Pacing/Goal Question (Read 277 times)

Mostly harmless

    I have a question about pacing.  First a little background info on me.  I'm male, 46 (for a couple more weeks) and I have been running regularly for about four years.  I ran my first HM in May of 2010.  I have run a total of 5 HM's and two marathons. The first marathon was in March of 2012 and the second was in March of 2013.  I am about to begin training for my third marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

    For my first two races I chose a goal time and then figured out what my pace needed to be to acheive that goal.  I decided on 4:30 for the first one and finished in 4:29:52.  For the second race I wanted to go sub 4:00.  Because my training was going well I eventually decided that 3:55 was my goal time and finished 3:54:51.  My most recent race was a HM in May.  I set my goal as 1:45 and finished in 1:44:18.  In all of three of these races, I ran with a pace group.

    I'm trying to set a realistic goal for the next Marathon.  My long term goal is to BQ before I turn 50, but being entirely honest there is a small (but growing) part of me that wants to shoot for BQ (3:25) this time.  I know that it is highly unlikely for me to cut 30 minutes off of my marathon time again.  My training plan is based on Pfitz 18/55 but I will add some miles and will probably replace a lot of the speed work with MP runs because I have a history of Achilles tendonitis that tends to show up when I run fast.

    My "easy run" pace has gotten steadily faster over the last couple years.  At one point most of my easy runs were in the 10:00 area.  Currently easy pace is in the mid 8:00's.

    So going into training, how should I go about deciding on my "marathon pace"?  Should I do what I've done in the past and choose a time goal and then run my MP runs to match that?  Should I hire a coach and let him or her evaluate me and help me choose a goal this time?

    I'm sorry for such a long winded question, I just want to provide as much information as possible.  My log is open so feel free to have a look if you want.  Thanks in advance for any responses.

    "Their tears will salt the rims of my margaritas." - katarama

    Chair Warmer

      I'm certainly not an expert but I think your goal is realistic.  In the course of a year I went from a 3:55 marathon (first marathon) to a 3:28.  The 3:28 was on a very flat course so take that into consideration, but I would certainly go for it if you can put in the training miles.  My easy training pace leading up to the 3:28 was in the 8:30/mile range.  I was traveling quite a bit at this time so I did a lot of treadmill work and my training was a bit hit or miss.   I was 38 at the time.

        Marathon pace should be based on your current fitness not your goal fitness 6 months from now.  There are a couple ways you can get an approximate idea of your marathon pace.


        Race a 10K - half marathon and use a pace predictor (like mcmillan) to predict your pace.


        Judge it by effort - marathon pace should be comfortably hard, easier than half marathon pace but harder than an easy run.


        They say marathon pace ranges anywhere between 30-90 seconds under your easy run pace.  The range is so big because a lot of people run their easy runs too fast.  If you are running your easy runs slow enough, it is probably around 1 minute slower than your easy pace.  So if you are running 8:30s for easy runs, 7:30 would be your marathon pace.  This is highly dependent on you running your easy runs at a comfortably slow pace.  I occasionally run with a running group for my long runs where we average 7:30 pace but they spend 5 minutes at each water stop with about 5 of them over 20 miles.  Out of the ten people that run that 7:30 pace for their easy run, only 6 have ran faster than 7:15 pace for a marathon.  You get the point....


        My opinion based on your log is that you are running your easy runs way to fast.  Some of your easy runs are faster than your tempo runs.  First get that under control, so you can be more productive with your speed training, then worry about marathon pace.  Pick up a book on marathon training (like Pfitz) and make sure your pace zones are dialed in, not just for racing but easy and speedwork.

        L Train

          At least in the last few months, your log is confusing.  You have "easy" , "MP", and "tempo" and maybe some other stuff, but when I look at the paces, they don't seem that different.  I can see how the pace sort of drops down, but even with that it's inconsistent.  You talk about easy pace, and I do think that's an indicator of overall fitness improving.


