Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Going for broke

Pete has the most well-thought-out racing strategies I've ever seen. His analytics are exceptionally scientific and thorough. Best of all, he has an intuitive knack for applying all of that data into race-day performance. I imagine the inside of Pete's runner's brain looks like this:
Pete's racing results speak for themselves, too. If I have my facts straight, he has logged six consecutive PRs in six different distances so far this year. SIX!!!

Maybe it's a coincidence, but do you notice a resemblance in the following two photos?
It's gotta be the shoes.
(Photo credit: Xaarlin)
(Extra credit to those of you who recognized my reference to the Nike commercial from 1989.)

Pete uses the McMillan calculator to predict his running times. In several instances, the results have been scary accurate. For example, it predicted his 1-mile racing time would be 5:07, and last weekend he clocked a 5:08 (read his recap here).

Three years ago, I wrote this post about racing predictors. In summary, my racing times are comparatively stronger at shorter distances. All of the predictors consistently indicate that I should be able to run the longer distances much faster than I do.

Given Pete's success with McMillan, I decided to take another look at what it would predict for me. I entered a 5K time of 25:35, which is my most recent PR. Here are the results:
Let's talk about both ends of the spectrum. Maybe it's all mental block, but I think the predicted 7:22 mile would be a stretch. Perhaps I could do it at an extremely hard, I-think-I'm-going-to-vomit effort, but the thought of pushing myself that hard scares the living daylights out of me.
On the other side, McMillan predicts a 1:58:27 half marathon for me. My current half marathon PR is 2:09:43, and that felt like it took plenty of effort. The thought of challenging sub-2 completely eludes me right now. I feel like it would take at least another two or three years of hard work.

While in general these predictors make my eyes bulge, it made me start thinking about how I run with expectations. During my long training runs, no matter how slow the pace, I frequently get tired around the 80% completion mark. It makes me wonder what would happen if I did attempt paces closer to these predictor levels. Would it simply lead to the age-old tradition of fizzling out from starting too fast? Or is that part of the fundamental mental block, too?
I have certainly heard some amazing stories of runners unexpectedly knocking 30 minutes off of their half marathon times and chalking it up to breaking through the mental barriers (I'm looking at you, Amanda!!!). While it would be cool for me to go for broke and miraculously nail the predicted time, I know the practical answer is that I should try to train closer to the predicted levels. The point is that the predictor indicates that I likely have the capability - with the right preparation. 

Maybe even with adequate training, I still can't nail a sub-2. But at the very least, there's a big difference between sub-2:10 and sub-2 that could probably be narrowed, right? Any and all progress would still be terrific.
Right now, I don't have the motivation nor the focus to work towards this ambitious of a goal - and for me, this would be extremely ambitious! Summertime running does not leave much to be desired, either. So maybe this will be my big project come fall? Even before then, I have the tough mental task of trying to wrap my mind around the mere possibility of these paces - that alone will take a lot of time!

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Inaugurally linking up with Annmarie, Michelle, Nicole, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.

16 comments:

  1. I once heard a sports psychologist say that some of the best runners he's seen have "run stupid." Meaning, they just went out and ran and didn't have any preconceived notion of what their pace could/should/would be. I'm almost positive you could clock a sub-2 half marathon but, yes, you'd need to put in the work! Speed work, tempo runs, and running your long runs maybe a little bit faster. I don't blame you for not wanting to do it in the summer, though! I'm still thinking of doing an 8 week 5K focused training aiming for the Park Ridge 5K but the thought of starting it at the end of July is not super exciting!

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    1. "Run stupid" makes perfect sense to me! It makes me think about how when I was younger, and didn't know any better, I had just as much (if not more) success in racing versus what I do now. Thanks for your confidence in me! The summer just sucks the motivation out of so many of us, though, right? The idea of starting a 5K training program at the end of July would take a lot of gusto, for sure! Regardless, I know you'll nail your 5K goals because you always do!

