Less than two weeks away from the 2019 Brooklyn, I have to talk about goals. But before we go there, I want to quickly mention my workout this evening.
Over the last 8 and a half weeks, I’ve been following a 10 week training plan I’ve been following, courtesy of New York Road Runner’s “Virtual Trainer”. The basic plan is 4 workouts per week, with a “flex day” and two designated rest days. This isn’t particularly aggressive, but when you get to a certain age, conservative is the best way to avoid injuries and burn out.
So each week, I do a long run (usually at the weekend), a regular run (which is a speed you’re generally comfortable at and can sustain), an “As You Feel” run, which can be a recovery run, a regular run or even a push for a workout if you like. Finally there’s a workout, which varies between Fartleks, Intervals or a Tempo run.
Tonight I ran a “tempo” which was prescribed as a mile at a regular pace (for me about 9:20/mi) then 3 miles within 5 mins (around 8:20/mi) and then 2 miles cool down. Those middle 3 miles are supposed to be at the upper range of my Half Marathon pace (we’ll talk about that in a moment).
Well it just so happened that where I usually do my workouts, NYRR was conducting an Open Run for the evening, which was a coordinated 5k, so after running to the start I decided to join in.
As it turns out, I ran 23:12 (which would be a PR) during my 5k, which I am pretty pleased with considering I did it after a 1.5m warmup and then followed with a 1.5m run home, so basically I broke ,my 5k record within a 6 mile run.
My intention this year is to PR my Half Marathon and PR my 10K (In June at the Queens 10K which I’ll cover in another blog).
My current Half PR is 1:56:07 set in 2014, so on May 18th, I am hoping to beat that!
Over the next few days, I’ll go over some of my training in details and work through the strategy for the race and likely outcomes.
It’s the last day of March and I’m at the end of week 3 in my Half Marathon training having hit a minor milestone. I ran 80 miles this month, and would have to go back to September 2017 to find a month with higher mileage (125 miles). I’ve started Half Marathon training on two prior occasions and pretty much bailed before the end of the first week, and only half-heartedly “trained” for that race subsequently.
April is going to be closer to 100 miles, so this slow build up in 2019 will be peaking next month… that starts with tomorrow!
On Nov 12th, Camille Herron broke the world record for a 100m ultra marathon, in a staggering time of 12:42:41. I’ll save you working it out, but her average pace was 7:38/mile which she maintained pretty much throughout. Even during the last 10 miles of the 100, she was averaging 7:40/mile, which is faster than I’ve ever run a 10k.
OK, comparing yourself to an elite athlete is always going to be futile, but the sheer difference is staggering, and seems even more staggering when the distances are longer. The 5k world record (for men) is 12:35 (or 4:04/mile) and yet the world record marathon time for men is 2:02:57 (or 4:42/mile). Bear in mind, a marathon is over 42 kilometers, so more than 8x further than a 5k, and yet the pace is a mere 38 seconds slower and faster than most people can run.
There are a few people in my running club that regularly run between 16 and 18 mins 5k’s, which is in the 5 mins/mile range, and I don’t think I’m ever going to get there. Even a sub-20 mins 5k, which is around 6:27/mile is probably beyond me at this stage in my life, especially given my tight hamstrings, scoliosis and that I’m 45 and have really only been running a few years. But a 7min/mile pace isn’t out of the question, and neither is a 7:xxmin/mile at longer distances. That gives me some targets for 2018. But I need to be realistic…
In 2017, I’ve only run one race in the eights, which was the 3.5 mile Chase Corporate Challenge, and even that was a modest 8:41/mile pace. In 2014, I ran 6 races in the eights: a 10k (8:55), a 4-mile (8:36) a 3.5 and 5m (both 8:14), a 10 mile (8:31) and a half marathon (8:52). Throughout 2017, most of my training runs have been in the 9 – 10 mins/mile range, and admittedly this was mostly training for my marathon, but it’s significantly slower than the pace of my training runs in 2014.
This last weekend, on the back of my base marathon training-gained fitness, I pushed to run a sub 9mins/mile training run over 10 miles. 3 laps of Prospect Park (including a nice hill) in a not too shabby 1:27:56 (or 8:47/mile) – easily my fastest 10 miles for years. In the same week, I did 5.22 miles in 42:20 (or 8:07/mile), which included 2 miles under 7:30/mile. What I’d really like to do is maintain this level for a while and push my race times for my mid-long distances from the 9’s to the 8’s, and the shorter distances (5k and 4m) into the 7’s.
