Back into the ‘Eights’

On Nov 12th, Camille Herron broke the world record for a 100m ultra marathon, in a staggering time of 12:42:41. I’ll save you working it out, but her average pace was 7:38/mile which she maintained pretty much throughout. Even during the last 10 miles of the 100, she was averaging 7:40/mile, which is faster than I’ve ever run a 10k.

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Camille Herron sets the 100m world record!

OK, comparing yourself to an elite athlete is always going to be futile, but the sheer difference is staggering, and seems even more staggering when the distances are longer. The 5k world record (for men) is 12:35 (or 4:04/mile) and yet the world record marathon time for men is 2:02:57 (or 4:42/mile). Bear in mind, a marathon is over 42 kilometers, so more than 8x further than a 5k, and yet the pace is a mere 38 seconds slower and faster than most people can run.

There are a few people in my running club that regularly run between 16 and 18 mins 5k’s, which is in the 5 mins/mile range, and I don’t think I’m ever going to get there. Even a sub-20 mins 5k, which is around 6:27/mile is probably beyond me at this stage in my life, especially given my tight hamstrings, scoliosis and that I’m 45 and have really only been running a few years. But a 7min/mile pace isn’t out of the question, and neither is a 7:xxmin/mile at longer distances. That gives me some targets for 2018. But I need to be realistic…

In 2017, I’ve only run one race in the eights, which was the 3.5 mile Chase Corporate Challenge, and even that was a modest 8:41/mile pace. In 2014, I ran 6 races in the eights: a 10k (8:55), a 4-mile (8:36) a 3.5 and 5m (both 8:14), a 10 mile (8:31) and a half marathon (8:52). Throughout 2017, most of my training runs have been in the 9 – 10 mins/mile range, and admittedly this was mostly training for my marathon, but it’s significantly slower than the pace of my training runs in 2014.

This last weekend, on the back of my base marathon training-gained fitness, I pushed to run a sub 9mins/mile training run over 10 miles. 3 laps of Prospect Park (including a nice hill) in a not too shabby 1:27:56 (or 8:47/mile) – easily my fastest 10 miles for years. In the same week, I did 5.22 miles in 42:20 (or 8:07/mile), which included 2 miles under 7:30/mile. What I’d really like to do is maintain this level for a while and push my race times for my mid-long distances from the 9’s to the 8’s, and the shorter distances (5k and 4m) into the 7’s.

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Comparing Yourself to an Elite Runner is Futile! (Credit: Runner’s World Magazine)

I’ve run three 5k’s before under 8 mins/mile (all equate to being under 24 mins). 23:59, 23:36 and 23:19 (my PR) which equate to 7:44, 7:37 and 7:31 paces. If I can run 5 miles, with the last two miles under 7:30/mile, I think I can run under 7:30 per mile for 5k. I might even be able to run 7:30 per mile for 4 miles, and in 2 weeks I get to test that out during a 4m race in Prospect Park (The Jingle Bell Jog). I am not sure if one should push for a PR in a race called the Jingle Bell Jog, but I’m just in that kind of mood. My 4m PR is currently 32:19, or 8:06/mile.

In the meantime, tomorrow I am running the Fred Lebow Cross County Championships, which includes two climbs (one of 120 feet and the other of 150 feet). My best time for this race is a model 27:23 – so that’s the time to beat!

 

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10 Miles, 10 Smiles, +10 cadence

Ahh, the post-marathon blues. There’s only one way to shake them off, and that’s to go for a run. Which I did.

If you’re not familiar with it, Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park, only smaller and has fewer tourists. The road loop is popular with runners and cyclist alike, and is exactly 3.33 miles long, making 3 laps 10 miles. Today was intended to be a relaxing ‘as you feel’ recovery run after last week’s heroics in the NYC Marathon, but I also had half a mind to run this at a slightly faster pace than I’ve been running this distance during my training. Also in the last few weeks of my marathon training, I started to focus a lot more on cadence, which is something I am ashamed to say I’ve somewhat neglected over the last few years.

There is a lot of debate around cadence, however ideally it’s supposed to be 180 steps per minute, or about 3 steps per second, or faster. That should apply whether you’re strictly a casual runner, a club runner or you’re an elite. Speed is determined by a combination of stride length, or stride rate (cadence), so increasing one or the other (or both) obviously increases speed.

