Monday, January 3, 2011

Time Trials

As I mentioned in my last post, and as will be implied in almost every if not every post from here till the end of March, I'm running a marathon on March 20. The longest race I've run to date are my two Philly Half Marathons and my longest run ever is 16 miles way back on December 4. I've got some serious distance-building to do, and for really only the second time in my running "career" I'm turning to a somewhat formal training program. I started running by using the Couch-to-5K program to begin working from nothing to 5K shape, and then I modified it to "just ran as long as I can" once I started running indoors at York College, since the alternate X minutes of walking w/Y minutes of running seems like it might look kind of silly in public. (I would have been ready for a 5K much faster if I'd stuck to the program, by the way. Seriously, it works!)

To train for my marathon, I joined a training program at Charm City Run, a chain of running stores based in northern Maryland where I've shopped and somehow am on their e-mail list. Back in October, I got an e-mail from them advertising their "Spring Marathon Training Program" and it's one of the things that kind of got the ball rolling.

The program kicked off on December 18, and I've done a good job of getting miles in over the holidays, but the program includes track workouts every Tuesday and I've been delinquent thus far due to prior holiday-type commitments. The first track workout was supposed to be a time trial. While that sounds like an episode of "Dr. Who", it's really just running two miles as fast as I could to get a baseline pace level. Since I couldn't make it, I finally got around to making my time trial up today.

(Yes, I am a huge nerd.)

It was definitely (by the way, I misspell "definitely" more often than I do any other word) an unpleasant experience. After a few above-average temperature days, this was a raw, windy morning at the excellent Springettsbury Township Park, which has amongst its many paths a relatively flat, quarter-mile oval track. After stretching, which is tough in the cold, I ran as fast as I could for eight freezing laps. I came in at 17:04, which is not my best two miles ever (I have a sub-24 minute 5K and several low 24s, so I've got some sub 16-minute two miles in there somewhere), but approximately two-minutes faster than my usual two-mile pace on my long runs. It felt like I sprinted the whole way, and I was fairly winded at the end of it. My plan was to take a slow lap or two around the park to add another mile or two of base miles, but when I found that I couldn't feel my fingers anymore, I decided to head for home. (On my long runs in cold weather, it usually is about at the two or three mile mark where I start to warm up.)

According to the training program, I'm supposed to plug my time into "The McMillan Running Calculator" and it's supposed to tell me about what pace I should shoot for in the Marathon. According to my results, I should aim for a 4:30 marathon, which is about what I'm hoping to do, based on my half marathons are both right around two hours, but that I would pace myself slower to conserve energy for the longer race. When I signed up for the marathon, it asked for my estimated finish, for gating purposes. I guessed 4:40, and I'll be satisfied with anything under 5:00 as long as I can honestly tell myself at the end that I did my best.

What's weird about the McMillan times are that even though there's no way I can hold a 17-minute two-mile pace for 26 miles (or even 4 miles, most likely), it estimates that I should finish a half in 2:08. I've been well under that in both half marathons and in my 13-mile runs through the hills of York Haven and Manchester, I'm usually in the 2:15 range, so that doesn't seem far off.

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