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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Give Your Best

What are the odds of having practically the same finish time in two different marathons two years apart? My time in Toronto last Sunday was only one second slower than a race in New York a couple of years ago. Is it a sign that these two races are somehow related? This linkage seems intriguing, almost inviting me to seek and uncover a deeper meaning between these two events. Maybe a brief retrospection will present me with a lesson-learned and will help me improve as a runner? 

Memories of racing NYCM in November 2011 are still vivid. It was a "do-or-die" race: run as fast as possible for as long as possible, was my strategy. After clocking 1:25 for at half-point, my quads were shot at 18-mile from running up and down on a hilly course. Limping to the finish line in Central Park my last 8 miles were slow and agonizing, ultimately giving me 3:01:35 finish time. My tank was empty. Gave it all. Played to win and lost: went for the "gold" and ended up forth, giving up a strong chance for silver or bronze.

STWM on October 20 this year was a "play-it-safe" race with my rational voice controlling my excitement and telling me to slow down at the beginning of the race. Keeping a reasonable pace I was on target with 1:30 at half-point, only to find myself losing precious time in the unexpected curvy and hilly last 4 miles ultimately finishing with 3:01:36 in pretty good form. Had this disappointing feeling that there was still some untapped energy in a tank. My run should have been more aggressive. Played cautious defense to maintain a one-goal hockey lead only to lose a goal in the last minute of the third to an opponent not afraid to take their chances.

My attempts at breaking 3-hour mark were unsuccessful in both races, resulting in a bitter/sweet memories and a sense of dissatisfaction from missing a goal. Comparing both races with their quite contrasting running strategies, I couldn't help but ponder a question: which "dissatisfaction" was more "satisfying"? Was a risky running strategy in New York more satisfying than much safer approach in Toronto?

Searching my soul in the last few days I had to admit that my running philosophy was strongly influenced by Steve Prefontaine who said:  "To give anything than your best is to sacrifice the gift"

Run Strong  ... and give your best!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Race performance predictor

You probably experienced a little bit of self-doubt in your own abilities before a race, especially if you aim for a PB and have never run 26.2 miles at a new goal pace. Fortunately there are methods we can use to predict performance in upcoming race. Some are simple, some are more sophisticated.

Skinny method is a simple one. When your family and friends start expressing their concerns  about your diet and say you look skinny it’s a good sign you’re fit and ready.

Magic Mile is a tough one. Running one mile as fast as you can (without puking) is quite unpleasant cardio extravaganza, but according to Jeff Galloway, it is a good predictor of your performance at various distances.

5K Race is slightly more sophisticated method. You need to race 5K as part of your training.  According to Gerry Purdy, an author of Computerized Running Training Program, a 5K time is a good predictor of performance in a full-marathon. For example, to run 3-hour marathon, one needs to be able to sprint 5K distance in approximately 18 minutes.

16 Miler is a painful one. Another well-known coach, Hal Higdon believes that you should be able to comfortably run 16 miles at the race pace 3 weeks before the event. 

Half-marathon is a common method to assess readiness for a full-marathon. Multiply your half-marathon time by 2 and add 10 minutes to have a pretty good approximation of your potential time running 26.2.

Yasso-800 is probably the most popular performance assessment method. According to Bart Yasso, if you aim to run a 3-hour marathon you should be able to sprint 800 meters in 3 minutes and rest by walking or jogging for 250 meters. To run a marathon at 4 hours you should be able to run 800 meters in 4 minutes and so on. If you can do 10 of those “Yasso-800”, you’re ready!

Runner's World Race Predictor is a calculator based on the formula that uses time result of one race to compute predicted time of another race. 

However, all these methods are only “predictors” that will never give you full assurance of success come the race day.  I have been pondering if my goal to break 3-hour mark running Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon next week is realistic. Have done Yasso-800, check.  Guys at work tell me I look "skinny”, check. Survived 5-minute mile, check. Squeezed 16 miles at a race pace recently, check.  Did Ottawa hilly and windy 13.1 Army Run at 1 hour 26 min, check.  

My confidence was boosted recently when some of Ottawa's hard-core endurance runners started giving me this subtle recognition “nod” when running along the canal. Is this a sign? Am I ready?

Run Strong!

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