Marathon Training

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This topic contains 17 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Ryan 11 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #6582

    Trying to get a handle on marathon pace.  I have 14 more weeks to CIM on Dec. 2nd.  Was putting in 70-80 mile weeks most of the year and have run a 20 miler and a 21 miler in the last month, along with several more runs in the 15-18 mile range.

    The problem is that I train at about 5600 feet elevation and am 47 yrs old.  Recent half performance was 1:21 at altitude, so lets say I am in about 1:19 shape for a flat sea-level course in reasonably good conditions.

    I mix in about 1/3 to 1/2 of my mileage on asphalt and having been slowly upping the asphalt miles to get the legs more used to the harder surface, the rest of my running is on dirt roads.

    My marathon goal is prob. somewhere in the low to mid 2:50's but who knows.  This will be just my third one and am still learning the marathon despite 20+ years of racing experience.  Ran a 3:02 at Dallas in 05' (overtrained) and a 3:08 at Boulder Backroads 6 weeks prior to Dallas, that one was prob worth about a 2:58 at sea-level.

    So anyway my long run paces are usually between 8:26 and 9:21, over the last 6 weeks.  When I went to do marathon pace for 30 mins over part of my long run the other day I averaged 6:55 on rolling dirt roads.  I figured that this was really harder than marathon pace, but still the legs were going much slower than what I would like to run the marathon at.

    I ran an 8k “threshold” run on a flat asphalt road as well during the week and held a sluggish 6:34 pace for it.  On tired legs in trainers I just don't seem to come anywhere near my real threshold pace during workouts.  But how could anyone really do that.  I run about 60 mins flat for 10 miles at altitude.

    So at the moment I figure my sea-level goal marathon pace is somewhere between 6:20 and 6:50, more or less.  I just feel like I am throwing darts as far as goal paces during workouts.  If I get anywhere between 6:10 pace and 7:10 pace I figure I am getting the legs used to something resembling a marathon pace?

    The basic conversion seems to be about 30 secs per mile, between sea-level and altitude, as far as equal efforts.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on the marathon training at altitude, esp. older masters runners?

  • #23593

    r-at-work
    Member

    I live in the DC area, I'm 52 (and a slow woman).. last summer (or was it the year before)… I traveled to Souix City, SD with family and was lucky enough to be within a mile of the city track facility, really nice… but I couldn't hit anywhere near the times on the track I could at home…YIKES… then my relatives started talking about how the Souix City HS cross country almost always won states and even they (non-runners) knew it was because of the altitude…

    my advice(besides find someone who really understands this) is to train at altitude using McMillan's calculated pacing scheme(or anyone elses) off the race you ran at altitude (plug the 1:21 half into the calculator at McMillanRunning.com) and train for THAT marathon pace… then run at that pace for the first half of you next (sea-level?) marathon… at the half you can pick it up 5-10 seconds and if mile 20 finds you feeling fresh another 5-10 seconds and again at 23… but I'm rather conservative… and it has been very difficult for me to learn to run at a steady pace, I'm still practicing…

    good luck, I want to hear how this turns out…
    -Rita

  • #23594

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Hopefully, someone with some experience training at altitude and racing at sea level can weigh in on how to find your right marathon pace, though it sounds to me like you're on the right track. I would say low to mid 2:50s seems like a reasonable goal but I don't have a ton of experience with altitude.

    One piece of advice I recall as far as altitude training goes is to do shorter repeats when doing pace work. For example, a person at sea level may do 800s or 1000s as pace work for a 10k race. At altitude, in order to get the legs used to the pace, you could shorten those up to 400s or 500s. I would suppose the same could hold true for marathon pace workouts. At sea level, I might do 10 miles at marathon pace early in the training season. Maybe a workout like 2 x 5 miles or 3 x 3 miles this early in the training plan could work for you. That would help get your legs used to your goal pace without being as aerobically challenging in the thin air.

  • #23595

    sueruns
    Member

    I don't have experience with altitude training, but I do think that 30 seconds is a little aggressive.  Having run CIM, though, I have to agree with Rita and suggest doing the race as the conversion suggests and then build up speed.  CIM is a fast course, but it isn't flat.  The first half has rolling hills, then it flattens out, and then the last 5k is a screamer.  Best advice I got was to “save it”.  I had never negative split in my life!  If I reran that race, though, I'd pick up way before the 5k mark (I ran 10k pace with a 5k left and had too much left).

