The 121st Boston Marathon is now just a week out, on #MarathonMonday, April 17!
The Elite Men and Wave One (mine) start at 10 AM. You won’t see me on TV in Galen Rupp’s slipstream, but if you want to track my progress you can sign up for text or email updates. I’m bib #703.
When I began Boston-specific training five months ago, during November’s dark days, I was thinking sub-2:36:53, or 6:00 minute/mile pace. It’s a clean number, and it would have represented a significant drop from my 2:44:42 qualifying time at the Colorado Marathon last spring.
But then David Roche happened.
At 36-years-old I’m nearing the end of my physical prime. So I hired David in mid-December to coach me, to avoid squandering the few years left in which I can set worthy lifetime bests.
Quickly I began to see steady and dramatic drops in my times. Of course, it wasn’t all David: I had to do the work. But I’ve endured similar (and even greater) loads before, and my pre-Roche results don’t measure up. Great coaching + dedication = peak performance.
So long as race day conditions are favorable (e.g. average weather, and continued good health), I’m confident that I can break 2:30, or 5:43 per mile pace.
If this were not my first marathon with post-Roche fitness, I suspect I’d be looking even lower. But I’d rather run an even or negative split, feel great about my finish, and have a little bit left in the tank, than to overestimate my fitness, get out over my skis, and hemorrhage minutes of time between Heartbreak Hill and Copley Square.
Faster than I’ve been in 16 years
Last week David scheduled a 10k tempo, intended to be run at 10-mile race pace. I ran a 33:23 (5:23 pace) on a loop course at 5300 feet with 100 vertical feet of gain. Per Jack Daniels’ Running Calculator, the sea level conversion is 32:12, or 5:11 pace; and an equivalent 5K is 15:30, or 4:59 pace.
These conversions are within striking distance of my collegiate PR’s from spring 2001. I ran 31:45 in the 10K at the ACC Outdoor T&F Championships, and 15:01 a few weeks earlier at the Duke Invite. Between injuries and a time-consuming side interest (hiking), I never regained this level of running form until now, sixteen years later.
Yeah, I know that 30 seconds in a 10k or 5k is huge. But that gap can be easily explained away by the circumstances: sub-max workout vs peak race, solo effort vs competition, and 100 ft of climbing vs a flat track.
I also realize that it was just one workout. But I’ve done others that I think would have been a challenge for my 20-year-old self, like the 25-miler in mid-March with 16 miles at 5:49 pace (5:37 sea level conversion).
Faster but not fitter
Interestingly, I don’t think I’m necessarily “fitter” than I have been at any point in the last 16 years. At the end of the 6,875-mile Great Western Loop, during which I averaged 33 miles per day for 208 days, I must have been crazy fit. More recently, I followed the classic but misguided ultrarunner training regimen of huge volume, thinking that consecutive weeks of 100+ miles and 20k vertical feet of climbing was the ticket.
But “fit” does not mean “fast.” During the aforementioned periods, I was extremely fit, but had poor running economy:
- I had to work excessively hard to run at various paces, and
- I could not maintain those paces for long, because I was working so hard.
A good analogy is a hypothetical running race between Michael Phelps and Galen Rupp. Both are extremely fit, with off-the-charts VO2 scores. But Rupp would run circles around Phelps because of vastly superior running economy, due to intense running-specific training. In my old state, I was Michael Phelps. Now, I’m Galen Rupp.
Or, next Monday I’m at least going to try to be.