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Marathon pace teams (Read 947 times)

    What are your thoughts on running a marathon with a pace team? I'm planning to do the Detroit marathon on 10/29 and my goal is to run under 3:36 to qualify for Boston. My projected marathon finish time based on 5K and half-marathon times is around 3:20-3:25. I'm wondering if I should sign up with the 3:35 team so that I'll be less likely to bonk. Or should I go with the 3:30 team so I'll have some cushion in case the pacer is a bit slow. Any thoughts/opinions on strategy or pace teams in general?
      Take this with a grain of salt - since it's c-teamer giving an a-teamer advice - but if I were you, I'd go with the 3:35 pacer. Do you really care if your time is 3:25 or 3:35 - as long as you hit that 3:36 and BQ? I'd worry that if you push it and go with the 3:25 pacers, you risk going out faster than you should, bonking hard, and missing the BQ time altogether, when you might have done it easilty with the 3:35 pacers. My own (slower!) bad experience: At the CMM last year, I was determined to finally break 4:00. Even with a shoddy training schedule and horrible tapering and a crappy diet in the last week, I should have come close. I'd run 4:20 4 months before with basically zero training (longest run was one 13-miler). So I lined up with the 4:00 pacers and literally obsessed about them all race. I decided to (very, very stupidly) actually push ahead of them, give myself a little cushion, right? Sure enough, my half marathon time was well under 2:00, and at that point the 4:00 pace group was out of sight behind me - probably a half mile back. At mile 15, I just about died. In the heat and humidity, all the worrying about the pace group made me too fast in the first half. So I was already in death march mode when the 4:00 pacers paced me ... then 4:15 ... then 4:30 ... I ran (um, more like walked) the second half in three frickin' hours. 1st half pace: 8:58. Second half pace: almost 13:00 minutes! And although I'd like to blame some bad diet choices and the crappy taper, I'm pretty convinced that if I'd gone with the 4:15 pacers I'd have ended up with a PR instead of a personal worst by half an hour. My 2 cents. Bottom line: if the BQ is all you really care about, I wouldn't take that risk of bonking. Whichever you go with, it should be educational. Let us know what happens! And good luck! (Hey, does the Detroit Marathon still start or finish in Windsor?)
      E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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      Mile Collector


