Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ask MeriG: The Need for Speed

So, we all know I am running far. Established.

But what about the speed? My goal time is below 4:30 and stretch goal below 4:15. Based on my best half marathon time -- according to all sources of time estimates -- my marathon goal should be do-able.

Let's look back at a little history, shall we? When you sign up with races through major race organizers such as The New York Road Runners they will track your time so you can look back at historical records. They show the date, your age at the time, distance, total time, average time per mile, and other metrics such as your place overall, place within your age/gender bracket, etc.

Looking back at my past races we see the following (from most recent race to least:

Race Name Date
Distance Net Pace

(miles) Time per
Brooklyn Half-Marathon 19-May12
13.1 1:58:49 9:05
NYC Half 2012 18-Mar-12
13.1 2:03:07 9:24
NYRR New York Mini 10K 11-Jun-11
6.2 0:56:13 9:04
More/Fitness Half-Marathon 3-Apr-11
13.1 2:08:07 9:46
More/fitness Half-Marathon 25-Apr-10
13.1 2:10:07 9:55
Colon Cancer 15K Challenge 28-Mar-10
9.3 1:34:35 10:10
NYRR Half-Marathon  30-May09
13.1 2:11:39 10:02
Homecoming Scotland Run 10K 11-Apr-09
6.2 1:02:06 10:00
NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon 3-May-08
13.1 2:20:05 10:41

Take a look at the pace per mile. From 2008 when I start racing to today I have gotten faster to the point that now a 9:00 or 9:30 is far more comfortable than a 10:00 mile to me. But how? 

Great question.

Honestly, I want to say I followed diligently some plan and was, like, super devoted and crazy. Or that I have natural talent. But I would be lying very blatantly if I did so. 

No, before this year it honestly was just from experience. I knew more what to expect from races and I think years of just...like...running made me better. Practice, if you will.

After my Super Sad Injury last year, though, I did a few things that definitely made me faster for the two halves I ran this year. They were:

1) I ran less distances. Because I had to. But it became a blessing in disguise because I focused on my form and my pace for those fewer miles. Less can be mo'. Fo sho.'

2) As I've chatted about many times before, I do other stuff. I swam laps and did Deep Water Running last winter. I had a brief stint with Yoga in the spring (been a bit delinquent with that recently too). Every Tuesday -- without fail -- I go to my kray kray Total Body Conditioning class at my gym at 6:30 in the am like a complete lunatic. Any and all of these things -- which ultimately help promote muscle tone, strength and flexibility -- are good. Running only? Baaaad.

3) I finally started doing interval training. If you look at sample training for race schedules (you can find them on the interwebs) the majority of reputable ones will have some sort of interval training wherein you do different speeds/distances in certain patterns. They're called different things and -- up until this year -- I was like, "eh. Nah."

But I think they work actually. These "running experts" might be on to something...

For interval training outside I think you need to either be with a group or coach or have a Garmin watch such as the one I have:

Garmin FR60
It doesn't have GPS, but I don't find I need it since I'm in the city and know where I am (generally). Plus I usually carry my iPhone. This watch will track distance and average pace, though. This really is the only way you'll know how fast you run and how fast you are running during your workouts. 

Also it comes in PURPLE. 

Word of warning though: Make sure it's calibrated and accurate before you get your heart set on your pace. I personally had thought I was running faster and longer than I was. And then I found out my watch was just wrong when I actually had it on during a race and it said I was at mile, like, 1.3 when I was at mile 1. And I was really slow after all. And sad.

The other thing you can do is what I honestly do most often, which is the treadmill. Other runners hate it so do what you will. It's your life. Whatevs.

An example of a 4 mile speed interval might be something like this:

* 0.5 Mile Warm-up job
* 0.25 At your goal time (so, if you normally run a 9:30 and want to be at a 9:00, as an example)
* 0.25 At :30 seconds slower than race goal (so in example above, a 10:00)
Repeat intervals until you reach 3.5 miles and then do a half mile cool-down jog.

Listen, I'm not a coach, and I'm not an expert (yet), so I highly recommend you do some research on this. But I'll also say this: I didn't do research and I am totally baller and getting faster. 

This image comes up first if one was to to Google "Awesome Cheetah", which is how I have equated myself.
And I would do again. Gladly.

In sum, worry about getting started before you worry about getting faster. Believe it or not, it will come naturally once you get more comfortable with running.

Once you are comfortable I recommend you either break your ankle in order to force change or follow a plan. The latter might be better, but I don't know. I'm no Doctor.

More credible source

Ultimately, I wouldn't worry. Not to be, like, mean or anything...but if you're asking me for advice? You're probably not going to win the race. So just get out there and enjoy it and don't worry about the speed. Unless you are crazy and competitive like me and then -- frankly - God save you.

So there you have it. Hope that helped. Until next time, friends!


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