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2013-03-11 3:40 PM

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Subject: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

Question:

I’ll lead with the question: How fast would you recommend I go out for my marathon this weekend given the information below?  I want to target a conservative pace for ~20 miles and run by feel coming in from there. 

Background:

This will be my first marathon.  I am at T-6.  I made it through my build just fine.  My peak weekly volume was 45 miles and my longest individual runs were a pair of 20s, with the more recent at T-22.  Average weekly volume for the 10 weeks leading up to peak was just over 36 miles / week, plus 3-4 hours of cross training.  My logs are complete and accurate. 

As I started my taper I hurt my knee on T-18.  I have been seeing a sports medicine guy.  He can’t find anything but thinks it likely that I’ve aggravated my meniscus and potentially the MCL but not terribly.  Under his guidance I took a week off and have since run 1, 3, and then 5 miles with only modest soreness and the knee has continued to recover.  For the first few days it was difficult to walk; I’d say that now it feels ~90% healed and I was  able to run today without pain or an altered gait.

Illustrative Paces:

I ran a 1:42 HM last spring on an average load of 26 miles/week in the 8 weeks leading up to the event.  For that event my HR was basically pegged at 168 from miles 2-12.

Long runs: In my 20 mile runs I averaged about a 9:00 pace.  For each, my HR stayed around 145 for the first half, started drifting around 12-14 miles, and got up to the 160s by the end.  After each my legs felt beat-up but I was basically fine after.

Medium runs: Ran probably half a dozen 12 mile runs.  For these I averaged about an 8:40 pace.  Usually averaged HR of 145-150 for the runs and felt pretty fresh afterward.

Final Thoughts:

I know I don’t have the volume to hit my McMillan time (8:14) so that’s off the table.  I’ve been on the site for a few years now so I’m familiar with most of the conventional wisdom – I’m hoping for specific advice from folks who’ve done marathons.  Prior to the injury I was thinking that 9:00 would be ‘easy’ but potentially over-conservative, whereas targeting an 8:30 pace might be too aggressive. 

I welcome any thoughts on (i) general pacing advice given my situation, and (ii) how much I might expect the lack of training during the last 2.5 weeks to impact me.  Thanks in advance for any guidance.



2013-03-11 4:35 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

A brief look at your logs shows you've done plenty of work this year to not let the enforced lay off in the last couple of weeks drop your fitness, you just had a slightly longer taper period :-)

I like to attempt to negative split races, in your case I'd suggest heading out the first half in 9:00 m/m (if that's what you've been averaging in your long runs, start there). when you hit the half way point if you're feeling good and your HR is stable, step it up to 8:45m/m.  Reassess at mile 18 both HR and RPE.  If you're able to pick up any then do, but by this time you'll be getting tired, make it through miles 18 to 23 maintaining 8:45 and you'll be good to hang on the last 3(point 2) :-)

Common mistakes,( or rather mistakes I have made!):

1. Feeling great from mile 10 to 15 and picking up the pace too much and going way past my overall pace time, by mile 19 the wall smacked me right in the chops, the last 7 that day were probably the toughest (and slowest) miles I've run in a marathon.

2. Going "b to the wall" as an experiment, actually achieved my fastest ever half marathon time in the middle of this marathon, but again it was completely unsustainable and hurt, a lot, hanging on to the end.

Lastly, if this is your first marathon, try to enjoy it, and soak up the crowds/atmosphere as much as you can,  you've trained for it and I'm sure you'll love it.  If you get there and things seem harder or to hurt more than you expected, slow down, take in the race, learn from it and get through it, better to finish and learn from the experience.



Edited by dewybuck 2013-03-11 4:52 PM
2013-03-11 4:48 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

I might try starting out around 8:50-9:00, let your body warm up for the first 10k and settle down from the adrenaline rush, then see about settling into about 8:45. Unless you start having pain that should be about right. It's much easier to negative split than start out too fast and try to recover. Plus watching your pace fall off is mentally draining, and those last couple miles are as much about mental toughness as training.

That week of low volume isn't going to hurt you a bit. It takes about 3 weeks off to lose conditioning. Make sure you have a solid nutrition and hydration plan, stick to your plan, and have a great time.



Edited by BrianRunsPhilly 2013-03-11 5:09 PM
2013-03-11 5:06 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners
Start at 9s then evaluate your condition at the halfway point, then every two or three miles after and adjust accordingly. I'm of the opinion that you should NOT stray from your original pace until at least after the halfway point, and even then it may be too soon to increase your speed.

The old adage about the first 20 miles of the marathon being easy and the last 10K being the hard part is true. If you go out too fast and don't evaluate over and over, you're going to be in for a long 6.2 miles. I did this in my first couple of marathons and by mile 22 was hurting and eventually walking.

