Saturday, September 4, 2010

Got Pace?

Finally, the weather has begun to cool! This morning's pre-dawn Houston temperature was a comparatively moderate 72°F with a dew point of 70°F. While 90% relative humidity is clearly not optimal, I'm thankful for the improved conditions since as recently as two weeks ago we routinely started our long-runs with temperatures in the low-80's. I'm looking forward to doing more of my forthcoming weekday tempo, progressive and interval training runs outdoors, since over the past three scorching months I've only been able to run fast indoors on the treadmill.

With the Chicago Marathon now only five-weeks away I've been contemplating my goal finishing time. Things used to be simple, as in my initial marathon my sole focus was to finish. Upon completing my first glorious marathon this goal transitioned to setting a new personal record. Once I got within 20-minutes of achieving a Boston Marathon qualifying time that became my new target. Now that I've run Boston twice I'm back to targeting new personal records again - while beginning to dream of someday crossing the three hour threshold.

Frankly, I've been very fortunate, as with the help of Kenyan Way, my running friends, better training discipline, and the support of my family I've been able to continue my streak of successively setting new personal records. However, based on my recent performance, this streak is threatened. My margin has narrowed precipitously, as the Austin Marathon was only one-second faster than Houston, and Boston was tied to the second with Austin at 3:19:37. The consistency of my recent finishing times results from my having set a 7:38 target marathon pace (i.e. to match the 3:20 pacing group) at Houston and Austin. In the late stage of each marathon, knowing that I wanted to narrowly beat 3:20 I slightly stepped-up my pace in the final half mile. Boston lacks pacing teams owing to the huge field on the narrow roads east of Hopkinton, but I continued my consistent streak by managing to run at my ingrained average pace.

I'm also lucky to have the flat and fast Chicago Marathon as my next race, as in the four months since Boston I've worked hard to more consistently follow the Kenyan Way training plan. Versus Boston's hilly course, Chicago's flat topography should ideally provide a three minute advantage. Additionally, taking into account my elevated level of training, my having lost several surplus pounds (per Dr. Daniels' correlations each lost pound of surplus weight roughly translates to a minute faster marathon), and extrapolating from my Spring 5K and 10K races I feel that a 3:10 Chicago finishing time (i.e. a 7:15 average pace) is fully achievable - with optimal weather conditions.

However, demonstrated by the vagaries in Chicago's historic climate on October 10th, clearly optimal weather conditions cannot be assured! Consequently, my "Plan B" in the event of excessively warm conditions is to run instead with the 3:20 pacing team (or possibly an even slower team if the weather were to prove completely out-of-bounds), then to pick-up the pace in the final 10K.

Any of these goal finishing times would allow me to run with a Nike sponsored pacing group, which for the Chicago Marathon are separated by 10-minute finishing time intervals. I always do better with pacing groups, since individually maintaining a constant pace across 26.2 miles requires a tremendous amount of sustained discipline and focus - which my race day adrenaline-infused brain struggles with! Simply by running with an ideally paced, but not overly ambitious, team I will avoid my traditional jack-rabbit start and my frequently varied middle distance paces. Through relaxing during the marathon by simply running with the group I will enjoy the group's camaraderie and the mutual feeling of shared accomplishment afterward. My theory is that as we enjoy doing our long-runs with others, it's only logical that we should compete in that way.

So, to the initial "What Pace?" question - time will tell! Meanwhile, as the date draws near I'll use my two favorite weather forecasting site Weather Underground and Wolfram Alpha to finalize my pacing plan.

Request: I'm continually in search for new inspirational quotes to add to my "Inspiration Quotes" page; so if you have any particularly inspirational ones which have touched you - that I don't already have listed - kindly e-mail them to me (either through a comment to this post or using the 'Contact Me' form.) Thanks!


  1. Let me guess this straight. You are 52 years old and you want to run a 3:10 marathon? My brain does not comprehend that. You are a freak Mark U.

  2. Chris - I confirm that I indeed am 52-years old. However, please note that my *wanting* to run 3:10 - unfortunately - does not automatically make that a reality. We'll see. Meanwhile, wish me luck!

  3. I wish you lots of luck and cooperative weather. BTW, your easy 3:20 is still freakish to me.

  4. Congrats on the better weather, it should be easier to gauge where we're all at as it continues to normalize some. I like your plans for the potential weather differences. May the next few weeks prove out the work you've done this summer and I'll be crossing fingers that 10/10/10 is a beautifully cool day.