I like to run. I've learned that it really isn't about where you're going, it's about the getting there - the how, the why, the who with. This blog is just a little repository for my thoughts along the way; the setbacks, the lessons learned, and the occasional triumph.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Pace Projection Quandary

So, feeling good about the new 5K PR I set yesterday, I decided to hit the world wide web and do a little projection math. There are a couple of sites (more, probably) out there that offer calculators to help you project your potential finish times for races in a wide range of distances based on your actual results in a race. I've done this before, but cutting 30 seconds off my previous 5K PR was a pretty big leap and I wanted to see how the numbers might have changed.

The best site I've found for this free calculator and data is: mcmillianrunning.com Greg McMillian is a successful running coach who will work in person and through the web with runners. I know about him because of his connections with Runner's World Magazine. That's where I learned of his website and the calculator page in the first place. McMillian's free service will not only project your race finish times for every distance from 100 Meters to the Marathon, it will also suggest the paces you should be running during your various training workouts. (ie., what your "easy" pace should be, or your "tempo" pace, etc.) Here is the link directly to the calculators page on his site. The Runner's World website also, now, offers its own, simpler version of the same tool.

You do have to remember that the projections are all just estimates. It's just a mathematical, educated guess based on a wealth of data from other runners over the years who train for and run multiple distances at consistent speeds. But it's a good way to get a ballpark on what you might be able to expect from yourself.

MY problem is, the times I've been recording for my long distance races aren't coming anywhere close to my projected times based on my 5K speed.

Here are my projections from both the McMillian and RW calculators:

5K - 21:31
10K - 44:42
13.1M - 1:39:28
26.2M - 3:29:46

5K - 21:31
10K - 44:49
13.1M - 1:38:48
26.2 - 3:25:59

And my Current PRs
5K - 21:31
10K - 47:50
13.1 - 1:45:10
26.2M - 3:59:09

See what I'm saying? Not adding up. Even if the calculators are just "ballpark" that still leaves my current marathon time over 30 minutes slower than the projections. That's huge! Shoot, that slightly optimistic projection from RW would leave me only 10 minutes shy of a Boston Qualifying time.

So, what's going wrong for me? Maybe - just maybe - my body simply isn't, what, "genetically" predisposed to running as well at the marathon distance as it does at the 5K. But I'm more apt to believe that it's my training program that is somehow lacking.

I can say, honestly, that I'm pretty good about sticking to the running program that I've used. Often, I use the free training schedules offered on the RW website. Sometimes I've set up my own schedules based on the RW system. Whichever; I get all my runs in, I hit my paces. I put in the work. Maybe I just haven't figured out the proper quantity of miles to be training on. Last year I did make an effort to up my weekly mileage, but the finish times remained roughly the same.

I guess, I also shouldn't forget that a number of the city marathons I've run have had the bad luck to be held on days when the weather was extreme and debilitating. Chicago '07 is the easiest example, but I've done 6 city-based marathons, and 3 were in unseasonably high heat.

Of course another of my marathons also came after 3 consecutive Ultras. That could be part of the problem, too: the sheer volume of ultra racing that I've done. The toll may be showing up in my marathon times. Or it could also be due to the minimal amount of hill training that I'm able to do in Chicago. I generally never get to do a weekend long run on anything other than a pancake flat course. (I'm often pinched for time during the weekend, so making long drives out of the city to look for hillier routes is tough.)

The answer for now is, I just don't know. The marathon this weekend will be a big test. I've cut out one of my variables by not running any race longer than a 5K since my 100K Ultra last December. For nearly 6 months, all I've done is build myself back up toward this one marathon. I'm also encouraged by the weather forecast for this weekend, which is still reading partly sunny with highs in the low 50s. I feel good about my chances on Saturday, but I've felt that way in the past and then turned in slow times. I remain cautious in my optimism.

If the results are different this time, though, I may have opened up a whole new territory of personal awareness about my body and my running.


Chris said...

Good luck at the Wisconsin Marathon this weekend. Sounds like you may be destined for a PR!

704 Studio said...

Greg, if your looking for a good hill to run, try driving out to Blackwell Forest Preserve near Wheaton. They have a man made monster out there. I trained on that thing in my early 20's, it was a great experience, and made me a stronger runner.

I recall seeing a man running up and down the hill for more than 3 hours in 90 degree heat. When he finally finished I happened to be near him, and I asked him what he was training for. "A 100 mile trail race out west", he told me. At that time (pre internet days), I had no idea men ran such long races. I was in shock when I heard this. "I ran it last year, but they pulled me out at mile 80 because I was taking too long", he explained.

As he walked away, a fire was lit inside me, and I am just now getting around to training for those types of races.