Friday, September 25, 2015

Running a Smarter 2015 Chicago Marathon

Last year, I missed my marathon PR at the Chicago Marathon by four minutes. In order to improve on that time and perhaps actually PR, I've outlined the things that I plan to do differently at this year's Chicago Marathon:

Around mile 8 in 2014
1) Negative split: I've run seven marathons and I've run positive splits all seven times. Check out the blue line in this graph of last year's marathon's mile splits.
My 2014 Mile Paces
All you need to see is that the line slopes upwards after mile 13. I would like to finally see that line that slope downward (or at least be flat) after mile 13!

2) Add extra time to pace calculators: According to the McMillan Pace Calculator, based on my last 5k time I should be able to run a 2:58:00 marathon, according to my last half, I should be able to run a 3:00:00 marathon. However, as I've learned in the past pace calculators don't work for me for the marathon distance. I am better off adding a few extra minutes to my predicted marathon finish time and go with that pace (say a 3:04:00). If I feel good later in the race, then I can speed up and attack the lower number.

3) Plan for a bathroom break: I've had to stop at a porta-potty in the first half of all of my marathons. I need to factor this extra minute "break" into my pace calculations. Also, once I leave the porta-potty I need to not speed up to try and get back with the "group" I was running with, or to try not to make back lost time as quickly as possible.
My 2014 port-potty stop according to my GPS map
4) Try not to stop: Besides the bathroom stop last year, I also had to stop because my heart rate monitor fell off. This year if I don't use the porta-potty (by not drinking too much pre-race), I could save a minute. Also, I recently bought a Garmin 225 watch with a wrist-based HRM. So, unless my watch somehow falls off, I won't have to stop to adjust anything this year.

Keep right on moving...
5) Don't surge at mile 13 or 14: At the halfway point of every marathon, I throw in a reckless fast surge (see chart above) for a mile that wears me out. After this surge, my pace gradually drops off and I start hurting. I simply need to cut that out!

6) Take extra nutrition: Last year, during the final four miles I got three separate leg cramps. Although a lot of that may have to do with diminishing form as I got tired, I need to get an extra gel down to deliver some carbs and sodium to my muscles which could help avoid the dreaded leg cramps.

No plan is ever perfect, but I just want to avoid repeating the same dumb mistakes that I seem to make at most marathons. Saving just a minute or two by racing smart, could mean the difference between a PR and not a PR.

27 comments:

  1. Sounds good to me. I also plan on taking any whole food I can get my hands on -- pretzels, bananas, and oranges especially -- to act as a backup or supplement to the gels I take. I missed going sub-3:20 at Chicago 13 by 5 seconds, and among other reasons, I'm convinced one was bc I cut across the street in Pilsen to wear I saw someone handing out oranges (but weren't on the side I was running on). It might have cost me that sub-3:20, but I still PRed, so not all was lost :) you'll do great! Excited to track you :)

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    1. Where, not wear... ah, the multitasking mind :)

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    2. I am hoping I'll get an orange slice somewhere during the final 10 miles! That story about cutting across the street reminds me of my 3:05:03 in L.A. Someone was shouting from the other side of the street that they came all the way out there for a high-five, so I ran over to him to give him a high-five. It probably cost me at least 10 seconds. I definitely could have gone sub-3:05 without doing it! Oh well, I had fun!

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  2. Good plan, Pete. Now just remember not to put in any kind of surge (no matter how good you feel and how much adrenaline is going through you) until maybe mile 23 or 24. Just try to maintain your pace (as you know, your body will get tired just from that). Also, use those gels. 5 or 6 at least to help prevent the wall. Good luck! I'll be watching for you.

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    1. Thanks Steve. That's good advice and I am going to need all of my mental energy to keep an even pace and not surge. I am definitely going to try and force down some gels! Thanks again! :)

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  3. Oh, the dreaded portapotty stops. I had 2 last year. I also had a technological glitch, when my iPhone flashlight turned on and wouldn't stop. I've been working on all that and I'm hoping to avoid those things. Really, for me, the wild card is the weather. I hope to have all the rest under control. Ha!