    I'd probably target 2:50-2:52 as your MP. (I believe that's conservative due to previous times, based on your half time…2:45 may be possible)  I agree with your concern about your training pace versus race pace.  With a 1:21 half and one hour for 10 mile, 6:30 for an 8k should be a walk in the park and 7:30 for 20+ runs shouldn't take it out of you.  You are either fatigued or not liking that pace that is “uncomfortable”.  But if you are running great times at 10 miles and half marathon, you must be dealing with discomfort.  I have to think that you just don't know that zone that marathon is run at.  Afterall, it is really our “junk” zone.

    I'd definitely “zone in” on MP pace as part of you long run, every week,  increasing the amount of time, 30 minutes, 40, 50, 60, then every other week.  I'd shorten the speed workouts, like Ryan suggested, for the next 4-6 weeks, then change it to a slower longer tempo runs.

  • #23596

    SBSpartan
    Member

    I would agree on 30 seconds being way to big based on elevation alone.

    I moved from CA to CO at one point and the only times I truely noticed the elevation (and it effected my breathing) is when I got my heart rate way up.  And when I say that I mean sprints and things like that.  If you are a good runner and doing a marathon where your heart rate isn't going to skyrocket I don't think it is going to make that big of a difference.

    When I moved back to CA after being in CO for over a year I didn't really notice a huge benefit from all of the sudden being at sea level.  You could tell it was sometimes easier to breathe but 30 seconds better seems like a stretch just because of the altitude.

    From my experience being at sea level only makes you be able to breathe slightly better but it doesn't all of the sudden make you stronger or faster.

    Just my two cents.

  • #23597

    Thanks for the responses.  You have all provided a very good sounding board.  If you saw the ups and downs I do on rolling dirt believe me 30 secs per mile slower on the long runs is in line.  The other factor for long run paces is simply recovery.  You don't recover as fast at altitude as you do at sea-level.

    I think Sue hit the nail on the head the best.  My marathon pace “zone” is uncomfortable.  I keep thinking that marathon pace should feel easy (maybe it does for some) but to me it feels fast.  Training for the shorter races I am either doing fast stuff at sub 6 or long stuff on rolling hills at 9 min pace.  Nothing in between.

    I will continue to incorporate more miles at “marathon” pace and hopefully that pace will become more familiar.  I did do a 30k at altitude a couple years ago at 6:23 pace and for some reason that did not feel so bad.  I need to try and recapture that feeling some.

    Ryan's comments on the threshold work.  I think your right there as well.  I will prob. just break up my threshold work into more manageable chunks.  I was going to do that tomorrow already since I have the 10 mile race on Monday.  It will be more like 3x2k with about 60 seconds easy between them.

    As far as not hitting pacing due to leg fatigue, that is prob. true to a point.  Having some leg fatigue to me at this point (14 weeks to go) is not a bad thing.  Just an indicator that I am in the midst of heavier training.  I have been here before and am able to keep my confidence that the legs will be there after some rest/taper.  Fortunately I have the 10 miler this coming Monday and then a half marathon 7 weeks after that to provide some fitness feedback.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to write.

  • #23598

    SwampTiger
    Member

    I think Sue hit the nail on the head the best.  My marathon pace “zone” is uncomfortable.  I keep thinking that marathon pace should feel easy (maybe it does for some) but to me it feels fast. 

    I'll just share my own limited experience. For me, marathon pace was a killer in the middle of heavy training. I had to force myself to think about it logically or it would have hurt my confidence. After completing training though and a nice three week taper, it felt great during the race. It isn't supposed to be comforable, its a hard workout.

  • #23599

    Swamp….

    I am glad to hear from others that find marathon pace to be much less than a walk in the park.  The mechanics of my marathon pace will hopefully come around in the next month or so.  Just need to get my head wrapped around those paces as well.  I'll cut myself a little slack due to training at 5500+ feet is all.

    The year I ran 1:19 flat (6:02 pace) at Houston half the best we ever managed was about 6:10 pace on things like 3×8 mins.  But come race day 6 pace felt just fine on the flat roads of Houston.

  • #23600

    WI MTP
    Member

    I really do not find marathon pace comfortable during a marathon – Maybe I'm weird.  I always feel like I am a notch above comfortable – reaching a bit past it –

    1:21 half at altitude or not – You are fine for a 2:50-2:52, I would be with Sue and be targeting a 2:45 in training –

  • #23601

    “The basic conversion seems to be about 30 secs per mile, between sea-level and altitude, as far as equal efforts.”

    I re-read this and wanted to clarify.  When I said 30 secs I was referring to long run paces.  The difference in part is due to some of the challenging training routes I run on in addition to the altitude.

    In general I use 3% performance factor to compare races at sea-level and at 5000+ feet.

