Today’s workout was a mid-week 6-miler to be run at/near race pace for this weekend’s 3M Half Marathon. Now, normally I would have taken this week easy with a race looming on Sunday. Had this been a marathon weekend we would actually be in the final week of a 2-3 week taper. I will be writing about the strategy of “tapering” prior to the Boston Marathon in April.
This week is a bit different however as we are not trying to “peak” for this weekend’s 3M Half-Marathon – we are really using this race as a “training run” to ascertain as best we can what pace we should begin training for to complete the Boston Marathon and Pittsburgh Marathon within 13 days this spring as we Run for Dom. Normally I would be able to rely on my previous spring marathon, my last 5K and my training log to develop a sound pace strategy for Boston.
However, having had shin splint issues this December, taking a full three-weeks off of running recently and reducing the number of my weekly training runs from 5 days per week to 4 we are flying a bit blind here in trying to find the right pace for Boston. There are a lot of “pace predictors” that will extrapolate a time that you post at a shorter distance to predict what your marathon potential is. For example they state that if you take your time from a 10K (6.2 mile) run and multiply it by 4.7. This will estimate your potential marathon time. For example a 40 minute 10K performance would lead to a 3:08 marathon, while a 50 minute 10K would predict a 3:55 marathon.
Keep in mind that these tools are predicting a “potential” marathon time – meaning they are estimating your potential based on your aerobic level – without considering your endurance level. Unless you are an experienced marathoner with adequate endurance training, you will find it difficult to run a marathon at your “potential” this is due to the specific physical and mental endurance requirements that are unique to covering 26.2 miles.
I believe that you can however use these forecast tools to arrive at your pace if you try to minimize as many variables as possible. Step one for me is to use a longer run as the basis for your “formula”. What I mean by that is I believe a half-marathon or 13 mile training run will be a much better predictor of your marathon potential than a 5K or 3-mile training run. I also believe that using a run that is within a few months of race day run under similar conditions will also prove to be a much more accurate predictor.
For example – a 13 mile training run 3 months before race day run in 45 degree temperatures on a hilly course will be a better predictor for a spring marathon in the Northeast on hilly terrain than a 13 mile run 8 months before race day at 65 degrees over a flat course.
McMillian Running has what I would consider to be an excellent predictor that takes into account the length of your workout, your age, gender and how many miles you typically run per week:
The tool will even provide you with pace recommendations for your endurance workouts, tempo runs and speed workouts. Keep in mind however – these are simply recommendations – only you can determine the right pace for you – tools are simply helpful predictors as there is no magic formula.
So a valid question at this point would be – why can’t I just wait until closer to race day and determine my pace based on how I’m feeling that morning. Well, I do think there are race day “variables” that need to be considered such as whether or not you are under the weather, nursing a minor injury or the temperature.
However, I like to know my target race pace 90 days prior to an event. Now last year this pressure was removed from me as the Boston Athletic Association was kind enough to set my race goal at 3:20:59 for the Pittsburgh Marathon or a 7:37/mile pace to make my qualifying time. But even in that case I still looked at the splits from my training logs and made sure I arrived at my “potential pace” that I felt I was capable of accomplishing and I “practiced” running that pace during my shorter “pace” workouts.
That is why I feel it is critical to arrive at your target pace a full three months prior to race day. You need time to “practice” running that pace over and over again so that your body can more or less feel what it is like to run that pace – virtually without thinking about it. For me last year I knew that 7:30/mile was my target for Boston. I was capable of the pace and it would allow some “wiggle room” to have a few things go wrong at Pittsburgh and still make my Boston time.
I trained myself to know what a “7:30” felt like – so that when your body starts to betray you a bit you don’t have to fixate on your GPS and chart quarter mile to quarter mile how fast you are going, how fast you need to be going, are you losing time, gaining time etc. This is all just added pressure and mental gymnastics to perform when you should be focusing on positive imagery, encouragement coming at you from the spectators on the course, your next water break and simple things such as “running tall” or “lifting your knees”. The last thing you want to be doing is to find yourself dividing 73:27 into 9 miles and determining if you are on pace or not …. Mathematics should be the last thing on your mind at that point.
During training I like to run a mile without looking at my GPS and then waiting for the “beep” to let me know I have completed a lap (on my Garmin a lap is a mile). I will then predict how fast I ran the last mile before I look at my watch. “I bet that last mile was a 7:35” – when I have my pace just right I am usually within just a handful of seconds away from exactly right. There are times in fact when I have predicted several miles in a row within: 05 +/- without looking at my watch. That is when I know I am dialed in to my pace and can duplicate it under most race-day circumstances.
A great tool that you can also implement to help guide you on race day is a pace wristband. There is an example at: http://www.clifbar.com/play/pace_band/
where you enter your target race pace and it will break each mile into even intervals. You can cut and laminate this band to wear on race day so that at a quick glance you can reference where you “should” be at that point on the course. This comes in handy on race courses where there is a total time elapsed at each mile marker. Although that time will not be synching perfectly with your own race time based on how long it took you to start the starting line – again it serves as a great guide.
So race pace for Boston will become much clearer based on our results this weekend at the 3M half-marathon. Check back after the race for pictures and a race report! Today – 6-miles at 43:34 (7:17 pace), be well everyone!