Thursday, June 01, 2006


Back in July of 2005, after bombing the San Diego Rock and Roll marathon with a 2:50, I made a decision to break 2:40 for the distance. This was based mostly on an aided half marathon best of 1:15:25 and an unaided half marathon training run of just under 1:17, coupled with the idea that training according to Arthur Lydiard's teachings would get me there if I did the work. For much of the six months I trained, I was doubtful I could achieve what I had set out to do. Gradually, my mind came around to believing, and later the legs began to follow suit.

The key for me establishing race pace became the three longer time trials I ran leading up to the marathon. Seven weeks out I ran 16 miles with 11 at 6:02 pace, followed by an aided half-marathon six weeks out in 1:12:49, or 5:34 pace. Five weeks out I ran 16 miles with 15 at 6:02 pace, and four weeks out I ran 22 miles with 18 at 6:01 pace. I averaged 87 miles per week for these four weeks of training.

Looking back at this schedule now I notice two things:
1. I should have been able to run at least 6:02 pace for the marathon (I ran 6 flat up to mile 20 then faded to 6:06 pace overall).
2. No wonder I was pooped at the end, those 4 killer weeks still left me with 4 weeks until the race itself.

This time around I changed things up a bit, partially because of a shorter time frame, but also in an effort to get to race day feeling fresher. I didn't do a half marathon 6 weeks out, and I moved my time trials closer to the race itself while shortening the duration of my "anaerobic" and "coordination" phases. A little less than three weeks out I ran 22 miles with 16 at 5:58 pace, four weeks out I ran 17 miles with 15 at 5:58 pace, five weeks out I ran a hilly 10K in 34:38, and six weeks out I ran 20 miles with 14 at 5:59 pace.

If I made the right decisions, I think the training paces suggest 2:35 to 2:38 for the race, or somewhere between 5:55 and 6:02 pace. The exact time will of course depend on the usual variety of factors, some controllable and some not.

There's nothing I can really do to help my chances at this point, save for eating right, sleeping well, and running short and easy. Speaking of that, I put in 6 miles this morning, fighting all the way to stay at 7:18 pace. The legs want to go faster, but they'll have to wait a few more days.

Zeke posted this article by Pete Pfitzinger, which I think is a great read, especially when combined with this post by Duncan Larkin. "If you want to reach your full potential you need to train optimally. You cannot afford to train hard for the sake of training hard—and leave your races on the roads and track while you recover from injury and overtraining on race day—or to waste your time and effort on ineffective training," Pfitzinger writes. Duncan's post is similar, as he ponders what it will take to reach his own ultimate potential. Many of us are in the same boat on this one.

Training: 6 miles, 7:18 pace


Sasha Pachev said...

Do you just want to run a PR, or do you want to see what needs to be done to break 2:30? If you want to run a PR, just go 6:00 pace steady - if you can that day at all you will. If you want to have a learning experience, try 5:50 for as long as you can, then see how fast you can run on fats if you run out of juice before the finish. Who knows, 5:50 might even turn out to be too slow.
Different approaches work for different runners. I like to be ahead of pace. That way, if I crash, I have a reason to tough it out. I also rarely crash too bad, so the risk is usually worth it for me. If I am barely on pace, I start doubting my ability to keep it, and that negative thinking does me in. I also like to experience what its like to be with the faster runners. It gives me something to dream about. Other runners work better starting out more conservatively, though, and you may be one of them.

Duncan Larkin said...

It's Thursday before the marathon and Vegas has set the odds. I'm with 2:34:4X if the conditions are perfect and no slower than 2:36:21(ahem). Mike, you are ready for a good one, my man.

robtherunner said...

Have a great race on Sunday. I will not pretend to have any advice for you because I think you analyze and train as hard and smart as anyone I know, even if I only know you through the blog. Once I run a sub 2:30 then I might give you advice. So needless to say that will not be anytime soon, if ever.

Matt N. said...


I am pulling for you to run a great run and for your foot to ease through without any troubles.... Get the best of it on Sunday.

Joe said...

Mike, I've sure enjoyed the ride as you've trained for this race. No advice from this plodder in Indiana but a lot of support and cyber-cheering.

Have a great run in sandy eggo, I really look forward to the report!!

Marc said...

Mike - Nice pre-race summary and thoughts. No doubt that a sub 2:40 PR is in the cards. I like Duncan's odds and Sasha has provided some food for thought. I can only offer a trite 'Have a great race!'

Ronin said...

Mike, you know what to do and what to avoid. So, I will give you one unsolicited advice :) speaking from my own experience and looking at your 5k PR (which I think could be about 10-15s faster, looking at your training and ability- at the current shape).
Start out at 5:52-55/mile and stay there no matter what and how good you feel. If you feel great after 22nd mile (which probably won't happen), or at least able to pick it up, do it gradually, not looking at the next mile split, but rather as a 4 mile tough race and cca 400m "sprint" (never happened to be in my case even though I broke 2:20 4 times). If you pick up the pace too much from mile to mile, you may suddenly run out of fuel and fade badly.
Good luck, I'll be rooting for you.

GregC said...

Mike best of luck on Sunday. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give you is to say that reading your blog and watching you progress over the past year has made me a better runner. I'm sure you will continue to inspire us on Sunday.

Thomas said...

I can only lamely add my own best wishes for the race. I'll be thinking of you, and I'm looking forward to your race report. Good Luck!

Mark said...

Mike, I don't know Ronin, but keeping a steady pace through 22 is good advice; that's about when the race really starts. Think positive and Good Luck in S.D.