          But if I'm you, I'm more disciplined with these runs.  Easy is easy, tempo is tempo, MP is MP.  Make the workout count a few times a week and run your other runs easy.   Easy pace finds itself.  The other paces you have to work for a bit and try to figure out.


          As for what MP should be, you're far enough away from October to let that figure itself out too.  Others may disagree, but with a 4 year history I don't think it would hurt to try to just set initial MP miles at 8:00 (3:30).  See how you respond.  See if you can recover from this pace in subsequent runs, and whether over time you can extend mileage at this pace and still recover the next day.  If so, you are on to something and you can probably drop MP down a little further as you are confident in your recovery.


          My $.02.


          mta: flatfooter types faster.


            I think if you actually run 55 miles a week all summer a 3:25 is more than realistic. The exact pace you do your MP runs at is not that important at this point, just go by effort.

            Runners run.


            Pace Prophet

              You should be basing your goals on your fitness, as flatfooter suggests; and it's way too early to think about goals for an October race. I would say that based on your recent half marathon, your current (not October) marathon time ought to be around 3:45, but because of your choose goal -> run to that pace method, I'm not convinced you're racing to your actual ability (for either the half or the full).  This is especially evident looking at your 5K, which is just a few seconds per mile faster than your half.  I think in order to improve, you're going to have to learn how to race by effort.


              Run another 5K or a 10K, and just GO FOR IT.  (Blowing up in a short distance is not as awful as a long one!)  Then use an equivalency calculator to obtain a half marathon goal, and run the half to that goal.  You might make it, you might not. Use that time to come up with a reasonable marathon goal.

              PRs: 10 1:12:59 (4/2014) 13.1 1:35:55 (10/2013) 26.2 3:23:31 (12/2013)

              bloggy stuff at http://ilanarama.dreamwidth.org

              Mostly harmless

                Thanks for the replies! You've all certainly given me a lot to think about!


                 because of your choose goal -> run to that pace method, I'm not convinced you're racing to your actual ability (for either the half or the full).


                I guess this really gets to the meat of my question because I'm not sure if I am racing to my ability either.  I like your suggestion of finding a shorter race to test myself with.  I will do that.


                  This is especially evident looking at your 5K, which is just a few seconds per mile faster than your half.


                I shouldn't have listed this as a race in my log.  The 5K is held at my workplace and I'm almost obligated to run it.  Because it was just a couple of days before my HM, I chose to run it at my goal HM pace.  I didn't want to kill my legs by going all out.

                "Their tears will salt the rims of my margaritas." - katarama


                  I am not an expert do not have enough running experience compare to you, but this is what I did. I ran my first HM earlier this year and somehow I wanted to run sub 2:00. I did not include MP run in my training. Along with other speed workouts, I included tempo run and decided pace for tempo run based on my last tempo run. My tempo runs were for 60 minutes. If I was able to run for 60 minutes at certain pace in last tempo run, I would increase the pace in next tempo run and I kept doing this until I was not able to run for the entire 60 minutes. Then I kept running at that pace till I was able to run for 60 minutes and so on. I considered the pace of my last 6.2 mile long tempo run to be the pace of my 10k and figured out the race pace based on pace calculator and felt like it was the optimal pace for me. I felt like I gave everything I had in the race.


                    I'm trying to set a realistic goal for the next Marathon.  My long term goal is to BQ before I turn 50, but being entirely honest there is a small (but growing) part of me that wants to shoot for BQ (3:25) this time.  I know that it is highly unlikely for me to cut 30 minutes off of my marathon time again.  My training plan is based on Pfitz 18/55 but I will add some miles and will probably replace a lot of the speed work with MP runs because I have a history of Achilles tendonitis that tends to show up when I run fast.