      Abs of Flabs

        Running in a pace team is a crab shoot. You're better off pacing yourself. When you run in a pace team, you're relying on another person's experience to achieve your goal, which adds another unknown to the equation. There is no guarantee that this person will do a better job at pacing than you. Since you're trying to qualify, you really should reduce or even eliminate all the elements that can go wrong during the race. I ran in a 3:40 pace group several years ago. The leader ran the first 20 or so miles at an 8 minute pace. Needless to say, everyone in the group flamed out. I was the last one to drop from the group, and he probably finished the race at around 3:30. That was the first and last time I used a pace group. Ever since then, I would pace myself by using a stop watch with a split function. I would start the watch at the start of the race. Every time I pass a mile marker, I would start a new split. It flashes my split time for the previous mile and I can adjust my pace accordingly. The added advantage is that you don't have to stick to a particular pace. If you are feeling crappy in the beginning, you can slow down a little. If you feel great, you can kick it in. You can't do that in a group. I'm sure Pron8r can provide you with better insight to how you should attack this race. I would aim for 3:35. It's better to get in right under the clock than to push yourself, and end up bonking and failing to qualify.
          Jake and MC - thanks for the very good advice and personal experiences. My only goal is to BQ. I'm not worried about a PR. If I qualify, I'll get that anyhow. Another reason I'm super-motivated to qualify is that race day is my 50th birthday. If I qualify, I'm eating the whole cake and a quart of ice cream! Not to mention a significant number of brewskis. Clowning around Jake, the marathon (and the half) start in Detroit, go over the Ambassador bridge, around and about Windsor, then back to the U.S. through the tunnel under the Detroit river. It might be the only event to run in two countries. Because of customs, you have to get through the tunnel in like six hours or something, or I guess you're stuck with the Canucks! The finish line is the 50 yard line at Ford Field with your picture live on the big scoreboard screen. Should be interesting! http://www.detroitfreepressmarathon.com/
            Jake, the marathon (and the half) start in Detroit, go over the Ambassador bridge, around and about Windsor, then back to the U.S. through the tunnel under the Detroit river. It might be the only event to run in two countries. Because of customs, you have to get through the tunnel in like six hours or something, or I guess you're stuck with the Canucks! The finish line is the 50 yard line at Ford Field with your picture live on the big scoreboard screen. Should be interesting! http://www.detroitfreepressmarathon.com/
            Very, very cool. I went to law school in Ann Arbor and now wish I'd taken the time to run that race. Lived most of my life in Michigan and can't wait to get back there to run Detroit. Happy early birthday, btw! Too bad it's not 55 - there's that big ol' 5 minute jump to 3:45 for a BQ ...
            E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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              Your first and primary goal is to BQ--not run a 3:30. And, as you know, at 50 you have to run a 3:35:59. My sense (if I am reading your post correctly) is that you have yet to run a 3:35, never mind a 3:30. Does it mean you can't run a 3:30? I don't know. Maybe you can. Fact of the matter is that if you can run a 3:30, than you most assuredly can run the 3:35. However--if you can't run a 3:30, and you go out at that pace, you may very well end up on the north side of 3:35:59. And what is your first and primary goal? To BQ. You cannot bank minutes in a marathon, expecting to draw on them later in the race. If anything, you should try and run a negative split. If you feel particularly strong that day, stay on pace and save the strength for the second half. As JakeKnight mentioned elsewhere, you've got two races to run--the first 20 miles, and the last 10K. I think both JakeKnight and Mile Collector have got it right. I wouldn't bet my BQ on someone else's pace. Some pace team members are quite good, and run either pretty even splits or splits geared to a certain course. Some others have been known to vary their pace quite a bit, and "adjust" as the race goes on. As Mile Collector said, you're better off pacing yourself--in this instance. Later, in a different race with a different goal, go ahead and give the pace team a shot. If you run at a 3:35 pace, and you are feeling strong at mile 20-21, then go ahead and pick up your pace--a little. If you still feel good at mile 23, then see what's left in the tank. If you run a 3:33, you have given yourself a BQ, a PR, and a target for your next run. Another thought, and perhaps one you have already considered: There is a world of difference between racing a Half and a Full marathon. You are generally not going to experience glycogen depletion in a HM, but you most assuredly will in a FM. When I race a half, I have yet to use an aid station or take a gu. Point? Just this--you should plan on replenishing electrolytes, etc long before you think or feel you need to during a marathon. I can't tell you when that is for you. As a general thought, consider this (and adjust to your circumstances)--drink a little less than half a cup of gatorade every other mile (that's usually where most marathons have aid stations anyway), and take a gu about every 5 miles. Oh--and take your gu right before the aid station, so you can drink it down. And as you probably know, if you do BQ at Detroit (good luck and good running, btw), that is good for both April 2007 and April 2008. Cool Again--what is your first and primary goal? To quote someone we both know, "If the BQ is all you really care about, I wouldn't take the risk of bonking". We will be most anxious to hear how you did.
              My Masters (>50) Race PR's: 5K - 20:17 10K - 42:36 HM - 1:31:22 Marathon - 3:20:48
                Thanks Pron8r - excellent advice. My only goal is to BQ. I ran my first marathon last fall 2005 hoping to finish around 3:40, was on pace, then bonked at around 19-20 miles and walked/shuffled in at 3:48. I didn't drink much gatorade or take any GU. I think I'll run smarter this time, and have been using GU on my long runs which have been going alot better. Based on the above advice, I'll skip the pace team and rely on my own watch splits. Thanks again to all - I'll let you know how things turn out. Smile
                  For just another perspective, I would go with the 3:30 group. Yes, there is a chance it will be too fast, but I think you can do it. It is only a tiny, tiny bit faster than 3:35. If the 3:35 group is just one minute slow, you have missed your BQ. And I think running with a group is definatley worth it so you dont start too fast, or get tired and run slower. Yes, there is a chance that the pacer is lousy, so keep track of the time yourself and if you are consistently faster\slower than you want, drop off and do it yourself. I know I would have run much, much slower and walked at times if I didnt go with a group! And it is fun!
                  Scout7


                  CPT Curmudgeon

                    Ok, I just ran Baltimore this weekend. They had pace groups, but I didn't sign up for one. I figured I could just pace along with them if I wanted. Which I sorta did. But the others are exactly right. You gotta run your race, not someone else's. And it's tough, especially in a big mass start race to find your pace and stay on it for the first couple miles. You could always just sorta hang with a pace group to see how they match up.
                      thanks Scout and a-doodle. I'll probably run with my watch, but try not tolet the 3:35 pacers pass me. Scout, congrats on Baltimore. Did you have a good race? I'd like to run your 3:27!


