Friday, June 18, 2010

Timed Mile, I'm an analytics guy

I am always interested to see the speed and HR tracks post race and workout. This will be my third year participating in the AARC (Ashburn Area Running Club) DTP (Distance Training Program/Fall Marathon Training) and while I do listen to the coaches I know that I am commonly running too fast on slower days.

The premise of the timed mile, in the beginning of the year for the DTP, is to establish a baseline tempo/threshold (T) pace and a feeling for what that T effort should generally feel like. On the track last night Cathy Pugsley said "this is a comfortably hard run for some of you this will be 10k pace for some closer to 10 mile pace [if you have questions ask]" the pacing guidelines of 'comfortably hard' and 10K pace didn't mean much to me the last two years, this year I have a much better grasp on both.

  • Year 1: Started running about 6 months prior not only did I have no idea, I didn't even have a good guess. Ran ~7:38/mi
  • Year 2: I had only raced 5k, 4mi and Marathon and felt a bit more confident, eventually declaring that my T pace was ~8:30/mi. Ran ~7:37/mi
  • Year 3: Added 8k, 10k, 1/2 Marathon and Ultra (50k). 8:30 feels a bit easy so far this year. Ran ~7:38/mi

What does any of this have to do with numbers?

What we can see here is that even though I had no idea on pace at first and then when I did I ran relatively consistent times, the difference is in the numbers I get from using high tech running gadgets and how I feel during the run.

2008 - 2010, Bigger Image

All the miles are run on the same track and with the theory that each lap could be a little harder than the one before. What isn't shown as clearly is that I always start too fast and back off generally in the first 200m.

  • 2008 pacing is all over the place but most notably almost half the last lap is in Zone 5 effectively sprinting.
    • Better than 1/2 in Zone 3 seems good but I know this turned into a maximal effort and I was spent at the end.
    • 9/24/58% Zone 5/4/3
    • Max HR 185
  • 2009 pacing is a bit more consistent but still variable
    • I was OK at the end but comfortably hard would be a generous description
    • 0/54/37% in Zone 5/4/3
    • Max HR 179
  • 2010 Still started too fast. However, the remaining laps are within a few seconds.
    • Could I keep it up for an hour...maybe on a good day. However, for a mile I would call it comfortably hard.
    • 0/41/49% Zone 5/4/3
    • Max HR 174

Great, what do those numbers mean?

Really I don't know, I'm not an exercise physiologist. I haven't actually done a lab or field Lactate Threshold test. There is probably some heart rate reserve analysis that could be done based on my maximal heart rate (observed at 195bpm at mile 17 of the '09 Frederick Marathon) and resting HR 54bpm (I should recheck). Instead I think I will do a LT lab test and let someone who knows what they are doing figure that out more specifically for me.

  • Lower Max HR at the end of each run seems to indicate progressively better aerobic fitness
  • Time in HR zones moving lower seems to indicate progressively better aerobic fitness
  • Lower perceived effort and faster recovery seems to indicate progressively better aerobic fitness

For now this means that for now I will be targeting ~8:00/mi as a tempo pace, which is probably to fast, ~8:30mi or maybe a bit slower is probably more accurate but we will see what we get.

What are you doing with those numbers?

Hopefully I am properly setting my expectations and getting the most out of my training. After my first marathon I was briefly despondent because I didn't hit my goal time of 4:45:00 (or maybe that and postmarathon blues). I got over it and realized that as a self-declared non-runner I had trained and finished a marathon and I missed my arbitrary time goal by 2.5 minutes. In subsequent marathons I haven't had those problems even when my performance has been much worse.

I would love to reach a sub 4-hour marathon but I think that is an overly ambitious improvement last years 00:20:53 is huge and an additional 27 minutes in a year seems quite a big year-over-year improvement. I'll keep sub-4 as a massive stretch goal for now but (hopefully) more realistically I would like to complete the 35th Marine Corps Marathon in less than 4:20 and it would be awesome to do it in less than 4:15. Time will tell and goals for the year should be adjusted as we go.

  • Baltimore 2008: 04:47:30 (First Marathon)
  • Frederick 2009: 04:59:50 (Weather kicked my ass, started at an optimistic pace for my level of preparation)
  • Baltimore 2009: 05:21:08 (Stubbornly started with a fever ran out of gas at the half)
  • Space Coast 2009: 04:26:55 (Fourth Marathon)
  • Baltimore 2010: ??? (Will be an overly long training run for marathon training, maybe I need a fall ultra)
  • Marine Corps Marathon 2010: ???

Tempo/Threshold Pace: A pace that you could theoretically maintain for an hour if you had to. Theoretically this can also be determined with Lactate Threshold testing.

"It's what I call 'comfortably hard, You know you're working, but you're not racing. At the same time, you'd be happy if you could slow down." -- Bill Pierce

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