                    I like the idea of being aggressive with your time goal.  I worry about a couple things, though.  First, I have a really hard time hitting MP training in the summer.  I wouldn't want you over-exerting yourself in the heat and humidity trying to hit a pace that you already know is probably too hard.  Second, I'm not sure MCM is the course for that level of race day magic.  I haven't run it yet, (Grrr!), but there are some sections that seem pretty hard.


                    So going into training, how should I go about deciding on my "marathon pace"?  Should I do what I've done in the past and choose a time goal and then run my MP runs to match that?  Should I hire a coach and let him or her evaluate me and help me choose a goal this time?


                    I would run the first one by effort and go from there.  I really struggled to hit goal marathon pace last summer.  It was just so hot and humid that I was afraid to push myself.  (Believe it or not, I have reasons to live. Smile )

                    “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the fight in the dog. – Dwight D. Eisenhower


                    My blog is JT Running DC.  It's awesome.


                    Letting off steam

                      You're setting a marathon goal for October that is 8 seconds per mile faster than your recent half marathon pace.  From your May half as a best effort, if you had  run 55 mpw (average, not peak) for a marathon cycle ending, say, at Grandma's Marathon this morning, I'd guess a marathon time in the low to mid 3:40's.  In short, you need to be about 10 minutes faster in the half to take a shot at 3:25. That's an aggressive goal for 4 months from now.   However, as noted above, you may not have raced all out -- just to the goal pace.  That might get you several minutes faster... maybe.


                      With a Pfitz plan, some improvement will come from increased miles, some from speedwork, and maybe some from racing at your limit rather than a preset pace.

                      At this point, a 10K race with no preset goal, starting at a pace you might barely be able to sustain, would help both as a reality check and in setting training paces.  If you attempt to train based on an unrealistic marathon goal pace, you'll burn yourself out before the race and/or get injured.

                      At this stage in your running, I do think hiring a coach would be useful, to:

                      • assess present fitness,
                      • understand goals and what time frame is realistic to reach them, with a long-term outline 
                      • agree on how much time you have to dedicate to running,
                      • set up a schedule with a sensible ramp-up from present mileage, and  with appropriate paces, and
                      • adjust the plan along the way.  

                      There's little doubt that with your progress so far, you'll have a good shot at a BQ before 50.  It's a matter of how aggressive you want to be.  IMO, taking the shot this time, with training to match, carries some risk of injury and slowing the longer-term progress.



                      Mostly harmless

                        At this point, a 10K race with no preset goal, starting at a pace you might barely be able to sustain, would help both as a reality check and in setting training paces.


                        I have a week off of work coming up and will therefore have a lot of free time that week.  Do you think running a 10K time trial would be a viable substitute?

                        "Their tears will salt the rims of my margaritas." - katarama


                          I have a week off of work coming up and will therefore have a lot of free time that week.  Do you think running a 10K time trial would be a viable substitute?


                          You'll get different opinions but I say no chance. I can never come anywhere close in a solo time trial to what I can do in a race.There's no rush. Find a 8k-10k race in the next month or so.

                          Runners run.


                          Letting off steam

                            Time trials are a lot harder to hit your best possible time.  In addition to the boost that competition brings, you lack the reference point of having runners around you -- passing you if you start to slow down, or you passing them and selecting a new target to catch.


                            If a time trial is your only option, the best way would be to get a faster running friend to pace you. Agree on an aggressive target pace, and tell him/her not to let you slow down and challenge you to speed up late in the run.


                            If there's a shorter distance available, 5 mile or 5k, race that as hard as you can.  If  nothing else, the 5k PR will go down!



                            Mostly harmless

                              Thanks to all who took time to reply. I will find a local race and report back.

                              "Their tears will salt the rims of my margaritas." - katarama

                              Mostly harmless

                                I was thinking about this thread and thought I would track it down and resurrect it to report back.  At the time of the original post I was training for Marine Corps Marathon 2013.  I ended up getting injured while training for that race and ran a disappointing 3:53:18.


