Saturday, July 26, 2008

Figuring Out Pace

The biggest challenge for runners is pace, keeping a consistent one and finding the right one for training. Lately, I've done some wondering if my training pace is off. The problem is I'm too consistent: I've fallen into a habit of training at a pace not that different from my marathon pace. Now, I rarely run a 20-mile run at 7:00 pace. Typically, I run my long runs at 7:20. I'm wondering if that is too fast. At the suggestion of Barney, my friend who incredibly ran a 2:35 marathon, I ordered a copy of Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning. (When someone who runs that fast recommends a program, I listen.) My plan is to follow his recipe, which seems premised on the twin pillars of tempo runs and long runs. Tempo runs build a runner's lactate threshold. That helps because lactate is what makes muscles tire during races. The way it looks, I need to start doing tempo runs once or twice a week. My question, naturally, comes back to pace. How fast should a tempo run be for a runner looking to do a 2:59 marathon? I don't have the book yet, but Pfitzinger's Web site talks about 15k or 20k pace. My guess: 6:30. Ouch.

Then there's the long run. I go back and forth about how easy to run these. I try to relax throughout the run, but they typically wind up around 7:20. Reading the site, I'm doing the long runs too fast, since they should be 10-20 percent slower than marathon pace. At 10 percent, that's 7:30; 20 percent is 8:07. A prudent pace seems about 7:40-7:45. Today, I went out for my first "real" long run of training. I did 17 miles. Since my watch is in Avalon, I don't know what the pace was. I definitely did the first five miles too fast, then made sure to ease off for the last 12. Overall, the run hurt a lot, partly because I began still tired from what turned out to be a fairly hard 7 miles Friday morning. By the last couple miles, when the temperature reached the mid-80s, I officially felt like dog balls.

I turned down a shot at a number in tomorrow's New York City Half Marathon. I'm not sure why. There was just the feeling that I'm not ready to perform at that distance right now. I'd probably do it in 1:28 or 1:27. I need to get down to 1:22 or 1:23 for the half. Much work remains.

17 miles, 2:07 (guesstimate)


Laura said...

How did you get a shot at a number? Would you have had to pay the (ridiculously high) entry fee?

17 miles at that pace is great - nice work!

Brian Morrissey said...

No, the price was way too high for me. A friend of mine is injured and unable to run. I don't like running races under another person's name, but the NYRR wouldn't refund his money (or even respond to him) when he wrote to say he couldn't run the race.

Greg On the Run said...

You definitely need to start mixing it up and examining your pace. Your training pace should be determined by your latest races and not by your goal time. A good training program takes those recent race times and uses them to come up with training paces - and devises a program that will improve your speed.

At the end of the post, you mention 1/2 M race times. You felt like you could only do a 1.28 and wanted to improve to 1.22. Five minutes is a 2.7% improvement. That's huge!

Based on what you've said about your times, you might try slowing down your longest runs to 7:55 to 8:55. (Im esitmating that off of a 1.30 half-marathon time). At that pace, you're going to feel like someone has told you to walk. Go long or go fast, but don't do both - you end up in the injury zone when you do.

Do add in tempo runs - 6-8 miles, with a warm up and cool down, at marathon race pace, maybe as fast as 15K pace. When you're about 6 weeks out from the marathon, do some speedwork on the track where you do long repeats at the pace you want to sustain (6.50/mile - 1.42.5/lap). That helps to imprint nero-muscular memory in your body.

Also, on your long runs, as you get closer to your race, you can up your speed during the last 3-4 miles to race pace - you're teaching yourself to keep the pigdog at bay when you're tired.

I'm no authority - I just read a lot. Email me if you want to discuss training plans in detail.

The Laminator said...

Hey...I think our running paces are about the same. I also run about 1:27-1:28 half marys. I agree with greg's recommendations. Pacing should be based on recent race performances not on where you want to go. As such, I do tempo 7-8 miles at 6:35-6:40 pace...and long runs around 7:30-7:40 pace. Will be running san francisco marathon next weekend so we'll see how close to 3:00 i can get. Good luck in your training.

Brian Morrissey said...

That's about the same as I do. I typically do long runs around 7:20 or so. I know I could slow down 15-25 seconds per mile. I'm not ready to do long runs near 9:00. That's just too slow. I'm looking forward to seeing what tempo runs will do for me. Good luck in SF.

Greg On the Run said...

I'm running in SF on Sunday, too. I'm doing Half #1. My goal is also 3 hours - actually 2.5.

Anonymous said...

Laminator: I live in SF and can tell you the full SF course is quite challenging. Not impossible, but challenging. It is not uncommon for 3:00 guys to run 3:12/15 here. You cannot start too slow. Though the course is mostly downhill once you leave Golden Gate Park, there is a relatively annoying rise at about 21 miles on 16th Street. Be ready for it. I'm doing the second half and aiming for 1:23. Have a great race!

Greg: terrific advice, esp the speeding up to race at the end of the long runs. Have a great race in SF, too!