Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Predicting my Marathon Perfomance.

So its now just 4 weeks away from the Münster Marathon and i need to figure out what pace ill be running it at. The 'A' goal is to run sub 3:10 which means an average pace of 4:30/km, however just because thats the goal doesnt necessarily mean its realistic. Which is why I scheduled a couple of Half Marathons into my training program so that i could gauge my training progress and get an idea of what pace i should ultimately target.

The latest was the Nordkirchen Half Marathon where i set a new HM PB and ran a 1:34:02 in 21°c. The Münster Marathon is one of the earliest in the Autumn Season, So its hard to predict what the conditions on the day will be like, It could be cold and rather wintery, or it could be very warm. So I am using the calculator at Runworks, which is based on the Daniels running formula to adjust times for various temperatures. Using my performance in Nordkirchen the calculator predicts the following

Temp HM Marathon Pace
16°c (or below) 1:32:48 3:13:13 4:34/km
21°c 1:34:02 3:15:43 4:38/km
24°c 1:34:46 3:17:12 4:40/km
29°c 1:36:23 3:20:28 4:45/km

I have also just run a semi trail race over 20km it was run in 17°c during the morning, This one had a bit of up and down and being on trail doesnt allways allow for a full open stride, but i pulled out a 1:26:11 plugging that into the calculators gives the following

Temp 20.2 Marathon Pace
16°c (or below) 1:25:54 3:07:32 4:26/km
21°c 1:27:03 3:09:58 4:30/km
24°c 1:27:43 3:11:23 4:32/km
29°c 1:29:13 3:14:34 4:36/km

These two race efforts were only 1 week appart, The first left me shattered the second still feeling good and able to train properly. The biggest difference between the two for me was less about the race and conditions on the day and more about the pre-race preperation. For the first id been sick the week before, and then had a large lunch that hadnt digested properly before the race... in the second it was a morning race, with a good meal the night before and a light breakfast.

What this tells me is that my goal of sub 3:10 is dependent on a couple of factors, geting my race preparation in the days leading up to the race right, which is something i can control, but also on the race day temperature and weather conditions. If its too warm then its unlikely that ill be able to hold the target pace required, and a better solution is to dial it back a little to try and avoid a major crash in the final stages of the race.

But the good news is that the target of 3:10 does make for a realistic goal. It will be hard, of that there can be no doubt, and there is no guarantee of reaching it, but that is what racing marathons is all about. stepping into the unkown and seeing if you measure up to the challenge you set yourself. In Vienna i ran a marathon, in Münster im going to race one.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Bossendorf Volkslauf 20.2km

The Bossendorf Volkslauf is a local trail race. I ran this last year and it was a bit of an eye opener as id not run much in the way of hills at that time. But the downhill over the last 3k makes for a nice flying finish, It was also another opportunity for my youngest to let it rip in a local race.

The day started of overcast and reasonably cool (18°c), We were a bit late getting underway, I dont like to have to rush before a race, but in the end we had a good 15-20 minutes time to spare before my youngest's race. Enough to pickup the race numbers, give him a pep talk, and remind him that he could take this 1000m  one a bit faster than some of the other longer races he's done recently. I wasnt at the start line with him i dont think he managed to get in the front row, the bigger kids probably boxed him out, this race was for 8-11yo's. but with a short burst away from the line he was in about tenth, over the next 300m he pulled back all but one of the runners in front of him, and he proceeded to chase her the rest of the race, coming in second overall and first boy. He finished in 3:56 which given the race was run on grass is pretty decent.

I had a good 30 mins to get ready before my race got underway, It even started to rain a little just before the start. We lined up at the start line and before we knew it were underway, I started pretty well, with about 15 runners ahead of me, This time i paid very close attention to my pace and didnt go with the first or second bunch, but rather stuck to my own pace. It turned out to be a good decision as the second buch broke up pretty quickly stringing out, and i managed to catch up to the tail of them.

Once the race gets into the forest there is a short sharp climb and we formed up into a small group going up that, over took a couple of guys that probably got pulled into starting too fast, then there was an equally short decent that we took pretty quick, The trail then returns to its climb into the forest and one of the runners in the group pulled past me and the guy up front and started to open a little gap on us, I decided to go with him and took up the chase the two other guys in the small group followed behind. We didnt really close the gap on him but he didnt open up any more either... then there was another decent, even steeper, and my downhill running showed its use as i managed to draw up on the guy in fronts heels.

