Monday, October 29, 2012

Am I training too fast, or is my goal pace too slow?

Countdown: 138 days to race day.
Today's run: 6 miles, average 8:25 pace, along Seattle waterfront and Myrtle Edward Park.

Setting a marathon goal pace is a tricky affair. Realism and aspiration/wishful thinking all play vital roles.

Previous marathon result is an important starting point. Mine was 3:57:17, in my first and only marathon, for which I trained just barely over 14 weeks.

Current fitness and recent race results also matter. For that, I can point to a result from the Lake Union 10K in August 2012 of 45:11.

For a while now, the time of 3:35:00 for the next LA Marathon has been my goal. I came up with this by looking at the various pace calculators and equivalent race times. The goal: to get as close to 3:25:00 as I reasonably can, so in the next 1-2 years I can shoot for that <3:25:00 time at a flat, fast race (which LA Marathon, as much as I love the course, is not) like Chicago Marathon. If so, I can qualify for the Boston Marathon as a 45-year-old in 2015.

I also have other reasons to believe that the 8:12/mile pace is reasonable as long as I work on the endurance part so I can run that and last the entire marathon: I have had long runs of 13, 15 miles recently where I averaged 8:00/mile, without running flat out.

The puzzling aspect of it: when I use 8:12 as my target pace, and plan the speed runs, tempo runs, long runs according to the plans by the Hansons, Pete Pfitzinger, etc. all those runs seem rather easy. The tempo runs as prescribed in the Hansons plan are actually marathon pace runs, and I have to constantly and actively restrain myself from running faster and faster.

If I just let myself go, I probably end up running the long runs at a pace slightly faster than relaxed and easy: @8:00, 7:50....

Using a heart monitor, I find myself running the 8:12 marathon pace miles at an easy 73% of my HR max. And that was today, after having run 6-6-6-12 miles in the four days before today.

The common advice for someone in my situation is to just take it easy, stick with the goal, since if I was initially satisfied with the goal, why change it now? The danger of running too fast during training, and wasting one's best effort in the weeks leading up to the race and having less than a full tank, is a common warning from the marathon training experts. However, what IF the goal pace was indeed too slow, because I goofed up in picking that pace? Would I be leaving too much in the tank at the end of the race?

One of the advantages of being a late comer to running, as in only starting @11 months ago: even at the age of 42, I am probably still improving, not because I am that gifted, but because I am still a relative rookie. Or maybe I am just inexperienced enough to allow the wishful thinking to creep my goal time downward. Maybe once the weeks and the miles start to pile on in the next 4-6 weeks my optimism will just trickle away....

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