Well, my first marathon of the season (of 3, maybe 4) is coming up this weekend.  I’m doing the New Mexico Marathon on Sunday.  With multiple marathons on my schedule the idea is to get race ready by racing.  The most specific way to train for a marathon, simply put, is to run one.  So with that said, I by no means intend to Boston Qualify in this race.  I hope it will prepare me for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in September and Harrisburg Marathon in November, which is the race I intend to peak for.

Originally I had thought about running a 7:15 pace for a long as I could hang on for, then just hanging on to finish.  I think that’s a little risky, certainly at this point in my training.  Instead, I’m hoping to keep a solid 8 minute pace, staying with the 3:30 pace group for at least the first 20 miles, then do an assesment.  I’ll see how I’m feeling.  If I’m feeling well, I’ll make a move, charge ahead of the group, and run the remainder of the race solo.  Otherwise I’ll try to hang on with the 3:30 group until the end.  In either case, I should shatter my previous marathon PR (3:54:59).  I think if I can do this, it will be a big confidence boost, and will validate how I’m training.

I’m happy with how my training has gone lately,  particularly in the past couple of weeks, where I’ve put in a 1:29:36 12 miler (7:27 pace), a 30:18 4.5 mile race on trail (6:44), a good set of 8 800m repeats w/ 400m rest (all at or under 3:15), and a memorable run on the Appalachian Trail where I somehow was able to run the second half of my run, which was uphill, faster then the first downhill half.  The only question mark is if I’ve put in enough miles.  Because I’ve been doing my long runs on the Appalachian Trail, including some very hilly rocky sections, and doing my runs based on time, not distance, my longest long run has been only 15 miles.  This run took me three and a half hours.  That’s just how much the conditions of the trail slow me down.  I’m hoping that the length of time and the mental toughness forged on the trail will be a good trade-off over mileage.  This race will be the test.

Breakthrough run

August 2, 2008

I feel like I’ve gotten more fit in the past couple weeks, but the heat and humidity of a Northern Virginia summer have kept me from posting times that reflect that.  This morning it was 71 degrees, overcast and rainy – I couldn’t ask for better conditions in the summer.

There were a ton of runners out there Today… maybe because of the gloomy-but great weather, or maybe it’s just that time of year where more runners start popping up on trails, training for fall races.  I saw a few runners go by while I was warming up, probably from the Ashburn Running club, and wondered if I’d be able to catch up with them during my run.  Motivated by this, the good weather, and the need to prove to myself that I was faster then the times I had been running this summer, I ran a quick first 1.5 miles, all of it under a 7 minute pace.  During my runs in the normal summer heat, I’d struggle to get out to a good start.  Satieted by this start, and feeling good, I then decided I’d slow it down a little bit.  I knew I had 12 miles to run Today, and I knew my body wouldn’t be quite used to the faster pace.  I also figured it may start to warm up later.  I got into a good rhythm running about a 7:30-7:40 pace (really should start keep track of mile splits…).  I started passing runners left and right.  I even caught up with one runner who I saw with a pair of Newtons.  Unfortunately I caught him at the end of his run, so I didn’t get to ask him how he liked them 😛

As I approached halfway through my run, I wondered how long I’d be able to sustain this pace.  It certainly felt like the runs I was doing last spring, which were some of my best training runs of my life, but again, I wasn’t sure how my body would respond to the faster pace, after running a snail’s pace all summer long.    I tried to keep it together as I turned around, and tried to hold a good pace until 3 miles to go, where I’d pick up the pace.  When I got to that point, my left groin, a troublesome spot for me the past couple years, started to feel strained.  Since my hamstring injury came on a run like this, and when my groin was bothering me, I backed off the pace.  I think I very reasonable could have run a negative split, or at least a sub-1:30 time if I picked it up even a little bit in the last 3 miles, but prudence over valor, as they say, and I still ended up with a respectable 1:30:49, a 7:34 pace.

To put things in perspective, in my half marathon last Spring, I came in at 1:38:20, a 7:30 pace.  I’m usually a lot faster in races, so the fact that I’m even close to running that is a good sign, even if injury kept me from training much leading up to the race.  My goal this week was to run a 1:33, and two week later run a 1:31 at 12 miles, but I’ve already done that.  If there’s good weather two weeks from now, may be able to press for sub 1:30.  In any case, I’m well on my way toward my next goals, 14 in 1:45 (7:30 pace), 16 in 1:56 (7:15).  My hope is that if I can sustan a 7:15 pace through a 16 mile training run, I’ll be able to hold it for a full marathan if I come into it well rested.

Good weather helped me run a good time Today, hopefully that means even better times come Fall, when a day like this is the norm.