We then came off the trails and onto a fire road for some longer straight sections, I was running comfortably on the guy in fronts sholders for a km or two before i noticed that the pace had slipped a little, so i pulled ahead of him and returned the pace to what it had been, the group now thined a little untill it was just him following me. At km10 i took a gel just before the drinks station, using my walk while i drink strategy... I find that i dont loose more than a 2-3 meters doing that and it means you get the whole drink, and no water up your nose.

Then we started another long gentle climb up some narrow trails, Id managed to open up a little gap on the guy behind, and in this section that grew until before long i couldnt see him in behind me when i went round a corner. At km 13 i thought to myself only 7km to go nearly there... then i realised how silly that sounds and had time to think about how my marathon prep training was responsible for such a though in the first place..

Km 14 gave us a nice gentle down hill and i stretched my legs out a bit and let gravity do its thing, perhapes going a bit too fast as the next climb was just around the corner and i felt like it was the toughest of the whole race... then we had some longer open stretches and i couldnt see the runner ahead at all, or the guy behind me, so with about 5k to go i decided not to race this all out, but to hold steady and race for my current place whatever it was.

We started to pick up and pass some of the nordic walkers who had started earlier that morning, before i finally got over the top of the last hill and could start the final roll down the last 3k to the finish line. Before i knew it i was back at the sports ground and running down the finishing shute.

I came in 7th overall and 2nd in my age class with a clock time of 1:26:11 ... and im really really pleased with the result and how i ran the race. I managed to take almost 10 minutes off last years time, The decision to just bring it home in my position was also correct as the 6th place runner was 3 minutes ahead of me, id have never caught him and just blown my legs for the next weeks training.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Nordkirchen HalfMarathon

The Nordkirchen HalfMarathon was to be my final pace test before the upcoming Münster Marathon. With 4 weeks to go it is ideally timed to show just where your current training puts you.

My preparation in the week before this one was hardly optimal. Id been suffering from an upset stomach that only came right the day before the race. It meant that id not actually done any running at all during that week, for fear of being caught short. Still i knew my prep before that was good, so decided to give it my all.

On Race day it was overcast, we even had a couple of light patches of rain, but it wasnt cool, in fact during the rae it was 20-21°c and relatively humid. I should have adjusted my pace expectations accordingly, but i didnt, i knew that I was able to manage a 4:15 pace since id done that in training 3 weeks earlier, only thing is that was at sub 10°c

I warmed up for the race with some light jogging and a little bit of race pace running, and then returned to the start area with about 10 mins to go. The Race organisers announced that there were over 300 participants, an increase over previous years. I meet a couple of guys from my running group we wished each other luck then headed for the start line.

It was surprisingly open in the first couple of rows, so i just walked up and took a spot in the second row, The countdown started and then we were off. Once again i got pulled into running a little too fast in the first km, but then managed to settle down into the 4:15 pace that id aspired to holding too.

I managed to hold it over the first 7km, In fact at about the 7k mark i mnaged to catch a glimpse of the leaders on a stretch of course ahead of me, first time thats happened on anything other than a very small loop or a long section of out and back. But the warth, and the light head wind started to take its toll and i started to drop off my pace. I had been holding onto a guy running just in front of me, but he managed to put a few meters gap on me, id pulled it back a few times, but i couldnt that time, and then the gap grew as my pace slipped.

I worked my way through the next few km, I was begining to regret the pre-race meal id had some 5 hours before. Apparently traditional italien cabonarra doesnt make a good pre-race meal, especially not if your portion had plenty of pancetta in it. I took a gel at km10 just before the drinks station and did a walk break of 2-3 seconds to make sure i got enough fluids with it.

The next section from km 10 - 13 werre my worst. I was running alone, on some long straight sections of course with a headwind again, my pace slipped back to a 4:45 in this section. It was complicated by the tree cover interfering with my garmin, meaning i wasnt actually aware of what my true pace was...

