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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
Two weeks ago I set out to reboot my running after a rather lackluster summer. After that post, I ran 17.5 miles the following week, and I’ve just completed 19.5 miles this week ending in a ‘race’ today. Upping my mileage slowly in readiness for the Fred Lebow half marathon in January is the current plan.
Today I was only hoping to finish within 36 mins, and given my evening runs have been in the 10 mins/mile range was pretty sensible. I finished in 35:08 which is a bit better than I’d hoped.
I’m back on track to complete the 1000km challenge (You Vs Year on the Under Armor App) and I have one more race in 2 weeks in Brooklyn, which is another 4-miler. My goal is to beat the 35:08 I got today!
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.