Many of my training runs have an average cadence in the high 150’s or into the 160’s. I am very rarely getting into the 170’s, but I have noticed that when I am feeling good and have faster runs, it’s my cadence that is higher. Let’s take a look at my 10 mile run today Vs my 10 miles run in September (which was actually a race!) in regards to cadence.

Bronx 10M Cadence
Bronx 10m race in September, 167 SPMM

My stride here looks pretty consistent, and averages 170 spm. You can see the poor miles I had (7, 8 and 9) and frankly the paces were all over the place. An 8:30 followed by a 9:30 and then a 10 and 11:34. This is my normal ‘mono’ stride approach to running, if you ignore the fact I ran a poor race!

Prospect Park 10m Cadence
Casual run today, but an improved 172 cadence.

So here there is less consistency but a higher average. The consistency is really down to when I am focusing on my faster stride rate, and then I slow down when I lose a bit of concentration (or tire slightly at the end). Prospect Park is also hilly which impacts your cadence slightly, with downhills inviting longer strides as you recover a little cardio and uphills inviting shorter quicker strides. My pace though is far more consistent with only a 10 second variance after miles 1 and 2 (on a hilly course) and then a nice negative split at the end. Even if I do say so myself.

I am going to be focusing a lot more on cadence in the next few months and running up to my NYCHalf in March where I’m hoping to not only PR but get closer to that magic 180spm!

Maraton PR – How I Beat a Younger, Faster, Fitter me.

It has been 6 days since I completed the NYC Marathon and set my new marathon PR of 4:25:07 (still unofficial but I’ll be within seconds of that time). My goal this year was always to beat my 2014 time (4:33:33) and although I did it, I am somewhat surprised at the way in which it happened. For much of 2017, the signs have not been good. In most of my races, and in all of my training, I was slower in 2017 than in 2014 although I ran more miles and more consistently in 2017 (912 miles up to Marathon day compared to 848 miles, and additionally in 2017 I only had 2 weeks with zero mileage, compared to 4 weeks in 2014). It seems it’s true what they say, miles count.

So while 2014  was my first full year of running seriously and I was highly motivated to get into shape after years never really having a fitness regime, 2017 was a year I thought I could build on that base fitness.

So let’s take a quick look at my 2014 preparation and performance Vs 2017. First off, the races.

2014 Vs 2017 Race Pace and Time
2014 looks good until the big day!

So what’s going on here? In 2014, my long races were consistently in the 9:10 – 9:20min/mile range, which is pretty consistent, all the way to the Bronx 10m. That was one of my best races in 2014 (and perhaps of all time) with a pretty cool 8:31mins/mile pace over 10 miles (my current PR). The Staten Island Half 2 weeks later was another PR at 8:52min/mile. In 2017, I haven’t run any races over 10m at faster than 9:38/mile and although I slowly increased my pace, it didn’t come close to even my 1st race of 2014.

The 18m tune up is really what I thought would be the major predictor of my marathon form. 31 minutes (1:40/mile) separated my 2014 form from 2017 which is huge. There is no doubt that 2017 me could not possibly keep up with 2014 me in any of those races.

So what happened in the marathon? Well truth be told, I ran a pretty poor marathon in 2014, considering my condition – looking back now and seeing I only consumed 2 gels and missed breakfast, it’s amazing that I finished at all.

If there’s one chart that tells the story of my two races, it’s the one below.

 

2014 Vs 2017 Cumulative Pace
How to run a marathon, and how not to run a marathon in one handy chart.

This chart shows my cumulative average pace per mile, so is effectively a smoothed out line of my pace from start to finish, where the last mile is my average pace for the whole race (not the actual pace of my last mile).

Miles 1 – 5 show a similar trend. Mile 1 is just getting started, some selfies, some crowding and an uphill start – it’s supposed to be slow. Mile 6 both times was when I took a pit stop (my bladder was consistent, even if my pace wasn’t) hence the sudden brake on my pace, but from then onwards it’s two very different stories.

In 2014, from mile 7 – 10, I am maintaining a 9:30 pace pretty evenly. From mile 10, I start to slow down for the rest of the race. That’s a 16 mile decline in pace which gets more and more dramatic. Remember this is a smoothed out chart and each mile the impact of the decrease is less and less (because you’re averaging it out against the whole distance) and yet that line gets steeper and steeper as I slow more and more dramatically. To give you an indication, my pace at mile 10 was 9:34 (close to the 9:31 average at that time) whereas my pace at mile 20 was 10:57, a full minute slower than my average at that time.

