Pace, and Race Day Prep
Basically Part I, My Road to the Road2Hope Marathon informs everyone I put in the work and was able to finish all my long runs but with some notable pain. The work was put in and no shortcuts were taken.
It was my feeling that my body was going to hold together but honestly I felt it was going to be a very slow jog to the finish and likely the finish would look very much like shuffling by the 21st km. I knew I could finish and there is a feeling of accomplishment in that alone. I guess this meant I was ready for race day with about 2 weeks to go? I mean I put in the mileage, kept injuries at bay and was confident I could finish.
Now on a few of my runs I put out a very slow controlled pace at the beginning and then at different points tried to let myself go into more of a race mode but all these attempts ended with the same tightness in my hip and really no strength over the last two kms. This left me confused and not sure how to run this race. I mean I knew really it was only about finishing but I wanted a good experience not an ending that was just pain and I had made it. Not sure if that makes sense but basically I was doubting the overall enjoyment based on the long runs I had done which were done but I can't say, wow that was a great workout!
Because of this feeling of not finding a comfortable but doable pace I began to research opinions on first time half marathons pace and times. The best advice I found was that it was best to run your best pace during the last half and conserve yourself in the beginning.
This made some sense but I had not really found my pace and looking back I think it was because of where I chose to train. The reason I say this is that I had used trails and all those trails are former rail lines. The trails are a gradual incline all the way out and then a gradual decline all the way back.
My body was taking a beating in the beginning and then running downhill all the way back. I think this skewed my reality of pace. A really slow first half (slower than it should have been) and then a faster than normal return. The last 2kms of those runs where at the very least, grueling. This made me believe that there was no way I could have a strong last 10 kms but as I said I think it was because I was not training on flat ground to get a good perspective. So what to do?
Maybe I could run in clown shoes?
Funny! Not, but that is probably how fast I was at the end of those runs and the shoes likely would have not made a difference.
This brings me back to positive people and their influence and motivation. Because of being lost a bit at this point I put it out there that I was wondering what to do about pace. What I got back was huge and priceless for race day. A friend connected me to a person that is an avid runner and most recently ran the Chicago Marathon. This person who did/does not know me at all took the time to write me a great email with a link to a great article. It provided me with great pace answers, nutrition, proper mental attitude and I think most importantly a link to an article about aerobic and anaerobic training which I knew about but let me tell you that the timing of this article was perfect. Sometimes we just do not use what we know and this article was a great reminder. If you want, please take a look at it here http://runnersconnect.net/running-tips/aerobic-vs-anaerobic-training/.
You may wonder after reading that article why this was so important? As I said previously, I had been only running 5kms at a time prior to training for this and had been working speed (not that I am fast..thus working on it). The article brought to light that I had only two speeds which were run as hard as I could and slow. In other words too much of my training was anaerobic and was not preparing me as good as it could be for the long runs.
Thankfully, after I read this I had one more long run to go (16kms) and it fell into place. I had the most enjoyable long run I had during the previous training weeks. A nice balanced 11kms with good rhythm and then I ran my best pace for the last 5k. The last 5 were my best right down to the 16th. That was a huge relief and a great feeling all wrapped into one.
Being more confident, I wanted to re-look at my strategy for race day. My longest run was 20kms and my time on it was in the 2:20 range and a half marathon is still another 1.1 kms. With this information I contemplated a 6:45 pace per km for a 2:30 pace for race day. Something about that felt wrong so I went back to that email I was sent and re read it. It was there staring at me, as (pace) this was what my original question was, "what pace do I run?"
He said he took all his training runs and found the average of those and that was how he decided on a pace for his races. Now this made me feel pretty stupid because my background is in these types of numbers (forecasting averages and projections) and I had them all. If you have a big enough history; the numbers do not lie.
After reading that email and having the light bulb come on, I immediately copied and pasted all my training numbers into excel and found my average pace. WOW! I was way off! Now this jolted me a lot because it was far lower than my projected pace of a 2:22 or a 6:45 pace per km. The average came in at a 6:27 pace per km with an approximate finish time of 2:16:10. Because there was such a difference I rechecked the numbers and decided to back it off and went with a 6:30 per km pace for the race which would theoretically result in a 2:17:13 finish. This would still be well below my hope of 2:30 and I would be more than happy to finish at 2:20.
I did do a taper and as much as I had been running the previous weeks, let me tell you its super hard after all that work to sit on your "feet"so to speak. You start to feel guilty for not training but I knew it was best. I wanted to be pain free on race day and I can say today it worked, and it was the hardest easy thing to do.
My last run was on the Friday (a nice leisurely 4.3kms) before race day on the Sunday. During that run I wanted to accomplish some things...1. Can I actually handle a gel pack while running 2. What would my stomach do? 3. Run the trail portion of the race course to get an idea of the terrain.
I am glad I did all three. The Gel was weird but my stomach was okay and I could swallow it. It was also helpful to find out that the trail portion was narrow and had a small hill and changing terrain. This run also confirmed how I was going to carry the gel packs which I had never done before. Doing these small things definitely helped me be in the moment in the race rather than worrying about the how and if.
I have realized Part II is far to big to continue so I will have to make Part III, my actual race recap. I leave it here with a picture of me pre- race start feeling good and as ready as I could be.