Thursday, February 23, 2006

10 Kilometers later...

It's been a solid week, though I've had to swap around some workouts here and there to accommodate my personal schedule, and that always gets a little harried. Tuesday I ran my 10k "race" - it went okay. I approached this workout with reckless abandon - just go as fast as I can, consequences be damned. So there was no forethought about pacing, or relationship between miles, etc. I knew I'd start fast and fade, and I wanted to see how much I'd fade, how it would feel (would I hit a wall or just slowly ebb away into uselessness?), and what it would mean in the final analysis. So it's not a strategy that's at all applicable to real races, but a workout like this serves to kind of kickstart your system and force it into a bit of overload, really work your heartrate, and generally see what you're made of on this particular day. Then those results can be applied in a broader sense to actual race and training strategies.

So my first two miles were around 7:45/min - which felt really good. Totally unsustainable I knew, but felt really good nonetheless. After stopping to drink in mile 3, I couldn't resume that pace, now going around 8:30 - a significant drop, and a tell-tale symptom of Jackie-Dog Syndrome (where you're so excited just to be here that you go too fast at the start, only to be trotting hopelessly along by the end). Start out way too fast, and when you come back to earth you come back hard. I continued to slow the rest of the way until I approached 9:00/pace by the end. Mile 5, which is a drinking mile, was REALLY slow, over 10:00 (remember that includes some walking for the drink), and that was my darkest mile - I felt pretty miserable, but I picked up again to finish stronger on my last mile. Still, I never bonked ("bonking" is an actual athletic term that essentially means "hit the wall" - it's fast and abrupt and hard, and almost impossible to recover from. Often related to nutrition issues.)

I finished with an average pace of 8:54/mile. A few perspectives on that, then: The first is that, considering the horrible inconsistency of the day overall, there is some improvement to make here. That said, it's not useful to gauge that day's outcome by my first 2 miles, because I'm not a runner capable of that kind of speed over time at all. Knowing that, I don't integrate it into my expectations. I don't say "damn, why can't I got 7:45 all the time." But less of a drop-off is goal to work towards. I may not be able to maintain 7:45, but I can start out that fast - again, in training - and then, say, not get any slower than 8:30. So that's something to work towards.

Second, if I look at 8:54 as an overall pace, it's a pretty satisfying time. If I were to go out for a 6 mile run and just work to keep every mile just under 9 minutes, I'd be very pleased with this outcome (noting that lately I've been doing 8 miles in around 9:24). So if, in another training run, I work for the kind of consistency and discipline that I typically do, this is a good goal pace to have in mind. Physically, it's less severe to go at an 8:54 pace over 6 miles than to tire myself out with a sprint for the first 2. Again, that was the point of this particular workout, so no regrets, but this is how I can apply the outcome to the real world.

Third, then, is what to actually do with this information. Keeping in mind my 7 mile run of around 9:25/pace a few weeks ago, I think I'll work in my training to continue pushing my pace up a bit. If I can maintain, say, a 9:15 pace - COMFORTABLY - for 10 miles (the whole point and purpose is defeated if I'm all shot to hell from trying to run faster than I can), then I could reasonably expect a half marathon - 13 miles - at maybe a 9:30 pace or so. Again, comfort is key. I want to do that feeling like I could keep going. And so on: I want to continue to get faster while staying comfortable.

Putting this in full perspective, though, it's important to remain vividly clear that there is NOT a directly proportional relationship to all this talk about pace and time, etc. to my marathon performance, and specifically Ironman as a whole. For more elite runners this wouldn't be true - time and pace would be a real objective for them - but not for me. My whole purpose in being able to go as fast as I can for as long as I can is to bank that fitness so that at IM I remain consistent throughout the run. Talking about pace is a useful benchmark to gauge that consistency, but it isn't a literal translation of goals. For instance, at this point I could say that I'd like to maintain a 10:30/pace or so throughout the entire marathon at IM (considering my 11:38 pace at the 2005 marathon - which did not go particularly well - on fresh legs, and this 10:30 still seems a bit outlandish...) . What I'm really saying is, physically I think that's a reasonable expectation for me, it gets me to my goals, and it keeps me consistent (I DO NOT want to expend a ton of energy going too fast in the first 15 miles, only to blow up when it matters). I am NOT saying that I have a literal goal of a 10:30/pace, or that anything less isn't satisfactory, or whatever. Again (this is the mantra!), I want only to slow down least.

The words "Ideal" and "Ironman" do not belong in the same sentence, but in a perfect world, in any race, you want to have negative splits - your last half if faster than your first half. In Ironman in particular, everything - the entire race - comes down to the last 10 miles. Everything you do that day - your swim pace, your bike pace, your nutrition, transitions - everything is to get you to that last 10 miles. If you've done it right, you'll get to those last 10 miles with enough in the tank to do more than crawl through them. If not, those last 10 miles will be worse than I can imagine. That's why I'm working on this run so much this early - to build the essential base so that physically - if I've done everything else right (which is a whole process in its own, as you know), I'm capable of doing what needs to be done those last 10 miles. I don't have a negative split in mind, but I do want to A - cross the finish line, and B - do it with my head high, looking the world in the eye. So it's worth emphasizing again with all my chatter about pace and time that, in the end, those things are only mile markers (literally) along the wider road. They are useful indicators of progress and general objectives, but they don't represent the purpose of achievement.


Michael Anderson said...

Sometimes, I find myself forgetting how big Ironman is for a race. It's easy to get caught up in your day-to-day details and short term goals. I'm glad you find yourself able to manage the details in light of the goal.

Nice work Chris!

Glad your run was informative.

I think there are a lot of people who run races with Jackie Dog Syndrom as their method, don't you? Maybe they're the weekend marathon/triathlon hobbiest, or maybe they're just crazy in a different way, or maybe just beginners. - Though I certainly doubt there are any Ironman contestants who go about things that way - But I know I've been to some events where that's just what people do: Run like mad, for as long as they can. Obviously a guy would like to be in control and "healthy," but interesting that it seems you can still average a fair time that way.

Actually Chris, do you think there's an indicator in the average of your 10K run you did Tuesday (8:54) where you did no pacing, which says that is currently a good pace for you to run that distance? Like if you ran it intentional in 8:54 per mile, would you have done as well as you could? Or would pacing yourself increase your overall average on that run?

I'm assuming pacing yourself is better, naturally, but wondered if you had any comparisons where you've tried both to see what happens. Like if next Tuesday you run the same distance as last Tuesday, intentionally averaging 8:54 a mile, would that be your optimal pace? Is it just a less severe experince to not pace yourself? Not that you have a lot of time to mess around with your training schedule - I was just curious what the know is on that.

Anonymous said...