my fueling strategy--basically taking one gel every 5 miles. It worked. No stomach issues and I never had a spike or drop in energy all day. Hope it works during the marathon where I'll be running much harder and faster. I'll test out some gels on faster paced medium-long runs.

So, I completed Clinton Lake in an almost perfectly paced finish. Ultra/marathon #98 is done. Illinois Marathon will be #99. Then Howl at the Moon 8-Hour ultra in August for #100. I'm looking forward to both.