In 2017, there’s a completely different story. From mile 6 all the way to mile 21, I am slowly getting faster, and more remarkably from mile 7 to 21, there is only an 8 seconds per mile difference in average pace. To contrast with 2014, mile 10 was a 9:51 pace (17 seconds slower than in 2014) and mile 20 was 10:03 pace, or 55 seconds faster than 2014.

I read somewhere once that for every 10 seconds you try and ‘bank’ in the 1st half of a marathon, you will loose 30 seconds in the second half. What that really means is going out faster than you’re able to maintain in the 1st 13 miles will cost you 3x more than you’ll gain. With my slow and steady pace this time around, I did not start to slow significantly until mile 23, and by that point with only 5k to go, you can dig in really deep and finish it off. In 2014, I was feeling the same way by mile 15 with still 11 miles to go. That can crush anyone.

2) Hi5Marathon

I knew from the start that to get my PR, I had to beat 10:26 per mile, and keeping my pace as close to 10:00/mile would certainly do that. I didn’t know if this was something I could maintain over 26.2 miles for certain, especially given my 18m tune up was actually slower than this, but two significant things changed since then.

The first was that my NYRR Virtual Running Coach scorned my after my 20 mile long run, because I reported how much water and gel I consumed, which was far too little. Despite access to the right information, it never dawned on me that given my age, weight and gender, I really needed to be consuming gels every 3 – 4 miles, not every 6 – 7 miles which I had been doing. Changing that strategy in my last few long runs took out almost all of the fatigue I was feeling in the last few miles.

The second was the temperature. In was 55 degrees on race day (most of my long run training days had been in the 70’s or 80’s) and there was misty rain as well, which kept me cool. Had it been in the 40’s, I could have been faster still, but it’s been such a warm autumn in New York that it could have easily been in the 70’s.

3) Speed

I am honestly not sure if I will run another NYC marathon, or another marathon at all. You sacrifice a lot, you can’t really train for other types of races at the same time, and almost everything defers to it for 4 months of the year. Having said all that, it’s an amazing feeling and something I am still buzzing about six days later. Tomorrow I am having a recovery run with my running club, and will have just a slightly lighter spring in my step than if I’d missed this PR. This really has made my 2017!

Let’s Talk about Long Runs (20 days to Marathon)

So today I ran 20 miles as part of my preparation for the NYC Marathon on November 5th. It’s the longest run in my training plan, and arguably the hardest day so far. Before we go into how I did over 20 miles, let’s talk about 18 miles.

Below is a chart showing my 18m run in 2014 Vs my 2nd attempt at it in 2017. I did manage to finish my 1st attempt a few weeks earlier, but 70 degrees plus more than 90% humidity and a crisis of confidence meant I actually stopped at mile 12 and walked off the course. I was fully intending to quit but after sitting down and eating a Honey Stinger for 5 mins, I (literally) got back into the race and finished. There were a few 11+ mins miles in there…

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Pretty much by mile 5 there is a 30 second difference, which stays constant up to about mile 12, and then widens significantly to well over a minute. Not good.

Now in 2014, I never actually ran a 20-miler. I ran 20 miles during the weekend of my Staten Island Half, but really in 4 broken parts. A warm up for the race, the race itself, a cool down and then 6 miles to get what was eventually 21 miles. I remember feeling pretty beaten up by the end of it and was doing 10mins/miles during those last 6, which back then was very slow (although I’d take it this year!)

Enough about the past, let’s talk about today. In short, I screwed it up. I’ve been having issues with taking on board fluids and gels, I get an acid reflux when taking water or gels when running, so often try and hang on with minimal intake. That’s not particularly bright on a day when it’s pushing 73 degrees and there is 83% humidity. My NYRR coach scorned me for only taking 3 gels and drinking about 30oz of fluid every hour, when I should have been taking in about 20oz every hour.

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The net result was a continuously slowing pace after mile 15 (10:32, 10:58, 11:27, 11:32, 12:40!) Given my sole goal is to beat my 2014 time of 4:33:33 this is bad news, and it puts me around a 5 hour finish time. I’ve got three weeks to fix thing…

21 Days to the NYC Marathon

It’s 21 days until the 2017 New York City Marathon, which will be my third. I thought this year was going to be ‘the’ year, and perhaps it still will be, but the omens have not been good.