Marathon running is fluid and your pacing should be as well.
2013-03-11 6:11 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

For me the most difficult miles are 16-20.  I am past the halfway point and it feels like no man's land.  I guess this is more from a mental standpoint than physical.  Of course the last part of the race is going to hurt but knowing that I have only got 30-40 more minutes to go makes the pain tolerable.

I race by feel and only looked at my Garmin 3 times during the marathon.  Although McMillan predicted  a faster pace I decided to follow the 3:30 pace group but moved ahead by Mile 3.  It 'felt' too slow and I didn't like how the uphills and downhills were managed.  By mile 18 I was confident with how I was feeling and just kept running.  Managed a 3:21 with a neg split (which I always do).

I agree with starting with around 9:00 min/miles to start and taking stock of how you are feeling at the halfway point.  I do think it is better to base pacing off of McMillan and past races w/ MPW.  I don't think that basing marathon pace off of long run pace is ideal.  I ran 80% of my mileage (including long runs) at a 8:50 to 9:10 min pace and ran the marathon at a 7:47 pace.



Edited by AG Runner 2013-03-11 6:12 PM
2013-03-11 6:33 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

As everyone has said, going out conservatively is a move you will never regret.

I run based on perceived exertion rather than by pace so, I go out "easy" and allow myself to establish a nice rhythm and then evaluate throughout. 



2013-03-11 7:08 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

I don't think you have enough information to determine a solid answer.  Your injury is a total wild card, and while your running mileage seems to be consistant, it's far from ideal to help predict a long race like a marathon.  You're realistic in throwing out the 8:14 prediction of McMillian, so that's a good start.  Lots of people can do well in a half marathon on lower mileage, but the lack of mileage tends to catch up to people after the 20 mile mark of a marathon.  Without sufficient mileage, I wouldn't expect to race much faster (if at all) than the pace of your 20 mile long runs.  It may seem like it's "only" 6.2 more miles...but trust me, it is the longest 6.2 miles of your life if you're riding the edge...and even longer if you go over that edge.

So I'm with everyone else that you should start conservatively in the first 15-18 miles if for no other reason to be cautious of your knee.  Your 20 mile long run pace is a good starting point.

2013-03-11 7:17 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

I was told of a 10-10-10 plan prior to my last marathon and like the idea. 10 miles  10-15 sec of desired pace- 10 miles at desired pace- 10k everything you have left. This is assuming you have a rough idea of pace, which you probably do off your 20 mile runs. I like the idea but didn't follow properly. My last 10k went from everything I have left to just hold on. Not to say the plan didn't work I just went out my first 10 miles at pace instead of 10-15 sec slower. Still managed to hold on and break goal time.

Although only you know how bad your knee is and how much it will hinder you.



Edited by rjrankin83 2013-03-11 7:20 PM
2013-03-11 7:30 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

Lots of good advice in here already, and there's fairly good consensus too. Something that we don't know is how your fitness and weight are relative to when you did the 1:42 HM. Everybody has you heading out in the 8:45 - 9:00 range, and that seems about right - you could tend towards the faster or slower end of that range depending on where you are compared to a year ago. But the main thing is to really put the brakes on in the first few miles. It may feel ridiculously easy, but you just have to resist the urge to get carried away. You could use HR for a reality check, if that will help.

Don't worry about the effect of the extra rest. You'll be fine. Just take care of your knee.

Good luck, and we'll look forward to reading your RR.

2013-03-12 7:45 AM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

Thanks all.  I'm glad first of all to hear that most folks don't think the unplanned layoff will totally crush me.  Just to be clear, though, the total impact is going to be the entire last 2.5 weeks, not just the one - I'm only going to get in about 18 miles over that time frame. Getting the knee healed is the priority.

Regardless, I'm going to plan on starting off at 9:00 for at least the first half and tweaking from there.  The consensus seems to be that (i) that's likely still possible, and (ii) that's not egregiously conservative.

Thanks for helping me feel comfortable with the plan.

2013-03-12 9:36 AM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners
There is nothing like running a well managed marathon, and you are well poised to do just that. You have the data and the training ... and a pretty good sense of your capabilities. You've already indicated a willingness to back off of your previous arbitrary goals based on what you're training has told you. That's huge.

So I'm not going to suggest a pace. Instead, I'm going to encourage you to really feel your marathon. Set the goal of feeling like you're holding yourself back for the first 16 miles. Really just feel the flow of it all and practice reigning yourself in from the enthusiasm that is going to surround you. Focus on your nutrition plan and keeping calm for 16. You already have given yourself permission to let those high 8s show up on the pace without feeling like you're going too slow.

Then, at 16 (or thereabouts) let yourself SLOWLY unleash. Gain a few seconds per mile and ride the incredible wave of passing those that went out too fast. If you hit 23 and still have something left to unleash, then give yourself permission to really push yourself. It's an amazing feeling to fly through those last few miles as others are slowing down.

You've done the training and you have the endurance. Have an awesome race. 