                      A Dance with Monkeys

                        I just saw this thread. A. CMM this year was terrible for everybody given the heat and the humidity and the nasty dehydrating winds, and nearly everybody fell apart. It is hard to generalize from that, except that marathons are ALWAYS crap shoots. (Jake, I ran with my friend who was the 4:15 pace group leader to keep her company; we lost nearly 100% of our group by mile 19 with the conditions, but she came in at 4:14:42.) B. What IS your half marathon PR? How does it compare with your planned marathon in terms of terrain, weather conditions, etc? C. What marathons have you run before? Pace groups I find are best for when you are running a distance or for a goal for the first time. Pace groups vary widely in terms of how consistent they are and how well they carry you. The pace group leader's only job is to run even splits for 26.2 miles and therefore finish within 30-60 seconds of the goal time. Too fast and you loose runners. Too slow and everybody lynches you. But a good pace leader will also keep you going and psych you up. You want to run with the pace group you think you can stick with or pass. The moment you let one pace group leave you behind, you may find it easy to let the next one pass you. And the next one... For that reason, it is better for you to run with the 3:30 or 3:35 groups.
                          CMM this year was terrible for everybody given the heat and the humidity and the nasty dehydrating winds, and nearly everybody fell apart. It is hard to generalize from that, except that marathons are ALWAYS crap shoots. (Jake, I ran with my friend who was the 4:15 pace group leader to keep her company; we lost nearly 100% of our group by mile 19 with the conditions, but she came in at 4:14:42.)
                          Nice to know I wasn't alone. I can't even describe how disappointing it was too crash that bad, after the first real decent training I'd ever done, and in my own hometown. I can hardly wait to avenge that performance this year.
                          E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com
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                          Scout7


                          CPT Curmudgeon

                            thanks Scout and a-doodle. I'll probably run with my watch, but try not tolet the 3:35 pacers pass me. Scout, congrats on Baltimore. Did you have a good race? I'd like to run your 3:27!
                            Thanks! Parts of it were good. Parts of it were not. I think that whether you use a group or not, go in with a plan, and work to stick to it. If running with a group helps you do that, then go for it. Otherwise, run your race. Also, it helps if the pacers are experienced pacers, so if you can find out who they are / what they've done in the past, that may influence your decision.
                              B. What IS your half marathon PR? How does it compare with your planned marathon in terms of terrain, weather conditions, etc? C. What marathons have you run before?
                              I ran my first half-marathon a couple weeks ago on 10/8 (Towpath Half-Marathon along the Cuyahoga River south of Cleveland) in 1:38:08 or 7:30/mile. Flat course, mostly on crushed gravel, sunny day, temp about 50. The Detroit marathon is also flat except for a bridge and tunnel. My marathon virginity was lost last year when I ran the Towpath marathon. Time was 3:48 and change. I was hoping to do a 3:40, but bonked pretty bad at around 20. I didn't eat or use GU, or drink enough. I hope I'll be smarter this time. I've been running my long runs at around 7:50-8:00/mile, and feeling OK. At Detrot, I'm hoping to run 8:00-8:10's up to 20, then have a couple minutes cushion to get under 3:36 and BQ.


                              A Dance with Monkeys

                                If everything goes well, you should be able to do a 3:30-3:35. If you are strong and appropriately trained and the conditions are good, the 3:30 group should be fine. My concern is that this may be at the edge of aggressive for you and you risk another bonk, or just a slowdown after mile 20 which may rob you of the six minutes. The 3:35 is far more conservative and will reduce your chance of slowing, but it also gives you less of a window. I have observed that most of the rules of thumb for predicting your marathon time based on half give you an estimate of the very best you can do, and that most people do not do as well. So for example, 1:38 x 2 + 10-20 minutes is 3:26 - 3:36 if everything goes perfectly, but any problems and you could go over 3:36. That tells me that you need to be conservative, especially in the first 10 miles or so.
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