The pace conundrum

So this whole event is an interesting problem when you look at the best way to get to the end. On the one hand, I could put all my eggs in one basket and try for a PB in one of the two races, more likely the half as it is first, and then hope that I can make it around the full, or I can go slower in both but overall do pretty well. The problem with the second option is that although I would make it around, when looked at individually I would be extremely average (is that better or worse than ambitiously Average?). There is no combined-time listing for the Goofy Challenge, so I would have to manually work out where I came, and how well I had done. As much as I try to convince myself that the goal of this challenge is to make it round the 39.3 miles, I can’t get away from the fact that with all the training I will be putting in, and the fact that I don’t know when or even if there will be a next time, the attraction of trying to set a PB is pretty high. To just be average (ambitiously or otherwise) in both races doesn’t seem a good trade off with the 40-50 mile weeks I am doing in training.

So the decision as to what pace to run each race at is pretty complex.

Last year I took the decision to set my race-pace at 9:00min/mile, this would get me around in under 4hrs which was my main aim, as it turned out, due to the cooler temps I ran 8:42. The training plans that I use all say that the long runs at the weekend should be 45 seconds a mile slower than your expected race pace. I didn’t do that last year, all my long runs were at race pace, as I kept needing to prove to myself that I could do the time I needed to. I didn’t, and still don’t, understand how running my long runs slower than I intend to run the race makes sense, although all of the literature I have read says that it is a mistake to go at race pace on long runs and will slow my overall time in the event. However, I don’t really have a choice this year, due to the training plan I am on, with the back-to-back runs at the weekend, there is no way I can run at race pace for both of them.

This is all confused by when you actually do the different paces in workouts; if I do my marathon race pace on Saturday and do the slower pace on Sunday, when do I do my 1/2 marathon race pace? I guess that would then have to be the shorter “recovery” runs I do on Tuesdays. If I were to then do 1/2 marathon race pace on these recovery runs then when do I recover? All very confusing.

So what pace should I try and run at?

To try and answer that I have been playing around with the pace calculators at McMillan Running, you enter your fastest time for any distance and it will extrapolate pace times for pretty much any distance you want to run. It also gives you long-run, easy-run and tempo paces for all the different types of workout that will make up a training plan.

So what have I decided?

I am still not entirely sure if I am honest. The last two weekends I have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to run 8:30-8:40 on the Saturday runs and then 9:15-9:30 on the longer Sunday runs. This is a bit deceptive, as it would appear I am thinking I will run a faster marathon than last year, if you go by the pace run on the Saturday theory. However, I don’t honestly believe I will be able to run at that pace on the full distance. What I am attempting to do is see if these paces are possible over longer runs, which as I write this, will be 16 and 17 miles the next couple of weeks. If it is possible then I will try to keep to them for the rest of the training.

I would suspect that if I can keep to them, then come the race weekend in January I will probably start running at those paces, this would give me about 1hr 53min 1/2 marathon and a 4hr 6min full.

I am under no illusions though that I will actually slow quite a bit in the full as the miles catch up with me, so I have been conservative and set a goal of finishing the full in under 4hr 30min, which is around about 10min/mile average pace. As for the half, my personal best is 1hr 47min 17secs, and it will be very hard to not try and get as close to that as possible. I have never run a 1/2 marathon outside of the hot and humid conditions in Cayman, and I will also be as refreshed as possible after the 3 weeks tapering at the end of training. Not to mention the amount of adrenaline that will be flowing at the start of the challenge! As I said at the beginning though, it would be a huge mistake to go setting a PB in the half as I can guarantee that I will then blow-up massively on the Sunday and probably come in well over 5hrs.

So the long and the short of it is; I will continue to train at 8:30-8:40 on Saturday pace runs, and will drop about 45 seconds off of that on the Sunday, which should give me finishing times of under 1hr 55min and 4hr 30min. If I am outside of that, then I will be very disappointed, anything better and I will be over the moon!