2013-03-12 11:45 AM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners
bruce_v - 2013-03-12 7:45 AM

Thanks all.  I'm glad first of all to hear that most folks don't think the unplanned layoff will totally crush me.  Just to be clear, though, the total impact is going to be the entire last 2.5 weeks, not just the one - I'm only going to get in about 18 miles over that time frame. Getting the knee healed is the priority.

Regardless, I'm going to plan on starting off at 9:00 for at least the first half and tweaking from there.  The consensus seems to be that (i) that's likely still possible, and (ii) that's not egregiously conservative.

Thanks for helping me feel comfortable with the plan.



Also, and this is important, remember that it's supposed to be fun. Don't get lost in the minutiae, take it all in and enjoy it, have a good time and smile, wave to friends and family and be sure to do something fun at the end as you cross the line, whether it's a backflip (ouch) or something as simple as mugging for the camera. You only get one first marathon.
2013-03-12 1:02 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners
bruce_v - 2013-03-12 5:45 AM

Thanks all.  I'm glad first of all to hear that most folks don't think the unplanned layoff will totally crush me.  Just to be clear, though, the total impact is going to be the entire last 2.5 weeks, not just the one - I'm only going to get in about 18 miles over that time frame. Getting the knee healed is the priority.

Regardless, I'm going to plan on starting off at 9:00 for at least the first half and tweaking from there.  The consensus seems to be that (i) that's likely still possible, and (ii) that's not egregiously conservative.

Thanks for helping me feel comfortable with the plan.

One more thing to add: take a look at the course beforehand so you know where the hills are.  Plan in some flexibility on your pace for the uphill sections.

The toughest course I've done was downhill or flat for about the first 8 miles, uphill (rolling) until mile 23ish, then a steep downhill to the finish.  Very hard to pace properly.

2013-03-12 1:39 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners
Don't run a pace.  Run an RPE and you get what the day gives you.  If you try to hit a specific pace and your body isn't willing to provide that pace you are setting yourself up for a very long last 8 miles or so...
2013-03-12 3:34 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

jldicarlo - 2013-03-12 2:39 PM Don't run a pace.  Run an RPE and you get what the day gives you.  If you try to hit a specific pace and your body isn't willing to provide that pace you are setting yourself up for a very long last 8 miles or so...
 

Yes, if the planned pace feels too hard, then ease off to a comfortable effort.

But don't play it the other way. If the planned pace feels too easy, don't speed up to an effort that seems fine. That's probably the more common occurrence. In that case, simply stick to the planned pace, and enjoy how great you feel.

2013-03-19 2:16 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

I just wanted to thank the folks who chipped in last week.

I completed the marathon in 3:58. My six official splits were all in the 9:00-9:10 range. My unofficial watch-based mile splits had more variation - ~8:50s early (very long gradual descent on old railroad path), 9:00s in the middle, with a two jagged 9:30s thrown in around 19 and 23 or so as I was struggling a bit.

I still feel like something has been 'off' this week; my HR and RPE have been much higher than they should be at a given pace, both compared to previous training runs and previous races.

Either way, though, I got through and beat 4:00.  Thanks for helping make sure I didn't overdo it early.  I can't believe how sore my legs were the first two days afterward.



2013-03-19 2:46 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners
bruce_v - 2013-03-19 3:16 PM

I just wanted to thank the folks who chipped in last week.

I completed the marathon in 3:58. My six official splits were all in the 9:00-9:10 range. My unofficial watch-based mile splits had more variation - ~8:50s early (very long gradual descent on old railroad path), 9:00s in the middle, with a two jagged 9:30s thrown in around 19 and 23 or so as I was struggling a bit.

I still feel like something has been 'off' this week; my HR and RPE have been much higher than they should be at a given pace, both compared to previous training runs and previous races.

Either way, though, I got through and beat 4:00.  Thanks for helping make sure I didn't overdo it early.  I can't believe how sore my legs were the first two days afterward.

Congrats... sub-4 for a first marathon is pretty dang good!

2013-03-19 3:06 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

I will relay what I was told prior to my first marathon...

First 10 miles: if you feel like you are putting forth any type of effort your are going too fast
Second 10 miles: it is going to start to hurt a little bit, you are now putting forth some effort to maintain pace
Last 6.2: Now the race BEGINS, now is where all that training you have done comes into the picture.

I followed this idea the best I could and boy did it hold true..

2013-03-19 3:43 PM
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Subject: RE: Pace Advice from Experienced Marathoners

It's very hard if you have a competitive nature but your first marathon should not be for time, but for the experience.  Find a pace bunny that's around 9 and stick with him/her.  If you feel that you're pushing it, fall back.   I've messed up a number of marathons by going out too fast in the beginning.  I have a really difficult time holding myself back.  I never feel like I'm running fast at the beginning but I do.  The only way I've found to control it is to stick with a pace bunny.  I agree that the last 6 miles where the race begins.  If you get there and are feeling good, pick up the pace a bit.  

Marathons are significantly harder than half marathons.

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