Friday, August 15, 2008

Marathon Pace Miles

Yesterday's workout was 3 MP pace miles as part of a six-miler. In the coming weeks, my Thursday MP workouts will get longer and longer as the number of MP miles increases. But, with a tough race planned for Saturday, this week had to be relatively short. My target pace was 7:55. I ran 7:54, 7:54, and 7:46. I wish I could say that I ran consistently, but I just couldn't seem to lock into a steady pace. Sometimes, I was running 7:15 pace and other times, 8:20 or so. It averaged out to the right pace, but it wasn't the way I wanted to run it.

By the middle of October, I hope to be doing these runs at 7:45 pace and really be consistent.

Many years ago, when I was younger and skinnier and faster, I took my first serious attempt at a sub-3 marathon. In the marathon itself, I faded late to a 3:02:xx, but a key training run for me was a 30K race in Clarksburg, CA. That race was part of our local USATF Grand Prix series, and I raced for a club based in Silicon Valley. Clarksburg is a fairly flat race, yet it can be deceivingly tough. It's held in CA's Central Valley, south of Sacramento, and the course is very exposed to sun and wind.

Many people use it as part of their training for the California International Marathon (CIM), held in December each year. Many members of our running club have found over the years that whatever pace you can average at Clarksburg is about what you can expect at CIM.

So, a friend of mine and I decided to run together and try to run 6:52 miles, the pace needed for a 3-hour marathon. This was well before Garmin Forerunners, so all we had were our Timex Ironman watches and mile markers along the course. Within 2 miles, Jim and I got into a good rhythm. We were with another member of our running club, and we started ticking off 6:48 miles. Not 6:49s. Not 6:47s. We did four consecutive 6:48s. After the fourth time I hit my split button and said "6:48" to Jim, our friend Don called us "a couple of robots" and he took off ahead of us.

Our miles did start to drift a bit, but we stayed very close to our target pace for the entire run. We even caught and passed Don in the last 10K.

That kind of consistency is what it takes to run a strong marathon. That kind of consistency is something I need to find in the next couple months.

Tomorrow is the 100 on 100 relay here in Vermont. I'm scheduled to run the 6th leg for our team. My first leg is by far the toughest - 5.8 miles with a very long climb followed by one brief descent and then another long climb. The second leg is a flat and fast 5.3 miler that goes through Pittsfield, the home of a handful of ultras and snowshoe races. My third leg is mostly flat and fast, although there is an ascent into the parking area of Okemo ski resort at the end. My last leg will definitely be run in the dark.

Last year, I ran leg 5, which is considered the second toughest of the 6 legs. This year, I've got a much easier assignment. We kept our strongest runner (a 2:46 marathoner who won the race I ran last Thursday) on the second leg, and then shuffled everyone else to a new leg this year. Due to a last-minute health issue with our team captain, we had to change one member of the team. We'll really miss having Jeff there, but everyone is glad that his health scare was less serious than it could have been.

1 comment:

Speed Racer said...

Pacing is something that consistently baffles me. How did you run such a consistent ("robotic") race? How did you train to run so consistently? How did you know you were on pace between the mile markers? How? How? How?!

I have a Forerunner and it doesn't help me at all. I try to run a pace, and if I look down and see that I'm under, I slow down WAY too much. If I'm over, I start sprinting until I can't breathe and I feel like I'm going to soil myself. The only time I can ever run consistently is if I don't look at the watch. Then I run 9:13 pace each and every time. Whether it feels fast or slow, I run 9:13's. Always 9:13's.

Any suggestions? Clearly you know more about such things than I do. I am ready to learn, master!