At around km13 i got passed by another runner, and managed to tuck in behind him, and pick up the pace for a while. I couldnt hold with him fortoo long, but it did give me the confidence to run at a higher pace. My legs were really starting to hurt at this point, and at km15 i knew id have to run sub 4:30 the rest of the way to beat my PB, It was there i had that moment in the race where you need to decide to dig deep and give it everything, or pack it in and just run the thing to the end. I was close to calling it quit with pushing, but i didnt. Instead i concentrated on keeping my legs turning over.

The final couple of KM had quite a lot of twists and turns, not really ideal for running fast, and the there were quite a few places where the ground underfoot was pretty uneven. I found the km 18,19, & 20 to be the toughest. My legs were really hurting now, and i was cramping a little in the lower stomach area. But i was still on pace to come in somewhere around or before my PB...so i kept on racing.

In the final KM i realised that i was catching a couple of runners ahead of me. I like having a target to chase down, so that gave me a good little boost over the last KM and i closed the gap on the closest one finally pulling him back just as we entered the track for the final 300m. I kept on pushing knowing that id never catch the next guy who was still a long way ahead, but not certain if id crack my PB. I crossed the line breathing really hard before colapsing on the inner field a few meters past the finish line.

It took me another 5 mins to get my breath back and fight of a little dizzy spell. I looked at my garmin, but the time only showed to the minute... 1:34:?? I groaned, Id been hoping for a 1:30 at the start of the race and here i was as buggered as id even been and not even sure id beaten my old PB. Eventually i clambered back to my feet and walked over to the refreshments grabbed a couple of drinks some pieces of fruit and then checked the race results on a monitor set up showing them live.

Turns out Id run a 1:34:02 which is a new PB, by about 30 seconds. Id also just missed out on a place in my age group, comming in 4th, the guy that was in front of me that i didnt manage to catch nabbed 3rd. I finished 33rd overall. At the time i was pretty dissapointed that i hadnt managed to get closer to my goal of 1:30, But now with a bit of time under the bridge, Im pretty happy with the result. I still shaved a bit of my PB in fairly warm conditions. Heck the fastest man didnt break 1:20, whereas in the race where i set my previous PB 24 men went under that, So it wasnt a fast course on the day.

For anyone that is still interested here is the tail of the Garmin.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Run in a Group or go it Alone?

Several months after I started running I joined a Running Group. The group I joined is not a club, we have no fee's, no coach, its just a group of people the get together regularly to go for a run.

There are a lot of advantages to joining a running group. Not least that you get to meet like minded people that dont think your a bit weird for wanting to go for a run when its just started raining. A good running group will provide support and encouragement. There is a good oportunity to learn from experienced runners. They will also have an idea about local events and races that might be suitable for you if you want to enter one.

There are lots of tangible benifits to joining a group, but there are also some less tangible ones as well. Once youve got a set time to run at you are much more likely to actually make that run. Even more so with a group because there is that subtle pressure to turn up for the run, sometimes that is enough to actually get you out the door.

Then during the runs a group can help you maintain a steady pace, even as you start to tire. Runs completted in a group allways seem to go by faster for me as well. Having someone to chat to can take your mind off the miles as they tick by. Its also a lot safer to have someone else around, as they say there is safty in numbers. For the guys this is primarily in case you injure yourself, but plenty of female runners find it more comfortable to have at least one companion.

But its not all good running in a group, just like in most things there are positives and there are negatives. One of the biggest is to do with pace, if your lucky then the group pace will be spot on your own personal target pace, but more likely than not it will be either to fast or too slow... either way it means your likely to either be running at a 'no mans land' pace. And wont be getting the full effect from that training run, the alternative is if the group run hits one of your other training paces then you can see that run as a run at that pace...For instance the group i run withs average pace is at my recovery run pace, so my group runs are recovery / very easy runs that i do on my rest days.

Another downside can be that the route or the distance may not actually suit your current goal. not so bad if its on the short side, but if too long it could lead to overtraining or injury. Primarily for us guys a group can create a competitive environment that were easily sucked into, we can end up competting amoungst ourselves, which leads to racing in your training.

Training in a group can however also rob you of the opportunity to develope the mental toughness required to run hard on your own, or to keep on going when the legs start to hurt, or your getting fatigued in a longer run. During a race its likely youll have to overcome those on your own and a group doesnt provide you with the opportunity to learn that.

So should you join a group, for me the answer is clear, if there is one available then absolutely, but you should also still do some of your running on your own... get the best of both worlds.