I was expecting 2017 to be a year of PR’s and PB’s but instead a niggling knee problem and ongoing issues with my right foot and ankle have clipped my wings, and a general malaise set in throughout the year. Compared to 2014, which was my first ‘serious’ year of running, the races I’ve run this year speak for themselves. Let’s take a look.

Here is a table of my Five Boro’ Race results from 2014 and 2017, and below this is plotted on a graph showing pace per mile for each race.

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With the exception of one race, the Queens 10K which is the shortest, my race pace is slower this year than in 2017. Not only that, but the gap is pretty consistent among the Half Marathon races (46 seconds at Staten Island, the latest, and 49 seconds at Fred Lebow).

I’m not sure where this leaves me, other than to make sure I run a really good tactical race on the day. In 2014, I should probably have run around 4:10 to 4:15, and instead only managed 4:33:33. My min/mile dropped from 9:24 for the first 5k down to 12:25 for the last 5k giving me an average of 10:26 per mile.

In 2017, my predicted (and recommended) pace is 10:20 – 10:38 per mile. If I can hold the higher end of that, without going too fast at the start, there is a chance I can pull this one of out the bag. A marathon PR really would make this year worth it.

 

Heart Rate and Heat Soak

OK, so 6:08 hard fought miles today, just a little less than yesterday’s 10K race, but it was hot hot hot.

After a sprightly start @9:27/mile, my pace slowed to a drastic 10:59 during the last mile, which I partly walked. I wasn’t quite ready for the crash my sugar and carb-free day would bring me, along with some stifling late spring New York heat and humidity.

So here’s the chart – my old ticker Vs pace.

Heart Rate and Heart Soak
Getting Hotter and Slowing Down

I’ve been humbly reminded this evening what it’s like training during the summer! Yay for Fall Marathons!

Half Way to 90

It’s been a while, but I’m back to cover the second half of my 2017 running, particularly as I am having another crack at the NYC Marathon in November. More of that later. For now, here’s a quick recap of 2017 so far.

Goals

I started the year intending to run at least 1,000 miles (last year I did 652 and my personal best was way back in 2014 when I ran 952 miles. It’s been all down hill since then! With 452 miles logged since the start of the year, and my official marathon training yet to start, I am pretty confident that I’ll get to 1,000 by the end of the year, even if I am very slightly behind schedule right now.

Lifetime Distance
All down hill since 2014

Another goal was to run all of the New York Road Runners ‘Borough’ races, plus the Marathon, so seven in total. I have managed to run four out of four so far, although my pace and progress has been hampered somewhat by niggling knee pain (pretty much classic Runner’s Knee). I have seen my pace slowly improve over the hour races from a pedestrian 10:08/mile in the Fred Lebow Half Marathon as the start of the year, to a relatively sprightly 9:10/mile in my latest race, a 10k in humid Queens, New York on my 45th birthday.

Queens 10k Finish
Who doesn’t love 98% humidity…

Hitting 45 Years of Age

Is 45 a milestone? It’s not like 21, or 40 or some other round number, but it somehow feels significant to me. It’s half way through my 40’s, so I am officially in my mid-forties, something that sounds like a generic term for pre-middle age. I started running 5 years ago (and started this blog then too) and while I improved pretty significantly in my first two and a half years, I do feel like it’s been a slow steady decline since then. However there is plenty of evidence that late starters can be very quick runners, even faster than people who start in their teens or 20’s, so I am quite determined to reverse this trend.

My best marathon time was in 2014 when I completed it in 4:33:33, whereas in 2015 it took me 5 hours and 25 minutes, almost an hour more. This year I am targeting 4:15, and have signed up for a training plan starting on July 17th to hit that target.

Nutrition

One last thing is that I’m going to focus a lot more on nutrition than I have previously. Starting today I’m focusing on cutting refined sugars from my diet. I am pretty ill-disciplined with food – it’s not that I exactly eat badly consistently, but I am prone to buying sugary snacks at the work vending machine, or on the way home, or just devouring cookies or chocolates from time to time. Time to reduce the gut!

Strength Training 

OK, here we go. I don’t know why I am some useless at this, but my lack of cross-training or strength training is almost certainly at the root of many issues I have with posture and injuries. I’ve had problems with my right leg for years. It’s either my ankle, foot, knee, hamstring or lower back, but always on that right side. So I will be adding planks, burpees, squats (including jumping squats) and my least favorite ever, pushups!

er… I’ll let you know how I get on.

OK enough typing for now… I need to go out for my 6 mile run, and it’s 79 degrees out with 80% humidity. Bring it on!