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    1. Yeah, the porta potty stops are not fun. Luckily I found an open one, but it was at the end of a long row of them. I don't know how ticked I would be if I had to stand there and wait! Yes, here's hoping that the weather is cool! :)

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  4. Your plan sounds great! Without even looking I know I have 1. never run a negative split, d'oh, and 2. also find that the pace calculator just doesn't match what actually happens on marathon race day, haha. Sounds like you're going to have a kickass marathon! Good luck!

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    1. Yes, I'm really gunning for a negative split, but would take a slight positive split if I can PR! :) Thanks!

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  5. If it's just a #1, you could always piss yourself. Seriously! I've known many people that have done it as they were going for their goals in marathons. I promise I won't tell anyone if you do.

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    1. Ha, ha. Actually, I never consider it and I don't know if I could since I've never done it while running. I guess if I had to go badly enough then it's worth a shot!

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  6. I love how you analyze and chart your data. That is too cool. I've run 3 full marathons, (SLOW compared to you) and I actually negative splitted my second (and PR race) somehow. I think I just ran with heart and left it all out there. BEST wishes on your Chicago Marathon. I know you'll rock it!

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    1. Thanks Michelle!! Cool that you were able to negative split your PR race! I need to remember to run with my heart as well. Thanks again!

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  7. It's scary how similar my chart is compared to yours. It hasn't helped that I actually "ran over my head" for the first half my last couple races just to see if I could maintain it or not. I plan or running evenly until mile 23 if possible and then hurting for the last 3.2 miles. Hopefully the negative split works out.

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    1. That brings up a good point. Do 90% of marathoners have charts that look like ours? I guess it is fairly easy to "run over our heads" in a marathon and then realize at mile 20 that we ran too fast too early. Good luck at the TC this weekend and good luck with the negative splits!

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  8. Great analysis and great ideas! How do you plan to not go out too fast?

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    1. How are these? 1) I will try lining up in the back of my corral, maybe behind the 3:10 group. 2) I will be constantly checking my GPS watch to make sure I am on my targeted early paces. 3) In the early miles I will try to envision what I will feel like during in miles 23 through 26.2 if I go out too fast! Any tips that work for you?

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    2. My only tip is #2! I watch my watch like a hawk and keep slowing down when it gets too high! I think you got this!!!! :)

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    3. Okay then, I'm going to watch my watch like a hawk! Maybe I can program it to yell at me when I'm going too fast. Thanks, I hope so! :)

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  9. Great plan! I guess I have to start thinking about mine too. :-)

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    1. Thanks. Good luck with your plan too! :)

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  10. I love your detailed analysis :) I think purposely gong out 10 Sec a mile or whatever the difference is between the calculator and a few min slower will help you a lot. Also recognizing you surge at mile 13-14 is now on your radar so you hopefully won't do it again :) do you take salt pills? I usually would take a gu every 4.5 miles and a salt pill with them.

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    1. Thanks! I don't take salt pills, but I did take a salt packet from someone in Central Park when I ran the NYCM. I may get one or two and see how it works. I definitely need to up my nutrition frequency to every 4 to 5 miles like you, but it is a constant struggle to see if my stomach will let me get more Gu in it! :)

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  11. Sounds like a great plan! I'm glad the negative split is number one on your list - you can do it! How do you like the new Garmin?

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    1. Thanks Sara! I like my new Garmin, it actually syncs with my phone via Bluetooth and tracks my steps and sleep! However, the heart rate monitor does not work all of the time. I'm starting to think that HRMs and me don't get along!

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  12. Your scientific and thorough analyses never cease to amaze me. These are really, really great focus points. I especially like the one about accounting for a bathroom stop. I never plan for portapotty breaks, and always end up cursing myself when I unexpectedly take one. Always better to plan for it and not need it, then to not plan for it and throw yourself off mentally when you do!

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    1. Yes, I think I figured it out last year since it was the second year in a row that I sped up too much right after my potty break. My potty stops were both around mile 6, when I would leave a pace group, ditch into a porta-john and then try to get back with them ASAP, even though really I had another 20 miles to do so. I guess my mantra after a one minute potty break should be "chip away slowly". I just need to run 3 seconds/mile faster over 20 miles to get back on track, rather than 60 seconds faster to get back on track! :)

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