Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Outlier? Outrageous!

Ingo just suggested that my 4:04/km might have been an outlier. Which is a fair question. But it looks more like a trend to me. As I said, the tests both before and after were also supported by the general trends on other runs. And I worked my arse off to make that trend happen, so it is all very real to me. What I will admit though, is that it is just a standard test for some kind of quantitative tracking of fitness over time. What I don't have is a reliable way of translating that test result into a target race pace for any particular distance. I am not for a moment suggesting that it meant I should have been able to run a marathon at 4:04/km. In fact I am now pretty certain that I over-reached when I went for sub 4:10/km pace. But I am OK with that because I decided to risk the sub-3 result by taking a shot at a PB, and to get a PB I had to run sub 4:10 pace. And for one reason and another it just wasn't to be.

All this does raise the question, of course, as to what is a good predictor of your current capability? Especially for the marathon where going out hard and hanging on simply doesn't work. Arobically, I was in as good a shape as I have been in, but it didn't translate into overall endurance because the build-up had been too short and there were not enough longer endurance/stamina runs, and perhaps not enough taper. So given that tests like this give a good indication of aerobic fitness, I wonder what you can do (apart from running the marathon) to adjust your upper aerobic pace to account for lack of endurance?

This is especially important for some of those fast-twitch people who blat around for 5k or 10k, but struggle to put together a marathon worthy of their potential, usually because they short-change themselves on the necessary endurance work. OK, so how do they adjust their 17:30 5k capability for the fact that they have only done two runs over 30 km? This is where McMillan calculators and the like break down and/or get abused leading to those horrible blow-ups in races that I have seen happen so many times.

What I am suggesting here is that a 3:10 marathon with even splits is probably a better marathon than a 3:10 with a 2:50-pace first-half and a 3:30-pace, horribly painful, part-walked second half (Dan, Martin, care to comment?). So how does Mr or Ms 17:30 5k runner convince himself to go out at 4:20/km instead of 4:02/km?? For me, the situation was not quite that dramatic, but the same principle definitely applied.

I suppose the answers are out there somewhere in coaching-boffin land!

15 comments:

speedygeoff said...

My experience? Keeping it simple: The only variables I have found to be significant in predicting marathon time are (a) body weight, and (b) total distance run in the eight weeks prior to the marathon. And compare that with previous marathons. I also run a half, flat out, a month before, but that's essentially a dress rehearsal and confidence builder. So I think, if you haven't done as many ks as before? Then run slower! The pb won't happen.

Scott said...

I'm pretty sure you won't get better advice than what Speedygeoff just gave.

Still I'd like to comment on all the talk about marathons taking such a heavy toll. I think it is a bit over the top and we should all be a bit more hardcore. These runners from the 1970's and 80's with there high milage and back to back marathons must think this is all a bit wimpish.

And as for what ingo said about wasting fitness on "crap" times in "crap" weather. I think that is basically that, you know "crap."

No marathon is wasted like no person is a complete waste they can always be used as an example of what not to do or become.

Ingo said...

Scott, maybe you misunderstood me a little. Sacrificing the Tokyo Marathon allowed me to prepone my next training cycle which is a bit more important to me when I look at the bigger picture. I had not much to gain from suffering a couple of hours in cold rain without much hope to finish an evaluation marathon on target. What I am doing right now I would still not be able to do if I had run Tokyo. Fitness is a precious commodity and we may well use it wisely in line with our goals, don't you think?

Scott said...

Sure, Ingo we must do what we feel works for us as individuals.

But there are no "sure things" in this game. Goal races and perfect plans do can come apart on occasion.

For mine I'd worry that if I didn't do Tokyo the experience itself would be lost to me. You may run, intelligently, with certain goals, thoughtfully manoeuvring but I run, mostly, for the sheer sake of it and, in fact, knowningly put myself in positions that make it hard for me in order to see how I can cope with it. I use my fitness in a somewhat cavalier way but that's just me.

I don't totally subscribe to it but I can understand what I heard a novice runner once say. "If you really train for a marathon and run well what's the challenge in that."

Some people thrive on running "crap" times in "crap" weather. I guess I'm closer to their way of thinking than the pros at this stage of my running life.

Having said that if I didn't really care at all about trying to run my best I wouldn't be reading everyones blogs about doing just that!

Stephen Lacey said...

I guess the take-home message here for Ingo is that it was possible to interprate your "crap times" comment as a negative reflection on those of us who did go out and run crap times. I did a second take when I first read it. But I realized you didn't mean anything other than a reflection on your own decision for your own reasons. You may well be right that fitness is a precious commodity that should be used judiciously, but I also accept that PBs are simply not always going to happen and you just run each race to which you have committed to the best of your ability under the conditions of the day. That is the nature of the sport. But that's a personal thing and I see nothing wrong with you taking the decision you did. It is for each to decide their own fate and not for others to judge. I am going to be watching your experiment this year with great interest and really look forward to seeing you reap the rewards at the end of the year.

Ingo said...