I’ve run three 5k’s before under 8 mins/mile (all equate to being under 24 mins). 23:59, 23:36 and 23:19 (my PR) which equate to 7:44, 7:37 and 7:31 paces. If I can run 5 miles, with the last two miles under 7:30/mile, I think I can run under 7:30 per mile for 5k. I might even be able to run 7:30 per mile for 4 miles, and in 2 weeks I get to test that out during a 4m race in Prospect Park (The Jingle Bell Jog). I am not sure if one should push for a PR in a race called the Jingle Bell Jog, but I’m just in that kind of mood. My 4m PR is currently 32:19, or 8:06/mile.
In the meantime, tomorrow I am running the Fred Lebow Cross County Championships, which includes two climbs (one of 120 feet and the other of 150 feet). My best time for this race is a model 27:23 – so that’s the time to beat!
Ahh, the post-marathon blues. There’s only one way to shake them off, and that’s to go for a run. Which I did.
If you’re not familiar with it, Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park, only smaller and has fewer tourists. The road loop is popular with runners and cyclist alike, and is exactly 3.33 miles long, making 3 laps 10 miles. Today was intended to be a relaxing ‘as you feel’ recovery run after last week’s heroics in the NYC Marathon, but I also had half a mind to run this at a slightly faster pace than I’ve been running this distance during my training. Also in the last few weeks of my marathon training, I started to focus a lot more on cadence, which is something I am ashamed to say I’ve somewhat neglected over the last few years.
There is a lot of debate around cadence, however ideally it’s supposed to be 180 steps per minute, or about 3 steps per second, or faster. That should apply whether you’re strictly a casual runner, a club runner or you’re an elite. Speed is determined by a combination of stride length, or stride rate (cadence), so increasing one or the other (or both) obviously increases speed.
Many of my training runs have an average cadence in the high 150’s or into the 160’s. I am very rarely getting into the 170’s, but I have noticed that when I am feeling good and have faster runs, it’s my cadence that is higher. Let’s take a look at my 10 mile run today Vs my 10 miles run in September (which was actually a race!) in regards to cadence.
My stride here looks pretty consistent, and averages 170 spm. You can see the poor miles I had (7, 8 and 9) and frankly the paces were all over the place. An 8:30 followed by a 9:30 and then a 10 and 11:34. This is my normal ‘mono’ stride approach to running, if you ignore the fact I ran a poor race!
So here there is less consistency but a higher average. The consistency is really down to when I am focusing on my faster stride rate, and then I slow down when I lose a bit of concentration (or tire slightly at the end). Prospect Park is also hilly which impacts your cadence slightly, with downhills inviting longer strides as you recover a little cardio and uphills inviting shorter quicker strides. My pace though is far more consistent with only a 10 second variance after miles 1 and 2 (on a hilly course) and then a nice negative split at the end. Even if I do say so myself.
I am going to be focusing a lot more on cadence in the next few months and running up to my NYCHalf in March where I’m hoping to not only PR but get closer to that magic 180spm!
It has been 6 days since I completed the NYC Marathon and set my new marathon PR of 4:25:07 (still unofficial but I’ll be within seconds of that time). My goal this year was always to beat my 2014 time (4:33:33) and although I did it, I am somewhat surprised at the way in which it happened. For much of 2017, the signs have not been good. In most of my races, and in all of my training, I was slower in 2017 than in 2014 although I ran more miles and more consistently in 2017 (912 miles up to Marathon day compared to 848 miles, and additionally in 2017 I only had 2 weeks with zero mileage, compared to 4 weeks in 2014). It seems it’s true what they say, miles count.
So while 2014 was my first full year of running seriously and I was highly motivated to get into shape after years never really having a fitness regime, 2017 was a year I thought I could build on that base fitness.
So let’s take a quick look at my 2014 preparation and performance Vs 2017. First off, the races.
So what’s going on here? In 2014, my long races were consistently in the 9:10 – 9:20min/mile range, which is pretty consistent, all the way to the Bronx 10m. That was one of my best races in 2014 (and perhaps of all time) with a pretty cool 8:31mins/mile pace over 10 miles (my current PR). The Staten Island Half 2 weeks later was another PR at 8:52min/mile. In 2017, I haven’t run any races over 10m at faster than 9:38/mile and although I slowly increased my pace, it didn’t come close to even my 1st race of 2014.
The 18m tune up is really what I thought would be the major predictor of my marathon form. 31 minutes (1:40/mile) separated my 2014 form from 2017 which is huge. There is no doubt that 2017 me could not possibly keep up with 2014 me in any of those races.
So what happened in the marathon? Well truth be told, I ran a pretty poor marathon in 2014, considering my condition – looking back now and seeing I only consumed 2 gels and missed breakfast, it’s amazing that I finished at all.
If there’s one chart that tells the story of my two races, it’s the one below.
This chart shows my cumulative average pace per mile, so is effectively a smoothed out line of my pace from start to finish, where the last mile is my average pace for the whole race (not the actual pace of my last mile).