                                After taking some time off to recover I trained for and ran my fourth marathon last weekend.  Here is my race report from that race.  Hopefully something in there will be of use to someone.


                                Potomac River Run Marathon, 11/16/2014


                                Prior Races

                                This was my fourth marathon.  Prior results were

                                4:29:54, 3:54:51 and 3:53:18. My most recent marathon was Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in October of 2013.


                                The Race

                                The Potomac River Run Marathon is a very small race (capped at 300 runners) held twice each year. The race is held on the C&O Canal National Park towpath. The course begins and ends at the Carderock Recreation Area and consists of a 6.55 mile out and back. Those running the HM run it once, those running the full run it twice.  The trail is mostly flat and smooth except for the occasional rocky patch.  I chose this race primarily because of the location.  I run on the towpath regularly and it is without a doubt my favorite place to run.  There are two access points a short drive from my house. It’s flat, quiet and I really enjoy running under the trees and catching a glimpse of the river every now and then. Although I had never run the section of the trail where the race is, I know the trail very well.


                                Injury and The Fat

                                After a disappointing finish at MCM 2013 I learned that I had a couple of what the doctor called “stress reactions” in my left leg.  I had to take some time off to heal and wasn’t able to run regularly until the end of January.  During my layoff I thought a lot about trying to qualify for Boston eventually.  I thought for me to have a decent shot at a BQ I would need two strong training cycles and (most importantly) I needed to lose weight.  I spent the early spring easing back into running but I didn’t do anything about my weight.  I ran a HM in May weighing 187 lbs and did OK but something clicked and I decided to get serious about trimming down.  I didn’t go on a “diet” but I just stopped eating like crap and increased my running a little bit.  Over the next couple months I dropped 20 lbs.



                                I chose Pfitz 18/55 for the third time. Aside from adding some easy miles to my weekly schedule, I followed the plan pretty closely.  I also joined a local running club and started doing group runs with them.  We did long runs on Saturday morning and tempo runs on Tuesday night. The marathon training group was small and consisted mostly of newbies that were running slower than I wanted and a few faster people that I couldn’t keep up with.  There was one lady that wanted to do her long runs a little bit faster than I did so I decided to run with her.  I discovered that I was able to keep up with her just fine and we ended up running a lot together.  On one of our first runs together she told me flat out that she thought I was underperforming and I should target my fall race to try and BQ.


                                I also picked up a copy of Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry after seeing how much it helped others.  I used the evaluations in that book to identify some areas of weakness and started targeted exercises to work on those.  Between the weight loss and the exercises I had the best training cycle so far. I needed to average 7:50 to get a 3:25 marathon so I ran the MP miles that Pfitz calls for early in the training cycle at 7:35-7:45.  To my surprise, I was able to maintain that pace consistently.  That pace wasn’t easy but felt what I think of as “comfortably hard”.



                                I have a history of getting injured during marathon training but I thought I had escaped that this time around until right at the tail end of it.  On my last week before taper started, my right Achilles started giving me trouble.  I blame this injury entirely on the fact that I stopped doing the exercise routine from the book. No excuses. I was just tired of fitting it into my schedule as the weekly mileage increased. I believe 100% that if I had stuck with the routine I would not have gotten injured.  The injury wasn’t bad, but painful.  I could run without pain until I got past 12-14 miles and then it would start to ache.  It was also really painful in the morning.  I went back to doing the prolonged stretches (3 minutes on each side) and heel drops but the damage was done.  


                                Big Mak

                                A few weeks out I posted on the Facebook page for the race that I was shooting for sub 3:25 and wanted to form an informal pace group.  I didn’t get any response until about a week before the race. A lady asked me what I thought my HM time would be because her daughter was running the race. The race director wanted her to find someone to keep an eye on her because of her age.  Intrigued, I asked a few questions and learned that her daughter is 7 years old and was attempting to break the single digit age world record in the half marathon!  The record time she was trying to beat was 1:41:12 which was right around my targeted HM time.  After exchanging a few messages with her Mom I said I would be happy to run with Makenzie and her older sister (13) for the first half of my race.  Another runner (RS) commented on the thread that she was also running the full marathon with a similar goal as me so we agreed that we would try to meet up before the race.