Got the message Steve. Looks like I was inviting some misunderstanding but lucky me you bailed me out! Man, hats off to everyone who ran the bloody Tokyo Marathon! I feel soft compared to you guys but it's not been an easy call to pull out on race day, believe me. In my case there wasn't even a PB on the line - 'only' an evaluation. I could have probably gone full out with my half marathon PB in Shinjuku but it would have been premature. Yes, I do miss the Tokyo experience and I am trying hard to compensate for that. Maybe I am just making up my own little reality to deal with that trauma. Scott, I like your last paragraph a lot. In the end we're all nuts ;-)

Pete said...

Do you track resting heart rate? I think that beyond the obvious joy some of us men get by measuring things, an elevated resting heart rate would predict elevated HR during your test. And I think that although resting heart rate does fall as fitness improves, an elevated resting HR is more likely a symptom overtraining (or a cold, or too much Dog Fish Ale the night before).

Eric said...

I would suggest that the trend, as you rightly described it, was due to the efficiencies (neuromuscular and aerobic/anaerobic) gained at the faster training speeds you likely ran in workouts as you reached your peak. Following the 'hammer' to your legs and energy systems that is the marathon, your efficiencies evaporate due to the muscle damage and overall training stress of the event--not your fitness.

Your body is reacting in much the same way as in the two to three days after an extremely hard workout--craving recovery to adapt to the most recent stress. In this case, the distance adds another element of stress, i.e. muscle damage, that requires an extended recovery.

As long as that recovery happens, the marathon is an incredible aerobic stimulus that will increase your fitness dramatically. All that is required to maintain your aerobic fitness is 30-45 minutes at 70-80% maxHR every three days. That would be at the minimum.

Getting back to 4:05-4:10 should happen relatively quickly if you recover well.

Tesso said...

Wow Steve, you've started quite the discussion here. And all good stuff, I think I may have learnt something even.

In answer to your question "So how does Mr or Ms 17:30 5k runner convince himself to go out at 4:20/km instead of 4:02/km??" I reckon they'd only have to do it once and that would convince them not to do it next time ... if there was a next time.

2P said...

And then - you can just run however you feel and knowing how far you have to go.

Rachel said...

Wow, a lot's happened on your blog in the last month I haven't been around! First, congratulations on the Tokyo marathon effort! Like everyone else says the conditions were tough and I think it's great you keep striving for that sub 3 goal. I'm sure it will come.
Thanks for the encouragement on my blog. I was a TO at siro and like you said there were a lot of TOs who stay and get stuck in their place. After 4 years I decided that wasn't my place.
And, I will start on the speed work today!

Faithful Soles said...

Very interesting and thought provoking post. It made me want to share some of my strategies. My Boston qualifying times where I have been successful (3 times) probably fly in the face of all logic. I know that to BQ I am not talented enough to run a negative split (my qualifying times have ranged from sub-3:20, which I did twice in the 40-44 group, and one sub-3:30 for the 45-49 group). I have qualified each and every time by about one minute or less, so I'm definitely on the bubble. Here's what I did: I pretty much ran about 15 seconds under the qualifying pace per mile I needed to mile 20 in each race, so therefore I had a "cushion" of about 4-5 minutes at the 20 mile marker. From that point, I throttled back and ran the last 10K in about 20-30 seconds over the pace per mile I needed, and it gave me a huge psychological boost to know that if I did start to slow down by even as much as 1:00 per mile, I'd still make my time. For me, the plan has worked every time, but as I said, it is completely against all of the negative split theories.

By the way, I wanted to also thank you again for linking to our Blog Database on the main Faithful Soles web site. We now have bloggers from 37 states in the USA and 20 other countries. I wish you continued good luck in your training and racing.

Faithful Soles said...

One more thing to add what I said above, all 3 of those marathons where I qualified were in perfect weather conditions. Of the 16 marathons I've completed, including the 3 Bostons, I'd say only about 5-6 of those were ideal conditions. The others (mostly in Houston where we've had temps in January in the 70's and 80's with high humidity), I left my ego at home and just did the distance without any pressure as to time and had a great experience by using that attitude.

Ewen said...

I think Mr or Ms 17:30 5k runner can convince themselves to go out at a more reasonable pace if they've tried similar things in training and seen the benefits. For example, very controlled long runs such as 35k @ 4:40 pace all the way.

What Geoff said about halves being good predictors is on the money. If there is no race, you could simulate one and aim for 83 minutes (slightly slower than you might do for a race with competitors), but it would indicate a 2:54 marathon if you had the weeks of long runs.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve,

Sorry for not checking in for so long - I have been sick and busy studying. Between the two I have run a total of seven times in 2007. Not very auspicious =)
To answer your question, if I knew in advance that I was going to run a 3:10 before the race began, then I would try to throttle back and run 4:20s instead of suffering at the end. But if my training at least hints that I can run a 2:48-2:52, then I will try my hardest to be fast. If I ran marathons more frequently then maybe I would be more willing to run a conservative pace.
Regardless, it is really hard to run a pace that I psychologically consider to be "slow." So running 4:20 in anything resemble a race condition is extremely difficult to get myself to do.

Dan