Marathon Training Week 2

Time flies when you’re running (yes it really does!)

So week 2 cranks things up ever so slightly, from 33 miles to 35 miles. The extra two miles come from the long run going from 9 to 10 miles, and an interval session early in the week which is 7 miles.

The interval session was the hardest run of the week. It’s a 2 miles warmup, and then 7x800m intervals, with 45 seconds passive rest between each (passive rest is walking, rather than jogging/running easy). It’s one of those workouts that looks easy, starts out easy, and then bites.

The first lap is supposed to be 4:24, then a reduction of 2 seconds each lap if you feel strong enough. If you’re at full stretch, then maintain the speed. My splits were 4:21, 4:26, 4:24, 4:20, 4:15, 4:13, 4:12 – not bad for an old timer. I do remember doing this last year and starting faster and ending slower, which was the wrong thing to do. With a heart rate monitor, it’s interesting to see how your body responds to such a workout.

Intervals (July 26th Blog)
Heart rate is an excellent indicator of how hard you’re working out. If it feels hard, it IS hard.

Above you can see the splits and the effect of the interval and following rest. For my age, my workout heart rate is quite high, and my resting heart rate if about 62bpm currently. The idea of this exercise is to get a high intensity workout without introducing the fatigue of a race. The heart rate peaks show this is exactly what is happening.

After this interval run, my easy run and regular runs immediately afterward felt hard because my legs were sore, but I’ll be feeling the benefit of this workout within a couple of weeks.

As for 2014 Vs. 2015, after figuring out my GPS error last year, I’ve adjusted all of my 2014 workouts to reflect the times I would be getting with a GPS watch (i.e, reducing the distance by about 5% or 0.05 miles per mile. With this adjustment, I can see in 2015, I am very slightly faster (which I would expect)

Week 2 Summaries

One thing that jumps out is that in 2014, even with the adjusted pace, week 2 was faster than week 1, with a lot more mileage. In 2015, I’m slightly slower with marginally more mileage. One of the reasons is that my watch still counts the rest times during intervals as part of the total workout, and I was walking in one part of the track to stay in the shade so it looked like no movement. Otherwise my average speed is 9:38, slightly quicker.

Another thing is that for most of my regular runs, I have actually missed my target speed. I should be going for 9:05 – 9:20, and over the last two weeks my average regular run speed has been 9:27. It isn’t far off the low end of the expected speed, but it’s enough to be noticeable. I’ll see if my coach recommends switching to a more conservative plan until my fitness improves.

Week 3 cranks it up a notch again to 36 miles, introducing 7 miles to my regular run and a 7 mile fartlek. More on that next time.

Happy running!

A Second Crack at the NYC Marathon (Part 2: Lies, Damn Lies, and Your Phone’s GPS)

In part 1, I took a look at my 2014 approach to the NYC Marathon. Here in part 2 I’m going to take a look at something pretty significant I didn’t talk about last time, which is GPS accuracy.

During the 2014 training, although I had a sports watch, I actually used an iPhone app called MapMyRun and the iPhone’s GPS to track all of my runs. I used my watch at the track and during races, but otherwise this app was king. The reason is that I’d been using it since I started running, and wanted the continuous record to track my total miles, improvement and share with the community on Facebook. All of this is possible simply by syncing MMR with your watch or other apps, but at the time I didn’t know that. So, why is this important.

Your iPhone’s GPS is Lying to You

OK, it’s not just the iPhone… pretty much any phone’s GPS is a bare-faced liar, and certainly not as accurate as a dedicated GPS watch; even a fairly low-cost one. Let’s take a look at two examples.

Here is what my GPS thought I ran
iPhone GPS Measures This as One Mile

This is typically what a phone GPS thinks you’re doing in an urban area. Buildings, bridges, cloud cover and other things interfere with the GPS signal. Not only that, but iPhones and some other phones use wifi signals, and even your mobile signal to estimate location, neither of which are as accurate as a GPS signal on a proper GPS device, despite what the marketing tells you.