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  2. Honestly once I learned to overcome my mental barriers it was a game changer for me. I was sitting right around your current half marathon time last September and I just got my sub 2 hour half. Don't be afraid to chase big goals, it's scary to think about and can seem impossible but it's doable.

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    1. Oh wow! That is an amazing accomplishment to have made that much progress on your half marathon in such a short amount of time, Jen! HUGE CONGRATULATIONS!!! This is very encouraging to me, too. We are only limited by what our minds will allow, yes?

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  3. I have wondered in the past how much the mental game is affecting me. Like I often run slower on the treadmill than in real life. Because I have this idea that I can't possibly run under 9 min/mi for very long. But in the real world, without the feedback/knowledge of how fast I'm going, I often end up running that fast or faster. (Ok - Not right NOW, but in the past).

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    1. ME TOO with running slower on the treadmill than in real life! There are days when I'm almost crawling on the treadmill, but it feels like it takes just as much effort as race pace. I am starting to think more about trying to run "blind" without relying on my Garmin. Sometimes seeing the data messes with my head in the wrong ways, you know? And considering you haven't been running as much recently, you are still knocking out super solid times! Look at how well you did on your Narrow Gauge 10-miler!!!

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  4. What an honor to be cited in your blog! Oh yeah it was definitely the shoes. Now, if I could remember which ones I was wearing at the time of that photo! I think you could seriously reach that 7:22 mile without the fear of vomit! If you pace correctly, the only time you should feel like that is over the last 100 yards, otherwise your mind will force you to slow down so as not to puke your guts out! Every time I plan out my paces for a race, I think to myself, “I couldn’t possibly run that fast since I train much more slowly!” Then the start gun fires, my adrenaline soars and I slip into my race pace and lo and behold I accomplish my goal almost to the second! It’s a leap of faith, but it almost is always correct. Anyway, the tables have been reliable for me this year, since I have been training consistently for the past two years at both ends of the spectrum - one long run per week and a few short sprints with my puppy every day! I've also been racing every third weekend or so, which helps with the predictability of the converted times. Weather has also been consistent for my spring races. However, don't ask me what the tables say I should be able to run a marathon in however. According to the tables, I could run them much faster. In athlinks I’m in the top 5% of 5kers but only in the top 15% of marathoners. Maybe I have more fast twitch muscle fibers than slow twitch fibers? If this is true, the tables will always fail me in predicting race times in distances over a half marathon in length. I reread your Prairie State PR recap and you mention near the end of the post that you could have pushed yourself more even more than you did! Do you still think that was the case? Speaking of the mental side of running, did you happen to read Kim's book review of "How Bad Do You Want it?" which is about the psychobiological model of endurance performance? I haven't read the book but have read a couple of books by the author and he is pretty good. Kim has a bullet list of the book's highlights: http://www.ilaxstudio.com/blog/2016/01/12/how-bad-do-you-want-it-book-review/

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    1. What an honor to be able to learn from all of your race strategy and experiences! =) It's gotta be the shoes!

      I've learned from you about pacing more effectively at 5Ks - so I can certainly see how the same strategy would apply to a 1-miler. YES - I have always had a tough time making the connection between the slower training paces I use versus race pace. But there's a reason why we train at slow paces, right?

      I've heard a lot about how when we train, we should either run slowly and comfortably, or we should run for pace. Translation - no junk miles! And it sounds like that is exactly what you do! I am surprised the marathon predictors say you should be faster because you are PLENTY fast as it is.

      I need to learn more about fast twitch muscle fibers because I don't know anything about them. Kim actually said something about them when I was talking about interval training, so I do need to go back and look at her book review. Thanks for the tip!

      YES - I do feel like I could have pushed harder at Prairie State. However, I think I could have improved by maybe a minute or two at most. I do NOT think I could have run a sub-2 that day! But it's all a progression over time, of course. It's what we train for. =)

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  5. According to McMillan's pace predictor I should be able to run a 4:03 marathon. The closest I've come is 4:17. Sigh.

