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Predicting Times

BANGLE

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As you know, I race a lot. 309 road races so far to be exact. And I usually go into a race with a goal time, and a pretty good prediction of what I think I can do. Most times I come out pretty close to what I expect.

But having just read this book:

 
 
 
 
 
I did some thinking about that.  Am I running close to predicted times because of my knowledge and experience? Or is my prediction causing me to run that time?
For example, if I predict my 5K will be 20:20 instead of 20:50, and then adjust my race strategy for that time, am I more likely to run faster? Despite my experience telling me 20:50 is what I am capable of right now?
 

So this week I ran a Mile race on the track. The last two years I aimed for sub 6 and ran 5:52 and 5:59. This year I had convinced myself, based on many track workouts and runs with slower paces than usual, that sub-6 was out of reach. I was talking about going out at 6:20 pace with a goal of running 6:10-6:15. I considered going out at 6:00 pace to be suicidal. Race day came and one guy said he was running 6:00 pace if anyone wanted to pace off of him. (He was capable of faster).  I didn't give it much thought. I would run my race and see how far away the pace group would be.

So off we went and I slipped into my usual spot in the group. There was about 30 people racing, from 4:50 pace to 9 minute pace. I glanced at the Garmin after 100m and it said 6:10 pace. Yeah I got this pacing thing down. First lap was 92 and it felt perfect. Hard but manageable. The 6:00 group was about 8 people in a bunch just ahead. I maintained.

Lap two I caught a few people who went out too fast. But the group was pulling away from me. I let them because this was plenty hard enough thank you. Second lap 94 for a 3:06 1/2.

Lap 3 is about ignoring the pain and pushing hard not to lose momentum. A few people were falling off the pace group and I caught some which helped me stay motivated. Lots of huffing and puffing and grimacing but the end was near now. 93 for lap 3.

I still felt OK and tried to find another gear and get everything I could out of the last lap. Not a whole lot left however. I caught one more guy as my legs tied up and riggy kicked in. The last straight was just surviving and trying not to stumble. I think spit was coming off my mouth and my eyes were glazed. Finished at 6:10 for a 91 last lap.

So. My splits tell me I maximized my potential. I didn't have an 85 left in me. I gave everything and 6:10 was my best on this day. Or was it? What if I had gone out at 90? Could I have held on and still been able to finish strong? Or would I have died early and fallen off the pack like some of my friends? I was spent at the end. But it wasn't the worst I've ever felt. I'm sure a few more seconds could have been had.

Anyway, it's fun to ponder. Still happy with the 72% age-grade. But I'm already planning to assault the mile again maybe in December. This time I will go in telling myself I can do sub-6. The body follows the brain.

Back to marathon training...

 
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I'd say leave the watch at home and push all the chips in!

Nice racing and pacing! And am I supposed to drink the beer now??

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That book really was fascinating. Makes you wonder about just how much more that you are capable of giving despite feeling spent. I think that is part of the allure of running and competition as a whole. Even when I've had a great/PR race, I always wonder if I had more to give if I'd started out a little faster.

Congrats on the 6:10! 🔥

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I'm gonna have to check out that book. 

I'm no expert on the mile but those splits sound pretty good to me (especially mid-marathon training), nice racing!

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31 minutes ago, Gonzo Runner said:

I'm gonna have to check out that book. 

I'm no expert on the mile but those splits sound pretty good to me (especially mid-marathon training), nice racing!

I should have mentioned I did 16 miles on Friday. Certainly cost me a few seconds...

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"curiously elastic" typically applies to my fat-girl pants - not my endurance limits. 

Great job on the mile. 

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You probably maxed out, given the training. Dropping the mile time would require more specific training for that distance. A month of targeted interval work would make a big difference.

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6:10 is pretty fast. I'd have a tough time figuring out the best warmup routine to use for a mile race.

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I've listened to a few podcasts with Jared Ward who is considered to be an expert on pacing. I believe he wrote is Masters thesis in statistics on marathon pacing. He believes that you set your goal based on training. 

That being said, setting a pace goal for a long race such as a marathon is likely pretty different than setting one for a much shorter race like a mile. My guess is the shorter the race, the more likely you are to be successful in pacing faster than your training would indicate.

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Deep thoughts.  I tend to run a little better when I don't look at my pace or splits but go by effort, although that's easier said than done.

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that's a great book..

my experience was the same as Alex's, only slower. All my PRs at distances shorter than the marathon, came from starting way too fast and hanging on grimly. If you go out at planned splits then it's very difficult to get a significant negative split for a PR. 
Go out at 'it is a good day to die' pace, and sometimes get a nice surprise.. other times, you just wish you could die.. 😉

 

Edited by doug in co
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