                                Race Day

                                I didn’t sleep well for a couple of nights because of nerves but managed to get a solid 5 hours the night before the race which is pretty good for me.  The race offered two options for start time at either 8:00 or 9:00.  I opted for 9:00 but still got up around 5:00. I ate a bagel and had a cup of coffee to get things moving.  I took care of business and then took two Immodium tablets at 7:00.  This has worked great for me in the past and it worked again today with no PM attacks during the race.  I packed 6 GU Lemon/Sublime energy gels in my bag.  I planned to take one about 15 minutes before the race and consume 4 more on the course. I kept the 6th one in case I needed it. 


                                Parking at the start was very limited so the plan was for DW to drop me off at about 8:30 and if all went well she would be there with the kids to pick me up at 12:30.  I checked my bag, took a couple of short warm up runs, downed my first energy gel and headed to the start.  I met up with Mak, her sister and her Mom at the start line but couldn’t find RS.  It didn't help that I couldn't remember her bib number!

                                Timing for the race was old school with no chips.  Just a big clock running and people checking off bib numbers at the turn arounds.  When I got to the start the clock was running and read about 0:50:00. Since they offered an early start for those that wanted it, the 9:00 folks would start when the clock said exactly 1:00:00.  The race director said anyone trying to qualify for Boston or a set a world record (with a wink at Mak) should move to the front of the line so we did.  Some announcements were read, a guy played the Start Spangled Banner on the clarinet and we were off.


                                First Trip Out

                                As we started I realized that I forgot to turn on my Garmin! I can’t believe I did something that stupid.  I turned it on but it took a while to sync with the satellite.  Once I got it started I asked another runner how much time had elapsed. I was almost exactly one minute behind.  Once I got over the panic I realized that Mak and her sister were going too fast.  I caught up with them and said something but they weren’t slowing down.  I ran the first couple miles with them but I needed to slow down a little so I let them go.  They pulled ahead but eventually they slowed too and were maybe 150 yards in front of me through most of the first trip out.


                                I have read that the first few miles of a marathon should feel easy.  I was thinking about that as I was running those first few miles and it didn’t feel easy at all! I thought this meant trouble for my later miles. I also thought about something Shalane Flanagan posted to her FB page the night before “If it isn’t hard, you aren’t dreaming big enough”. Keeping that thought i mind I said screw it, if I blew up then I still had plenty of time to BQ for 2016.  I kept on my target pace but found that I was gradually catching up with Mak and her sister.  


                                Splits: 7:37, 7:40, 7:48, 7:42, 7:50, 7:47.


                                First Trip Back

                                When I got to the turn around I was suddenly right behind Mak and her sister.  Her pace had dropped quite a bit so I said “Hey Mak, it’s time to pick the pace back up just a little. Not all at once but we need to go a little bit faster”.  She said OK and we moved up a little.  Her older sister was really struggling and fell off the pace right away.  I really wanted to tell big sis that she did her job and we would guide her the rest of the way but there wasn't time. I wondered if she was upset that she wasn't able to keep up with Mak and I felt bad for her.  Having two daughters of my own I know that kind of thing can be difficult sometimes.

                                After hearing me talk, a runner right in front of us asked me if I was Scott and introduced herself as RS.  We exchanged pleasantries and then the three of us started running together.  We stayed on pace for the next couple miles but Mak was starting to have trouble.  We slowed our pace a little but she was still struggling to keep up.  RS and I encouraged her as best we could but there is only so much anyone can do for you out there.  In the end either you can do it or you can't.

