Half Marathon training, your opinion is requested!

 

Today’s workout (elliptical): 40 minutes

According to Athlinks, I’ve run thirteen 10K’s, eleven 5K’s, four 4 milers, four 8K’s, two half marathons and a 5 mile race. There are a couple of other races that Athlinks doesn’t list, but for the most part, that’s my racing history. 10K is my favorite race distance because it requires both speed and stamina. Unlike 5K’s that allow me to go all-out because I know that it will be over inside of 30 minutes, 10K’s require a much more strategic approach.

10K, or 6.2 miles is also a friendly distance. Even if I’ve slacked off on my base training runs (likely), I can generally get through a 10K without much race specific training. In those cases, I don’t come close to PR’ing, but I can manage through the distance. Half marathons are a different story. There’s something about double digit distance running that requires me to really focus on my training. The toughest run I ever had was my first half marathon. It was so bad, a race volunteer offered to call a doctor as I crossed the line.

That experience taught me a lesson about being prepared. I’d thought I’d be okay running my usual 6 miles or so on Sundays, then upping that distance to eight and nine miles the two weekends before the half. It didn’t help that I’d also acquired a knee problem at that time, but I blame my poor race performance on my failure to plan.

My Plan

I fared much better the next time. I realized that building a proper base was the key, so I dutifully headed to Bethpage every weekend and ran increasingly longer distances. I ended up improving my time by 15 minutes the second time I ran a half. The chart above shows the Sunday long run distance plan I created and followed. I updated the schedule to coincide with this year’s dates leading up to the Brooklyn Half.

NYRR “Moderate” Plan

NYRR’s does a good job sending updates about the Brooklyn Half to people who are registered for the race. The last email redirected me to their site where they’d posted three free half marathon training plans. The categories are Conservative, Moderate and Advanced. I’m not apt to follow a plan that prescribes training through the week, but I was interested in the weekly long run distances. I created a second schedule around the Moderate guide to compare it with my current plan (see above).

I did well the last time by increasing my long run distance about a mile a week, topping out at 12 miles the weekend before the race. The NYRR plan steps up and down, with a decided taper near the end. I assume NYRR knows a lot more than I do about this stuff, so there must be a reason for reducing the long run distances near the end. I’m reluctant to change from what worked for me last time, but maybe I should consider following the Moderate plan.

I will take advice on this, so please share your opinion.

Are male runners more competitive than female runners?

The 4 hour cliff 

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes – 2% grade

If you are a member of Athlinks you may have received an email that shows a graph of 2012 marathon times (above). The graph shows 2012 finish time distribution frequency, and it clearly illustrates that marathon times peak right before the four hour mark (I inserted a blue arrow to highlight that point). Not shown here was another graph that compared times by gender. That graph showed that 58% of men (vs. 42% of women) finished faster that 4:00. One might conclude that men approach these races more competitively than women. The sharp spike between 3:50 and 3:59 times indicates some very tactical planning.

I can’t speak to how women view racing, except through anecdotal conversations with female friends who race. I wouldn’t say that women are any less competitive, but they may carry a different perspective on their performance goals. Many men (including myself ) simply pick a targeted time and  focus on beating it. Women (more often it seems) will view their finish times as secondary to the experience of running their best. They are no less competitive than men, but they don’t seem to be as discouraged if they miss a specific time target.

It would be wrong to say that women don’t care about hitting performance targets. That spike on the graph at 4:00 represents a lot of female finishers. But I would say, generally, that woman view and value performance differently than men. One approach is more quantitative and the other is more qualitative. In the end, I wonder who’s more satisfied with their results?

Athlinks bemoans declining race times

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

I had a funny exchange yesterday with Troy Busot, the founder of Athlinks. This website aggregates race results and allows members to compile a rich racing history. Athlinks members can comment on their race experiences and compare their performance to “rivals” (other members who have participated in 2 or more of the same races that you’ve run).

The reason I contacted Troy was that he’d sent an email that, in a tongue and cheek way, chided runners for what he called, “an alarming decline in U.S. racing performances in distances across the board.” He compared average finish times for the most common race distances plus Olympic, Half and Full Ironman Triathlons. He made his point but I noticed that his times for half marathons were exactly the same as for 10K’s, an obvious typo:

Average Times for Leading
Race Distances from 2009-2012

Distance 2009 2012 Change % Change
5K Run 30:30 31:47 +1:17 +4.04%
10K Run 1:01:01 1:02:28 +1:27 +2.34%
Half Mara 1:01:01 1:02:28 +0:18 +0.15%
Marathon* 4:33:18 4:33:13 -0:04 -0.03%
Olympic Tri 2:52:53 2:55:55 +3:02 +1.73%
Half Iron 5:59:43 6:05:49 +6:06 +1.73%
Ironman 12:49:44 13:11:39 +21:54 +2.77%
* Marathon times were the only notable improvement.

Troy quickly fell on his sword after I sent him a note about it and he gave me the correct figures for 2009 and  2012, which were 2:15:16 and 2:16:40 respectively. Troy wrote, “Yep, I have quit the company in typo-shame.” I’ve never run a full marathon but I have run the other distances. In every case (except my first half), I’ve beaten the average, both for 2009 and 2012. So perhaps I’m not as average as I thought, although my scores would not be so favorable were the comparison more age and gender based.

Speaking of average, my pace this morning was exactly that. The temperature was 35 degrees with a noticeable breeze, and I wore some extra layers anticipating the cold. I stayed comfortable throughout the run and didn’t really have a clue how fast I was going until I looked at my heart rate near the end. I saw that I was at 80% of Max. I tried to get it to 85% in the remaining quarter mile, but I didn’t quite get there. Even so, my average morning run still gets me around the course 45 seconds per mile faster than the 5K average!

Finding your rivals

Not all races are listed but it’s still a good resource

Today’s workout (elliptical): 30 minutes

Happy President’s Day. I like long weekends, especially those that extend through the entire week. My kids are off from school so I’m taking the week off as well. Unlike many of the people we know we’re not heading off to warmer climates this week. There’s plenty to do here, like shoveling three inches of snow of the driveway this morning.

This morning I was playing around on a site called Athlinks that aggregates races in a database and allows participants to “claim” their events. Once done, a runner has a collection of their race results and the usual social networking tools (profile, pictures, Twitter feed, etc.) for sharing or member interaction. Those features are common now but Athlinks also provides a list of your rivals and how you’ve performed against them. Athlinks automatically finds runners who have raced against you and lists their age, gender and won-lost record. It was interesting to see someone I’ve beat 7 times (he’s 78) and a couple of others who have trounced me 5-0.

Those who have beat me multiple times have usually outpaced me by one or more minutes per mile. I’ll likely lose to them in future match-ups. The interesting comparisons are those where I’ve both won and lost to the same person. Those people are truly rivals and it’s about our readiness on race day and how well we leverage or react to race day conditions. I still prefer to view racing as “me versus myself” and I don’t really view these people as rivals. These race day match-ups are more like benchmarks that will help me understand how close I came to reaching my potential.