Mile 4 (Real)
Measured Distance I ran

Above you can see the true distance I ran, which takes out the curves and wobbles, and is actually 0.94 of a mile. Usually in my street running, I found my phone to be anywhere between 0.02 and 0.07 per mile off. Over a typical training session of 6 miles, that’s about 0.35 of a mile, or about 5 – 6%. So how significant is this? It’s huge!

Let’s say you record a time of 57:10 for your run (like I did in the above example). If you’re following a training plan, or your coach (especially a virtual coach or one you correspond with over email/Skype etc), it’s the difference between running 6.35 @ 9 mins/mile, which is what your GPS is telling you, Vs. actually running 6 miles at 9:32/mile. So not only do you think you’ve run further, you think you’ve run faster.

OK, so what if you’re running laps in a park, or even a track? Is it more accurate then?

Mile 10 Central Park (GPS)
Last mile of a 10 miles run. My GPS happily tells me I’ve run it in 9:34, which was at the faster end of my target that day.
Mile 10 Central Park (Measured)
Really I had run 0.94 miles, so my 9:34 min/mile was closer to 10:11 min/mile.

As you can see from above, the compounding effect of time and distance is quite significant, and if you’re giving feedback to your coach, the times are going to be misleading. During marathon training, the combination of your regular run (5 – 8 miles) and long runs (10 – 22 miles) are usually done at or just below your predicted marathon pace. Its a self feeding cycle designed to get you to the time you want, but also to see if your body is really up to it along the way. Inaccurate timing is going to mess this up.

Given the stage of my training I was at, and that it’s the 10th mile of a long run, this pace was supposed to be an indicator of what my pace should have been. At 9:34/mile, I would complete a marathon in 4:10:39 (which is what my predicted time was, within a few mins). At 10:11/mile, I would complete a marathon in 4:26:48 (much closer to my actual finish time).

Honest Garmin

OK, so is a dedicated sports watch any better? A decent GPS watch is going to set you back anything from $250 to north of $500, and given a top end smart phone can be had for lower end of that scale, it’s tempting to not bother. But you should reconsider. The GPS tracking on your watch, even if you have a ‘budget’ GPS watch, is likely far more accurate than your phone. First of all, your watch will actually wait until it has a GPS lock until it tells you to start running. Sometimes this can take up to a minute. You probably thought this was your watch being a bit crap, because your phone locks on immediately, right? Wrong. Your phone only tells you when it has a GPS signal, which might be from only one satellite, and just because it has a signal, it can’t necessarily tell you where you are located exactly. Your watch on the other hand will know where you are to more or less within 30 feet, or about 10 meters. Don’t quite believe me?

Here is a workout from today… a 10 mile long run in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is the ugly heat of July, and I’ve cracked mile 3 in a humbling 9:40

Prospect Park Mile 3 (Garmin GPS)
Mile 3 of 10 in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, today.

Using the same mapping tool to check the accuracy of MapMyRun on the iPhone, I measured this distance, which came out to be 1.01 miles. If anything, my Garmin is robbing me, but the difference is very small.

Prospect Park Mile 3 (Measured)
Garmin stole 10 meters!

On a track, and using Garmin’s own mapping, I see the the same thing. Earlier in the week, I did 800m intervals on a track (2 laps). Here’s the distance my watch recorded for those intervals (I started and stopped the timer exactly as I crossed the line after 2 laps):

Garmin 800m Splits
The .49 on the far left is the split distance. 800m is (to be very precise) 0.497 of a mile. Again, Garmin is robbing me of about 10 meters!

So, in conclusion? Don’t believe your phone! If you’re serious about running, you probably already have a dedicated watch, but you may be leaving it at home on occasion. If you don’t have a watch, think about getting one. They’re getting better and better (I have a Garmin 225 and think it’s fantastic, more on that another time) are easier to look at while running, and actually do a better job of telling you what you’re doing. Most watches from most companies allow you to export your workouts and import them into your favorite app (MapMyRun, Strava etc) and some (like Garmin) allow you to sync everything without ever having to click a button.

