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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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!

What a Difference 3 Weeks Makes

It’s certainly true that it takes longer to recover lost fitness than it does to lose it in the first place. However don’t ever let that put you off getting back into the swing of things if you’ve let your fitness regime slide and are worried about how long it will take you to recover most of it back. Let’s take a look at two 8-mile runs I did; one on Nov 6th (the day of the NYC Marathon) and one today a mere three weeks later.

The TLDR; version of this is that on Nov 6th, I ran 8 miles @10:04 min/mile for a total time of 1:20:37. On Nov 27th I ran exactly the same course in 1:16:23 @9:32 min/mile, which is just shy of my regular long run speed. The temperature was more or less the same (46 degrees today and 52 on Nov 6th) so that wasn’t really a factor. What was a factor was the average weekly mileage for the 4 weeks prior to the run. My average before today was 28.8, whereas my average prior to Nov 6th was 13.7, so less than half.

So here’s a breakdown mile by mile. After starting at more or less the same pace, 3 weeks ago I had to back off that pace quickly and never recovered. Today although I slowed slightly to a steady pace, I was able to maintain it for most of the run.

8-miles-v-8-miles
On Nov 6th I’m struggling to maintain my usual long run pace. On Nov 27th, I’m almost back to my usual training run time.

Another thing I looked at was my heart rate. Today there was a glitch because my watch was loose for the first few mins so it looks like a spike, but even accounting for that my average HR was lower today, despite a faster run, than 3 weeks ago.

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OK, so this is hardly scientific, and it was only a training run based on how I felt like running. But the stats, and how I felt while running tell the same story, which is after three weeks of gradually increasing mileage after a few months of barely keeping up, seems to have made a big difference.

Nest week I have a 4m race, the final one of the year and my marathon qualifier. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s quicker than the 4m race I ran last week.

Happy running!

The Brooklyn Half Marathon – No PR!

It’s almost a week since I ran the Brooklyn Half marathon for the 3rd consecutive year, and if I am honest, I was really hoping I’d beat my half marathon PR of 1:56:07 after getting 2016 PR’s at 5K and at 4 miles. Although I did beat my course record from 2014, I missed out on a PR, and by quite a margin. 1:59:08 was my official time, a full three minutes short of my PR. I’m pretty disappointed, although perhaps it’s fate that I’ll have to beat this record at Staten Island in October, which is where I set it in the first place.

I am no 100% sure why I missed it by such a margin, but looking at the data my Garmin captured, it looks like it was a case of setting off too quickly.

All the way until mile 7, I was more than a minute ahead, and even at mile 9 was still 20 seconds ahead (although my GPS was buzzing a little before the markers at this point, as I was probably not running the most optimal route). Looking at the table below, getting this extra time at the start may have cost me later on.

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This is exactly what not to do in a race…

At mile 9 I’d fallen behind for the first time, and never got my pace back under 9mins/mile. By that time, I had planned to be running @ 8:40/mile or faster for the remainder of the race.

What’s quite interesting is looking at my stats from my watch at this point (below). I can see that although the race starts downhill (which should be easier), it’s also now on a straight with less crowding, what happens is my pace slows and at the same time my heart rate actually increases. I could understand if my pace simply slowed through tiredness, but my HR goes in the other direction indicates a lack of conditioning and readiness, which I wasn’t expecting. Or simply that banking almost 2 mins of time at mile 4 was a terrible idea! Yes… probably that…

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Here is what starting too fast does to you…

So, what now?

Well I have a 3.2 mile run on June 1st for the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge. I did this in 26:10 in 2015… so perhaps I can grab that PR instead!

2nd PR of 2016 – Red Hook Crit 5K

For the 2nd year running, my 5K PR has been set at the Red Hook Criterium 5K race, my official time was 23:21 beating last year’s 23:36 by 15 seconds. Five grueling 1000m laps, with a field packed with elite and sub-elite runners, I placed 208th out of 240 runners!

The Red Hook Crit is better known for its crazy cycling circuit, but in recent years the 5K has started to feature more prominently. This year the men and women ran separately. The men’s race was won by Abebe Sihine Mekuria in a breathtaking 14:45 (or 4:45 min/mile) with the second placed Jack Davies also finishing under 15 minutes with 14:53.

The women’s race was won by Zeineba Hasso Hayato in 17:36 and 2nd spot also under 18 minutes was Jennie Cohen with 17:59.

Last Lap
Closing in on the Finish Lane on Lap 5

So this is now officially the fastest 5K I’ve ever run, and 2016 is shaping up to be a good year for setting PR’s.