  • #23602

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    I'll third the motion that marathon pace in middle of training is not easy. That's why you still have about 3 months of training to go and why you'll be tapering before race day.

    As for the fatigue, training isn't supposed to be easy. Fatigue is part of the game. I fully agree with you, it's just part of training hard and you'll bounce back during the taper.

  • #23603

    WI MTP
    Member

    I meant marathon pace even at mile #3 of a marathon has not felt easy.  It always seems the harder it feels early on the more likely I will have a good race.  When it feels like a walk in the park – Bad Mojo ahead  😮

  • #23604

    SBSpartan
    Member

    I'll third the motion that marathon pace in middle of training is not easy. That's why you still have about 3 months of training to go and why you'll be tapering before race day.

    As for the fatigue, training isn't supposed to be easy. Fatigue is part of the game. I fully agree with you, it's just part of training hard and you'll bounce back during the taper.

    That's why we all freak out a little when we run 6 miles and our legs are tired/heavy.

  • #23605

    Threshold session #2 went a little better than last week.  It was warm (upper 70's/low 80's) and kept my sweat pants on.  I use a flat road section with limited car traffic.  It has been marked to death with splits by the local training groups.  The garmin usually agrees very well with the markings.  Anyway it is the same each time, so it is a could comparison.

    I kept the fast stuff down to just 3 x 2k today.  Ran 2k in  one direction, then at the end of the 2k I eased back then turned around to start the next one.  Ran easier for 50 seconds between each one.  7:52.5, 7:41.5 and 7:52 (the road has a very slight grade, so the middle one was slightly easier).  The average pace was 6:17 per mile which was way better than last weeks 6:34 pace.  Easier workout then  last week, but also more comfortable on the faster sections.

    Total workout was 90 mins, covering 11 miles.  I'll let you know how the 10 miler goes on Monday.

  • #23606

    sueruns
    Member

    I meant marathon pace even at mile #3 of a marathon has not felt easy.  It always seems the harder it feels early on the more likely I will have a good race.  When it feels like a walk in the park – Bad Mojo ahead  😮

    Is it really the pace is not easy, or you just don't feel “on”?  I know you carbo-load, I think it can slow you down a little, but it's probably what gets to the finish line strong.    I thought you started slow on purpose, so you can run people down 😀

  • #23607

    Peter
    Member

    Marathon Pacing is a rather tricky thing, imo. Two years ago, I ran most of my MP runs in the 6:40-6:50 range, while my goal was sub 3:00 (6:52 pace). Distances ranged from 5 to 11 miles. Certain factors that affected it of course were temperature, other workouts and distances run prior to the MP run, etc… On race day, the 1st 10-11 miles felt like a breeze, and I was at 6:45 pace. The next 10 miles I felt like I was working, but they felt no better or worse than my weekly MP sessions during the training cycle. I averaged 6:54 pace. The last 5 miles were the most work, and I slowed a little bit, esp the last two miles. Ended up @ 6:50 average pace for the 26.2.

    This year I'm hoping for a bit faster race, and my MP runs have been a tad faster (6:38-6:45 range). Due to the warmer summer we've had, I've felt like crap on many of these runs from the high humidity, and the distances run haven't been as long yet (5-8 miles), but I've kept the pace times about the same. And fwiw, my normal easy runs are right around 8:00 pace.

    So in summary, I agree that MP is more about effort than specific time of pace, and you can sometimes feel wiped out during these runs due to all of the other miles that one runs during their training. I'd have to disagree w/ WI MTP with my own personal experience in that, if I feel like crap the 1st 3 miles of a race, I'd think I was in for a really long day. But everyone's different. As Sue said, it's much more fun passing people than being passed near the end 😉

  • #23608

    SwampTiger
    Member

    After reading through this thread it seems like everybody is doing a lot of running at MP. My base of knowledge is mostly limited to reading Pfitzinger and this board, but I didn't think there was that much value to running MP. Most of the value is just in knowing how it feels to run that pace (which we've already covered is a different feeling in training than after training and taper) and gaining the confidence that you can to it. Pfitzinger only includes two MP runs in his plans (something like 12 or 13 miles at MP after a three mile warmup.)

    So what am I missing? Why all the MP running?

  • #23609

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Was there discussion of doing a lot of running at MP? Personally, while I would do more than two runs at MP, I wouldn't do much more. There is definitely a benefit to MP runs but I wouldn't do more than a full-blown MP run (more than a mile or two at MP) more than once every two weeks. In the past, I've alternated these workouts over the final 12 weeks, give or take, with my long runs. That means I'd do around 6 MP workouts and 6 long runs in the final 12 weeks. Plus, of course, many more long runs in the preceding base training.

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