                                After two miles at 7:50+ I needed to make a decision to either stay with her or head out on my own.  I felt very conflicted. On the one hand I had I had my own goal for this race that I had worked toward for the past 18 weeks and on the other hand there was this adorable 7 year old kid working her tail off to try and achieve something incredible. Fortunately, RS made the decision for me.  She told me to go ahead and she would hang back and run her in and try to catch me later.  I picked the pace back up and hoped that Mak and RS would use me as a rabbit to chase.  I turns out that is exactly what they did.  As I neared the HM finish (and turn around point for those of us running the full ) I heard Mak’s mom yelling for her.  I hit the turn around and cheered Mak on as she crossed the finish line.  I learned later that she set the world record by 12 seconds!  Huge props to RS for guiding Mak those last few miles.  I spoke with RS after the race and she told me they both sprinted a few times to reach the finish in time.  I can't imagine doing sprints in the middle of a marathon and still finishing with the time RS had.  She is a very strong runner and was just the person Mak needed to be running with on that particular day.  Some people might say that's a fortunate coincidence, others just say serendipity.

                                Splits: 7:49, 7:46, 7:51, 7:54, 7:49, 7:49, 7:46

                                Mak and RS. Mak is flying!

                                Turning off the trail to cross the finish line! 1:40:00 even and a new world record!


                                I borrowed this pic from Mamma Mak's Facebook page. Is that smile worth a million bucks or what?


                                Second Trip Out

                                I missed seeing RS and wasn't sure what happened to her. I guess we must have passed each other while I was watching Mak finish.  I thought about slowing a little to wait for her but decided to just run the second half alone unless she caught up to me.  I passed Mak's sister about a half mile back down the trail and cheered her on.  From there I just got to work and headed back down the trail. I took my third GU at mile 15 and got a nice bump from that.  I decided I would use both of my remaining gels on the way back.  Somewhere in mile 17 or 18 I started to feel confident. 

                                Splits: 7:40, 7:41, 7:43, 7:43, 7:48, 7:47


                                Second Trip Back

                                I hit the turn around and made sure my bib number was called out.  Thanked the volunteers and told myself that all I needed to do was run 7:50's all the way back and I had it in the bag.  The only real problem I had was my vision.  My eyes were filled with gunk and I was having a hard time seeing the trail so I was landing on a lot of pointy rocks that I would ordinarily adjust for.  I was also having a hard time seeing my Garmin.



                                There is a gradual climb of about 40 feet that starts at mile 25.  You pass 5 canal locks in a little less than a mile. The trail at each of the locks has a little bump and is typically somewhat eroded. The climb itself is nothing but hitting the loose gravel passing the locks is a little extra work.  I ran up that "hill" four times in training so I knew what to expect. Once you get clear of that and pass under the I-495 bridge you have one mile to go.  I was surprised to see that I still had enough energy to run the last mile hard. I passed a lot of people in this stretch, I think most of them were slower runners that started at 8:00.  There were a few that were running at about my pace that I managed to pick off in the last mile.  That felt really good.  One of them was a guy in a Superman t-shirt that I saw several times at the turn arounds during the race.  He had to be at least 6' 5" tall.  So yeah, I beat Superman.

                                Crossing the finish and staring in disbelief at the clock.


                                My Garmin only has the distance as 25.8.  Most of that is from the fact that I forgot to start my watch at the start but not all.  I suspect that running under the trees has something to do with it, but I'm not sure.


                                Splits: 7:51, 7:49, 7:50, 7:50, 7:49, 7:48, 7:28


                                I met up with RS at the finish line.  She finished in 3:24Tight lippedx.  She said she had me in sight for much of the race but couldn't quite catch up.  It was great running with both her and Big Mak and I hope to get the chance to run with them again.

                                Post Race:
                                After the race I called DW and she and the kids picked me up. We drove up to Cafe Rio where I inhaled a chicken quesadilla and some chips.

                                "Their tears will salt the rims of my margaritas." - katarama