Thursday, August 30, 2012


Great run this morning: 2 miles warmup, 2 miles @ 6:45 pace, 5 miles @ 6:40 pace, 2 miles @ 6:30 pace, feeling easier and easier the whole way. On uphills I just increased my cadence and hardly felt them. It helped that it was practically ideal running weather (unlike my track intervals last Tuesday, which were done in pouring rain, with tractors reseeding the infield that kept backing up and turning in Lane 1). In early August, it felt like a good job just to finish a 14 mile run in the muggy heat, and even the concept of running a full marathon seemed like a mean-spirited joke. Now I'm back to nearly the fitness I had in April, the weather is better, and I'm starting to anticipate my long runs with some proper enthusiasm.

Days like today make me think that I really might be able to hold up to a 6:45 marathon pace (though I'm not relenting on my determination to start at a "walk", i.e. ~7:20 pace).

2hr, 45min run this Saturday. I'm thinking of driving out of my normal zone so I can see some new roads.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

pacing for baystate

Back in January of this year I ran the Derry 16 miler for the second time--a beautiful hilly winter run up in New Hampshire. And, if I don't mind saying so, I was killing it. I went through the half marathon in around 9th place, and a little under 85 minutes. And then I totally died, like someone popped open a plug and all the energy drained out of me. You would think (as I would have thought), that with under 5k to go, in a strong position in the field, I would be able to "just gut it out"--but seemingly not. After a dismal 2.9 miles of walk-jogging, I crossed the line and pretty much vowed I'd never do another marathon (strangely, even in the middle of the suck, I was thinking I'd do Derry again--but marathons seemed out of the question). 

I've replicated that sad performance in pretty much all of my other races above 1/2 marathon distance. My record has not been bad. It has been absolutely dismal. I blew up in the MV 20 miler, both my marathons, one of my two Derry 16M races (the other was merely OK), and Highland Sky (but that one gets a pass, since the point was just to finish). 

The point is that I don't seem to handle bonk well. Maybe it's physiological, maybe it's a character flaw. Earlier in my experiments with endurance racing, I was really fixated on the idea of somehow "training up" the toughness. I still want to get mentally stronger! But my thinking has changed, or at least broadened. Now I'm keen on avoiding the bonk altogether. 

Marathon pacing feels like a game of over-under to me. When you start the race, you make a bet: "I think I can run this race in 6:55 pace," say. You want to pick the fastest speed possible, without going over your fitness. If you go over, at some point in the race, the wheels are going to come off. If this happens 2 miles from the finish, maybe you limp in OK--but if it happens at mile 20--or mile 18 (see Keybank VCM)--then it's going to get ugly.

This is all just background for my thoughts about how I want to try to pace Baystate. In my first marathon (Hyannis, winter 2010), I thought I was in 7:15 fitness and went out around 7:00 min/mi. In my second marathon, I trained targeting 7:00 minute pace, and started the race at 6:45 pace (and then it got hot). You may be noticing a problem here. 

So, for marathon #3: I am training targeting 6:40 pace. This is a little fast for me for long tempos (admittedly not according to the hilariously awesome McMillan Running Calculator, which seems to be under the impression I should be able to bust out a 2:45 marathon). I expect I may struggle to finish the gold-standard 15 mile tempo at that pace, but I'm planning on being flexible--breaking it into three chunks with breathers at 7:30 pace, for instance.

And then, once I have that under my belt, I'm going to start at 7:20 pace. I'm going to slowly to drop to around 7:05 pace, and go through the half at around 7:00 pace. And then I'm going to hold that pace, and hold it. And if things go according to plan, I'm hoping to finish in that pace, with no bonk. But I won't lie--making it down to 6:40 pace for the final mile would be grand, and I'm very much hoping for it.

Because, you see, for a runner that's been doing this 17 years, I'm dumb as rocks at the start of long races. I need to tie an anchor around my waist, put my feet in concrete--anything to keep the pace reasonable. In fact, I've given up on playing the under-over game, finding the right even pace. I want to pick a pace I'm sure is too slow for me, and then ease in. I want to negative split. That's the big goal. Negative split and no bonk.