Obligatory pre-race navel gazing…

OK, it’s two days to marathon day so it’s that inevitable time to come up with a race plan!

I’ve had input from a few running friends who all rejected my original plan of, “go hard until I blow up and see how far I managed to get.” I have absolutely no idea how to go about this despite some excellent advice from folks who know much better than I do what works when you’re actually concerned about finishing time for a marathon. And despite the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing or what I’m talking about, I shall do so ad nauseum for the next 2000 words.


The Wife and I are running a marathon on Sunday. I want to run it in less that 4 hours which is probably a bit of a stretch.


This will be my fourth stand-alone marathon. I didn’t run one last year as I got a wee bit burned out after Ironman and couldn’t face starting up again immediately after it for marathon training. Previous years were always one fall marathon using a Hal Higdon intermediate training plan (except the first one, that was his beginner plan). This year, I’m still a little burned out on triathlon and have gone back to running as my primary outlet for masochism training.


For the race itself:

Time goal: break 4 hours. My best marathon was Frankfurt 2012 with a time of 4:02:30, so only 2 minutes and 31 seconds faster, that seems doable, that’s only 5.8 seconds faster per mile, or going from an average pace of 9:14 per mile to an average pace of 9:08. That doesn’t sound too much faster, does it? OK, it does, sort of.

Secondary goal: play around a bit (within reason) with pacing so that I know what I am capable of later in the race. I have 2 ideas for things that might be interesting: The first is to go out at something just about a 9:00 minute pace and see just how long I can hold it into the race. The second is to go out around 9:15 to 9:20 until the last 10k and see if I might actually have a finishing pace in me. Both strategies are somewhat fraught with danger.

Tertiary goal: Be hurting at the end, but not too much. I want to finish feeling like I gave it everything I could, but still be able to finish hard.

Sooper Sekrit Goal: Yeah, there’s a reason this is the secret goal…

Goal for the year, or a (somewhat) timely reference to a BQ:

Which was timely when I started this post two and a half weeks ago…Congrats to all of the Boston Marathon finishers, especially all my friends who were running and also to winners Meb Keflezighi and Rita Jeptoo! I want to be there with you all sometime soon! Ok so this race in May of 2014 would be an eligible qualifier for Boston 2015, the problem being that I’ll still only be 44 then and would need a qualifying time of 3:45 which, given that the 8:35 pace I’d need to work that miracle is only five seconds per mile faster than my best ½ marathon, seems unrealistic. So the “real” BQ race for me this year is Frankfurt in the fall, which would be a qualifier for Boston 2016 when I would need only a 3:55 to qualify. So this one really is an experimental race.

The many excuses reasons why this is not an A race:

1. My not entirely well-thought out training plan this year really didn’t include any speedwork other than a few tempo runs and fast-finish long runs. And by tempo runs, I mean that I sort of approached marathon pace most of the time, but only exceeded it for probably 5 miles total this year until last weekend’s test 10 k . I’ve been fooling around with Maffetone training (all of January and February and the start of March) until I couldn’t take it anymore and threw my heart rate strap away in despair. Not only was I not getting any faster at all at my “one-size-fits-all-Maffetone” rate, but the chest strap very much triggers my claustrophobia. Which previous coaches have dismissed as me just whining and complaining. It’s their prerogative; and my prerogative to fire them as coaches for not taking their athletes concerns seriously. Anyway, I ditched the HRM, waited very impatiently for my pre-ordered MIO Link (which I love very much, by the way) which didn’t arrive until mid-April. At which point, I discovered, much to my joy that my pace at “Maffetone rate” had improved considerably – to something under a 10 minute mile. This possibly had to do with the fact that I was no longer panicking about being able to breath while wearing it.

2. Hello iron deficient anemia, my old friend. Blood tests from March and April show that it’s low again, lower than it should be, lower than the minimum recommended, but not so catastrophically low that the doctor immediately hooks me up to an IV like last time. We’re going with the iron supplements and wait and see this go around, but it will still probably have some effect on marathon training.

3. Aikido. Best not to ask why I’m still participating in “Ukemi Happy Hour* this week when I should be resting my legs. Cross training? Idiocy? Stubbornness? Ask me again on Sunday night.

*Ukemi Happy Hour is this sped up, going in forwards, backwards, and sideways directions and multiplied by about 200.


So that’s it, I’m going to run this race. I’ll have the GPS watch and HRM on, but I’ll be going by feel and since a strategy is legitimate if there’s a link attached, here you go. (That’s a Runner’s World advice column describing how to run races by feel and why it’s better than obsessively worrying about what the GPS watch says.