While I don’t expect necessarily to run any faster this year, simply because I am using a more accurate GPS, I do expect my marathon prediction to be more accurate. In part 3, I’ll crack open the training plan and see what’s in store.

Happy Running!

Marathon Training 2015 – Week 1

I survived week 1, although barely. Today in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, runners were struggling with the heat, even as early as 8:00am, as NYC basks in a heat wave over the next two days.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am using New York Road Runner’s (NYRR) Virtual Trainer, which I am going to review fully later. One of the good things about this plan is that after you input your current running regime, fitness and experience, it creates a plan based on that and gives you a target time for your marathon, which should be realistic. What’s a little surprising is the huge jump in mileage right from the start.

I told it I was running about 20 miles a week, and 3 runs (barely true) and had 3 years’ running experience. Most coaches and most literature tell you not to increase your mileage by more than 10% a week. Instead of suggesting I slowly increase my miles until the official training kicked in (I signed up at the start of June) it actually told me to maintain my current mileage. So imagine my surprise when week 1 is 33 miles, which is more than a 50% increase. I can tell you I felt it.

To be completely fair, the VT did actually tell me I was making a big jump and suggested I move to a more conservative plan, but even that plan starts at 31 miles, still a 50% jump on 20. It might be better if it suggested a slow increase in mileage before the 16 weeks starts.

Week 1 by the numbers

The week was 4×6 miles, at different paces, plus a long run of 9 miles for a total of 33 miles.

Day one was a regular run. My prescribed pace range is 9:05 – 9:20, but in the 77˚ heat and 81% humidity, with zero wind I wilted and only managed a 9:33 pace over 6 miles. Day 2 was an ‘as you feel’ day again over 6 miles, meaning I was supposed to run however I wanted. I ended up doing 9:22, the temperature was 79˚ but the humidity was only 58%.

Day 3 was a tempo run, with a mile warm up, 3 miles at sub-9 mins miles (8:50 – 8:55) and then a 2 mile cool down. My splits for the tempo part was an average of 8:56, although my Garmin 225 seemed to lose the per mile splits because I entered the 3-miles as a single split in the training (more on that another time). After a flex day, when I did almost nothing, I had another regular run day, 6 miles at 9:36 pace, again 75˚ with 79% humidity. So hot hot hot.

Finally today I ran 9.2 miles in what I can only describe has brutal heat and humidity and collapsed to a saunter of 10:24 per mile overall. More wrongly my heart rate went from the low 160’s to spiking at 173… and this was my ‘long run’ which is supposed to be slow, and around 60% max effort.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 7.44.21 PM
Slow pace but high effort is usually a worry, but the heat and humidity were a strong contributing factor. You can see the water breaks as the white lines in the ‘pace’ graph. 11:35 was my slowest pace!

So overall a inconspicuous start to my training. I get tomorrow off, but will be looking for some improvements over the next few weeks, as I feel and actually am slower than this time last year!

Week 1 – 2014 Vs 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 7.58.39 PM
More Miles, but Slower

Starting my NYC Marathon Training

In my last post, I took a look at my 2014 training and race performance, and today is the first official day of my 2015 training plan. As luck would have it, it’s a rest day (yay) which gives me time to take a look at the week coming up and a glance back at my first week last year.

Week 1

In my first week last year I ran 22.9 miles, although was supposed to run 30. I felt unwell right at the start of the training so missed 3 days. My average running pace during that week was 9:40, with my long run pace at 9:45. This week’s training plan has me running 33 miles (with a 9 mile long run), which is just a little further.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 11.34.37 PM
Week 1… doesn’t look that bad!

Tomorrow’s run is a regular 6 miler, and the suggested pace is 9:06 – 9:20 pace, which I think is a little fast for this stage. I’m going to cover more of the overall plan in a later blog post, but for now will just track this week and see how I start.

Happy running!