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    1. Wendy, I strongly believe you could run a 4:03. You've had some days on the course where things didn't go your way, and you've also run some very challenging courses (hello, Big Sur!). Under the right conditions and with the right course, I KNOW you would run a 4:03 - and you're such a powerhouse that I believe you could do even better than that! I would have thought the predictors would have you at a sub-4, for sure!

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  6. I think overcoming the mental barriers is key. It definitely takes a lot of hard work and dedication but I totally think your sub 2 goal is doable! :) You got this!!!

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    1. The mental barriers are even harder than the physical barriers, in my opinion! Thank you so much for your confidence in me, I really appreciate it, Annmarie!

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  7. Overcoming the mental barriers is huge! For a long time I told myself I really couldn't run faster than 10 min/miles for no reason other than my mind said I couldn't. Most of my best times in races have actually come before I had a Garmin watch so maybe I do run "a bit stupid". (I haven't run many standalone running races since then either).
    I think you could definitely get a sub-2 half. It would just take some specific training. I agree with your comment up above that training should be either done slowly or at a higher pace. I think often I just would like to run at moderately hard which is mostly just junk miles for me. I've noticed the biggest improvements when I do tempo runs and slow recovery runs (even though I really don't like the numbers on my watch when I do slow runs!)

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    1. Alyssa, I had a mental barrier with the 10-minute mile pace, too! I think there is something about going into single-digit paces that made it feel like a bigger deal than it really is. I think I need to start running more stupid so I don't psych myself out with all the numbers mid-run. =)

      Thank you so much for your thoughts and your confidence in me! It's a challenge to NOT run junk miles. I feel like I'm prancing around when I run slowly, and the tempo runs are obviously uncomfortable and harder on the body. It's scary to run the slow runs and log the slow numbers because I find it hard to imagine how that would translate to race performance. It sounds like you totally understand that, too!!!

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  8. I bet you'd surprise yourself if you went for broke on a mile run. These days, I usually run a 5K in 24:30-25:15, depending on the day/conditions, but when I did a mile run a month ago or so, I did it in 7:15. Being used to running long distances and then doing something so short makes it much easier to go faster - you don't really have to save anything for later! I've been thinking about this mental barrier stuff a lot lately as well, actually. My RunnersConnect workouts sometimes are bonkers - like two weeks ago, it wanted me to do two two-mile repeats at an 8:30-8:40 pace, plus a mile of warmup and cooldown. I thought that sounded absurd. I usually run my SHORT intervals at that kind of pace, never mind TWO MILES at that pace (unless I'm in a 5K race setting). I thought I'd get hurt, or wouldn't be able to hold the pace, or would die, or whatever, but as I was telling myself all these reasons why I couldn't do it, I started wondering, "What if the reason I've never done this before is because I've convinced myself I'm not able to do it?" Now, granted, the weather was perfect the day I went for that run, but I was very close to hitting my pace (three of those four miles were 8:4x). I think there's a HUGE mental side to this sport, and it's really important to not convince yourself you can't do something just because you think you can't - most of the time, if you've trained properly, you can!

    Bethany @ Accidental Intentions

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    1. A 7:15 mile is AWESOME - great job, Bethany! Thanks for the words of encouragement and confidence, too. You are right, you never know until you try, of course. Overcoming the mental barriers is SO HARD. Congratulations and way to push through on that RunnersConnect workout two weeks ago! My eyes are bulging just reading those paces. For you to be able to get so close to hitting your pace is AMAZING. What a great confidence booster! That's a great way to start out your marathon training cycle. Here is hoping that it will just keep getting better and better after getting that boost at the outset. It's all about proper training, whether we believe in it or not! There's a reason why we are always told to trust our training plans, yes???

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