More stats for those not completely bored already:

Miles this year to date: 626

Monthly Breakdown:

January 115 miles; average pace 10:43; average HR 143

February 129 miles; average pace 10:36; average HR 146

March 170 miles; average pace 10:25; average HR 149 (for the first week only includes 1 tempo run)

April 185 miles; average pace 10:12; average HR 142 (for the last 2.5 weeks only, MIO Link)

May so far 26.5; average pace 10:14; average HR 136

 More Heart Rate Data:

Resting heart rate this spring: 46 beats per minute. Resting heart rate while I was training for Ironman was 50. So my engine is in better shape despite the borderline anemia? One hopes. Max heart rate still unknown but definitely higher than the 176 or so predicted by the typical formulas for that mythical average female. Probably closer to 190 as I easily get it to 180 on a tempo-effort hill workout. Its max in 2012 (last time I used the HRM) was 197 on a set of hill sprints (but that was near the beginning and is probably an errant reading, I can’t tell), so there’s that input as well. If anyone has a favorite method to find max HR, let me know what it is, otherwise I’ll probably go with the run hill intervals until I puke method, which I am really not looking forward to.

Tempo run/race simulation on 4/25/2014 mini race report

One of my online racing friends wanted to help me predict what my pace ought to be for this one and without any good HR data to go on and without knowing my max HR (which I will try to figure out sometime in the early part of this summer, I swear) and without race data from this year (my one half marathon got cancelled due to being the morning after the Wife’s birthday party), it was not a particularly simple or well-informed task. She asked if I could run a race simulation and so of course I did and then forgot to communicate any of the information to her or anyone else for weeks. So the weekend before last, I ran a 10k “race”. About halfway through it, I managed to attract (actually catch up to on a small hill) some strange guy on a bike who was trying to chat me up while I was running hard at 10k pace. I tried to pretend that it was like I was winning my imaginary race with myself and he was the first place pace bike. But then he kept talking. Seriously, who does that? Also, he couldn’t pass me because I was running faster than he could bike, so there’s that. He spent an awful lot of time explaining why he had to take it easy and how he was injured, etc. etc. Still, trying to simultaneously run 8 minute miles while being somewhat polite and still implying a brush-off to someone that clueless was a challenge. Also, in a foreign language, yay.

 “Race” stats:

Overall: 10 km; 52:28 (that’s 1:21 slower than my 10k PR in an actual race); average HR 167; average pace 8:27 (about 5 seconds/mile faster than half marathon race pace)

First 5 km: 26:58; average HR 162; average pace 8:41. That’s about 10 seconds per mile slower than my half marathon race pace and has a lot to do with a very slow start. Apparently, even with a warm-up it’s hard for me to turn on the gas in a race simulation that doesn’t have a bunch of other people goading me into running too fast at the start.

Second 5 km: 25:30; average HR 172; average pace 8:12 (This is only very slightly off my 10k PR pace and I ran the last km at 5 km pace. Possibly something to do with trying to outrun the annoyingly chatty bike escort?)

Overall: it felt like a solid effort, but not a puking hard effort (Is it disturbing that I rate my race effort in how close I am to vomiting? I actually got an award in High School for puking after races. Something to be proud of? I don’t know. My coach called it the “She gave it her all and lost it award.” My high school track team was weird. Also, in case you think I was actually fast at any point in my life – I was the slowest person on the team and they let me stay only because I ran the stuff no one else wanted to and picked up points for second or third and that would help the team in the long run.)

Final thoughts:

I really want to BQ in October, for which I need to shave 7 minutes off my current marathon PR. I plan to keep my mileage on the higher side this summer/fall, spend some time with hills and intervals and not worry about all the triathlons that I might be missing. I’m also consistently running with a heart rate monitor for the first time ever and will have it on for Sunday’s race. Hopefully, the data-gathering aspects of my effort will be worth it, regardless of my actual finishing time. Expect even more navel gazing on Monday when I write up what I did, how I felt, and my pace and heart-rate stats in excruciating detail.

Final final thoughts:

Five years ago when I started training for my first marathon, I never thought I’d even be a person who could even dream about a BQ. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to run faster than 10 minute miles at any distance. I’ve gone from that to here, so maybe there is still hope for me and Boston. Also, apologies for the very frank discussions of how fast I am and what my heart rate is at these paces. I know half of you are laughing inside at my pitifully slow efforts and the other half probably think I’m bragging. I assure you, neither of them is true, I’m just trying to figure out my body and see what I’m capable of and just how far I can go past what I thought I could do.

Wife Update:

Yay! She’s running it with me! Our very lovely orthopedist sacrificed a few goats, burned some incense, and with the ceremonial laying on of kinesio tape and a two week rest along with some very high tech shoe inserts, she’s good to go. You can look her up as “Wolfgang” (that’s who’s number she got hold of in the exchange – this marathon has a very active number swapping forum as its registration closes ridiculously early (like in early March for a mid-May race) and no one expects that. And yes, all the ankle problems basically came from me making her run too much this spring. So, instead she’s going to do a half iron distance triathlon at the end of the summer so she doesn’t have to run so much for the rest of the summer.

 Obligatory cat picture:

Why yes, this is my couch.

Even Devil Kitty fell asleep while trying to read this one…





2 thoughts on “Obligatory pre-race navel gazing…

  1. Pingback: Gutenberg Mainz Marathon Race Report | lonwheels

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