Miles 1 – 5 show a similar trend. Mile 1 is just getting started, some selfies, some crowding and an uphill start – it’s supposed to be slow. Mile 6 both times was when I took a pit stop (my bladder was consistent, even if my pace wasn’t) hence the sudden brake on my pace, but from then onwards it’s two very different stories.
In 2014, from mile 7 – 10, I am maintaining a 9:30 pace pretty evenly. From mile 10, I start to slow down for the rest of the race. That’s a 16 mile decline in pace which gets more and more dramatic. Remember this is a smoothed out chart and each mile the impact of the decrease is less and less (because you’re averaging it out against the whole distance) and yet that line gets steeper and steeper as I slow more and more dramatically. To give you an indication, my pace at mile 10 was 9:34 (close to the 9:31 average at that time) whereas my pace at mile 20 was 10:57, a full minute slower than my average at that time.
In 2017, there’s a completely different story. From mile 6 all the way to mile 21, I am slowly getting faster, and more remarkably from mile 7 to 21, there is only an 8 seconds per mile difference in average pace. To contrast with 2014, mile 10 was a 9:51 pace (17 seconds slower than in 2014) and mile 20 was 10:03 pace, or 55 seconds faster than 2014.
I read somewhere once that for every 10 seconds you try and ‘bank’ in the 1st half of a marathon, you will loose 30 seconds in the second half. What that really means is going out faster than you’re able to maintain in the 1st 13 miles will cost you 3x more than you’ll gain. With my slow and steady pace this time around, I did not start to slow significantly until mile 23, and by that point with only 5k to go, you can dig in really deep and finish it off. In 2014, I was feeling the same way by mile 15 with still 11 miles to go. That can crush anyone.
I knew from the start that to get my PR, I had to beat 10:26 per mile, and keeping my pace as close to 10:00/mile would certainly do that. I didn’t know if this was something I could maintain over 26.2 miles for certain, especially given my 18m tune up was actually slower than this, but two significant things changed since then.
The first was that my NYRR Virtual Running Coach scorned my after my 20 mile long run, because I reported how much water and gel I consumed, which was far too little. Despite access to the right information, it never dawned on me that given my age, weight and gender, I really needed to be consuming gels every 3 – 4 miles, not every 6 – 7 miles which I had been doing. Changing that strategy in my last few long runs took out almost all of the fatigue I was feeling in the last few miles.
The second was the temperature. In was 55 degrees on race day (most of my long run training days had been in the 70’s or 80’s) and there was misty rain as well, which kept me cool. Had it been in the 40’s, I could have been faster still, but it’s been such a warm autumn in New York that it could have easily been in the 70’s.
I am honestly not sure if I will run another NYC marathon, or another marathon at all. You sacrifice a lot, you can’t really train for other types of races at the same time, and almost everything defers to it for 4 months of the year. Having said all that, it’s an amazing feeling and something I am still buzzing about six days later. Tomorrow I am having a recovery run with my running club, and will have just a slightly lighter spring in my step than if I’d missed this PR. This really has made my 2017!
It’s certainly true that it takes longer to recover lost fitness than it does to lose it in the first place. However don’t ever let that put you off getting back into the swing of things if you’ve let your fitness regime slide and are worried about how long it will take you to recover most of it back. Let’s take a look at two 8-mile runs I did; one on Nov 6th (the day of the NYC Marathon) and one today a mere three weeks later.
The TLDR; version of this is that on Nov 6th, I ran 8 miles @10:04 min/mile for a total time of 1:20:37. On Nov 27th I ran exactly the same course in 1:16:23 @9:32 min/mile, which is just shy of my regular long run speed. The temperature was more or less the same (46 degrees today and 52 on Nov 6th) so that wasn’t really a factor. What was a factor was the average weekly mileage for the 4 weeks prior to the run. My average before today was 28.8, whereas my average prior to Nov 6th was 13.7, so less than half.
So here’s a breakdown mile by mile. After starting at more or less the same pace, 3 weeks ago I had to back off that pace quickly and never recovered. Today although I slowed slightly to a steady pace, I was able to maintain it for most of the run.
Another thing I looked at was my heart rate. Today there was a glitch because my watch was loose for the first few mins so it looks like a spike, but even accounting for that my average HR was lower today, despite a faster run, than 3 weeks ago.
OK, so this is hardly scientific, and it was only a training run based on how I felt like running. But the stats, and how I felt while running tell the same story, which is after three weeks of gradually increasing mileage after a few months of barely keeping up, seems to have made a big difference.
Nest week I have a 4m race, the final one of the year and my marathon qualifier. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s quicker than the 4m race I ran last week.