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3 races under 23 minutes

Next up is the Brooklyn Half. In 2014 I ran it in 2:00:11 just missing out of two hours, and my Half Marathon PR is still 1:56:07 on Staten Island in the same year. I should definitely beat my course record, although that PR might be a little trickier to get, given in 2014 I was at peak marathon fitness at that time.

Let’s see…

5K – Under 24 Minutes Again

Yesterday I ran the Eileen Dugan 5K at Brooklyn Bridge Park, finishing 28th out of 168 in 23:59. It was only the second time I’ve finished a race under 24 minutes, so I am pretty happy with it.

Brooklyn Bridge 5K
Just crossing the line, in 23:59.

My splits were decent, all under 8 mins with the middle mile the slowest. It took a good 5 – 10 seconds to get over the start line (which wasn’t clocked) so it was gun Vs finish. I was a good 23 seconds shy of my PR, but I have another 5K later this month so there’s a chance.

Brookyn Bridge 5K MMR
Decent Splits, pretty pleased with Mile 3

The race was won by South Brooklyn Running Club’s Ben Carter in 18:02 and the top women’s finisher was Serena Hunt in 19:59.

I haven’t ran a huge number of 5K’s over the last 3 years, but looking at my finish times, the last couple really have shown a big improvement in my speed, but I know I can do a lot more to improve this with strength and speed work, which I have seriously neglected since I started running.

5K Race Time and Pace 2013 - 2016
Gradual Improvement. Next race is the 2016 Crit.

This evening it will be a long slow 8-miles as I prepare for two up and coming races, the Red Hook Crit 5K and Brooklyn Half Marathon. The latter I am hopeful of a course best (I’ve never cracked two hours), as for the former, I am really hoping for a 5K PR.

Red Hook Crit 5K

So last year, this is the race I came 120th out of 135 runners, which I was very pleased about  as I got my 5K PR in some style, and the race had an incredible field, the winner crossing the line in 14:21. Yesterday’s winning time at the Brooklyn Bridge Park would have placed 40th, just to add some context. It was 4 laps of 1.25K each. This year it’s 5 laps of 1000m each, so to figure out how to break my PR, I need to work in Kilometers.

My time last year was 23:36 over 5K, which is 4:43/KM. So I am looking at doing laps quicker than 4:43. During my marathon training I’d quite often do 400m laps in about 1:50 but remember that feeling pretty tough – well this is 1:53 per 400m which for me is very fast. But I managed it once… all I need to do is manage it again and knock off 1 second somewhere!

Easy eh? I’d better get to the track…

First PR of 2016 – 4 Miles

Four miles is an unusual race distance. It certainly isn’t an Olympic distance, and there aren’t that many 4 miles races compared to 5K’s, 10K’s or Half Marathons, but in NYC there are several per year hosted by NYRR and others. I’ve grown quite fond of the distance; just being that almost extra mile longer than a 5K, you can’t go almost flat out like you do in a 5K but you don’t need to hold back as much as you do in a 10K, so it’s a pretty nice distance.

I targeted this race to be my first realistic PR for 2016, and I pretty much race the entire race as I planned, which is a great feeling. My prior PR was 34:27 in 2014, and today I ran 32:19, over 2 mins faster.

I’ve slowly improved from the first 4M race I ran in 2013 (see below). I had a dip in 2015 but overall it’s a pretty decent improvement from my early races to go from around 9:30 min/mile to 8:05 today.

4 Miles 2013 to 2016

Splits

Mile was started steady, I actually love a slow start, and in most NYRR races you’re in the crowds anyway, so panicking and flying off isn’t a great idea. I did the first mile in 8:15, which was a little quicker than I expected, but I felt great. Mile two I just kept my breathing the same, but increased my cadence slightly (which is pretty visible below) and completed mile two in 7:45.

Cadence on 4M PR.png
Cadence Against Distance. After passing the crowd in the first mile, I quicken my stride slightly.

Mile three was mostly a slight climb, and this is where I was glad I had not been going any faster, because although the hill had me gasping little, I never felt uncomfortable, and completed it 8:14, which was still way ahead of the pace needed for a PR.

Mile four felt like the hardest mile, but I ran 7:50 again, and looking back at my pace and HR, I can see it was the most strenuous, but no slower than mile 2 which felt pretty good.

So… finally some good running news after a pretty disappointing 2015. I have two more 5K’s in April and then the Brooklyn Half in May.

HR and Elevation 4M PR
GPS’s are never great at capturing pace as the satellite tracking is not always consistent. But the elevation and HR are accurate, so this makes interesting reading for me.