Thursday, May 05, 2022

Race Report: Illinois Half Marathon, 5K and One-Mile, 2022

Background


The plans for this weekend started one way, a long time ago, and then shifted and shifted....and it all worked out OK. 


Last November, in my plans to see if I could run a 4:30 marathon this spring, I registered for two in April...the Carmel Marathon on April 9 and the Illinois Marathon at the U of Illinois on April 30.   I guessed I’d have a better shot at decent weather by picking two, rather than depending on just one spring marathon. 


Well, sometime over the winter, the Illinois Marathon organizers sent out a note saying they wouldn’t be hosting a marathon after all.   It seemed they could not hire enough off-duty police officers to supervise all the street crossings in Champaign-Urbana for a full 26.2 mile event.   Thus, the event became a Half Marathon on Saturday, April 30.   They also offered a one-mile and a 5K race on the Friday evening before.   I opted in.   And, with the way the Carmel Marathon shifted my planning, it was just fine.  


Race weekend weather was not favorable but it could have been far worse.   The forecast called for high wind and rain on Friday night and most of the day Saturday.   It turned out to be mostly just very windy, yet the meteorologist became a central figure.  


Here’s how each race played out. 


Green Street Mile-  6:30pm, Friday, April 29


Results:   8:14, 3rd of 7 men 60-69


The utter flatness of the U of I campus allowed for a unique race; a straight-line, flat, one-mile run on Third Street, from north to south.  Not many ran it, only 227 folks, and it seemed disjointed (in contrast to the perfect organization of everything else for the weekend).   But we got started about 15 minutes late and I resolved to try to run it as hard as I could, hoping for a time with a “7” as the first digit.  


I took off trying to find a pace I thought I could hold the entire distance.   It was simple to look at the per-mile pace on my Garmin to see how I was doing.    I was holding to a sub 8 well past the halfway mark.   Then, it got a bit more labored.   With about 200m to go, I was digging deep and the pace was still slipping.   30m or so from the finish line, I was simply out of gas and could only jog across the finish line.   8:14 on my watch was disappointing...bent over double, gasping for breath let me know I had given it my best shot.   



I was nevertheless encouraged to rapidly, within a couple of minutes, have my breathing back and my heart rate back down to normal.   I ambled back to my car to get a dry shirt and run a 5K about 35 minutes later



Illinois 5K,  7:30pm, Friday, April 29


Results:   28:49, (9:17/mile), 526 of 2,696 overall, 7th of 34 Men 65-59


Whereas the one-mile race was small, disorganized and a flat-out effort for me, the 5K was very big, perfectly organized and a gentle jog.   I can’t recall ever running a 5K with this many people...they stretched out for 200m behind the start line.  



One group of intrepid local charity runners did the 5K with Sousaphones...note the bibs on the bell!!




The sharp wind and low 50s temps made standing around in the grid quite chilly.    We started on time and warmed up.  


I just jogged this one at a pace that felt comfortable.   It was a nice tour around the U of I campus and we finished at the 50 yard line of the venerable Memorial Stadium, one of the oldest stadii in the Big Ten.  Perhaps a little cheeky of me to wear a Purdue shirt at an opposing university but no one really seemed to notice or care.    




































I actually ran hard at the end and the photos seemed to capture that a bit, albeit not very flatteringly.  


It was very windy but the rain held off.   I headed to my motel and slept a bit.


Illinois Half Marathon, 7:30am, Saturday, April 30


Results:    2:14:47  (10:17/mile), 1,388 of 2,384, 12th of 25 Men 65-69


My objective for the HM was to run it in 2:15 and enjoy it.   Walking into the Expo on Friday afternoon, I happened to meet a pair of pace group leaders, one of them leading the 2:15 group.   I decided to see if I could simply hang with that group and get it done.   


Up early on race morning, I scored a primo parking spot, about as near as I could get to the finish line exit from the stadium...parking spot planning proved a major topic of thought all weekend, with two different finish line locations and three separate start lines and blocked streets abounding. 


Weather remained chilly, windy, grey, overcast, threatening of rain.   We chatted in the start grid on the late, chilly spring...for an April 30th race, we all had hoped for better.    We started in waves and got going on time.   


I fell in with the 2:15 group and it seemed comfortable early.   The course was quite serpentine, as the organizers had to get creative on how to snake a combined 10K and HM course all contained on or next to the U of I campus.   Thus, we had the wind in our face, then at our side, then at our back and then in our face again all morning.    


Around mile 5 or so, I was dismayed to find hanging with the pace group became more difficult for me.  My breathing was more labored and the legs were heavy.   Was this yet another disappointment like I saw four weeks earlier in Carmel?   I was concerned.   After some debate, I decided to shift from a steady run with the pace group to the more familiar 6/1 run/walk, using the same pacing I used in Carmel which could lead to a 2:15 HM finish.    


I reset my watch and lumbered on, discouraged.  



Some drizzle started, we took our first trip past the stadium to drop off the 10K runners, and we headed on a long, increasingly open trek through the prairie south of campus, home to many academic agricultural research projects, I’m sure.   The wide open farm ground was a jarring contrast to the academic, commercial and Oxfordesque old residential areas. 


I was working the 6/1 and gradually felt my legs coming back.  Some volunteers passing out orange slices added some citrusy zest.   The local Corvette club had a dandy display of cars I’ll never be able to afford.  There was no shelter from the wind in these open areas, though.   The drizzle stopped but the sky was foreboding.   I chatted with folks a bit to pass the time...a first-time half marathoner was feeling encouraged by mile 9.   A fellow baseball fan and I discussed Albert Pujols’ return to the St Louis Cardinals.   We plodded north, finally heading back to campus.  


Around mile 10.5, I flipped my Garmin screen to see my aggregate pace.   To my utter surprise, it was at 10:14/mile.  The pace for a 2:15 HM was 10:18/mile...and I was just a tad quicker!!   I was amazed...I didn’t feel like I was anywhere close to that pace, even though I had been trying to do just that all along, both with the pace team and with my own run/walk calculations.   Really?   Might I actually end up close to 2:15 after feeling so lousy about the entire deal??    



Many turns remained, as the course continued to feel like the waiting line to ride with Dumbo at Disney World.  Around mile 11, the rain started again in earnest.  The wind kept pounding.   I didn’t feel much better but my watch said I was still on pace.   Zigging and zagging, we eventually made our final left then right turns to head into the stadium and the 50 yard line.    



Remembering my grimace at the 5K finish the night before, I decided to appear more positive in the free photos at the HM finish.  




Over the line, a look at my watch and I was thrilled to have actually beat the 2:15 target.    



I found the 2:15 pacer who was still hanging out at the finish line.   We chatted and she said “Yeah, I was a little quick at the start” but she was happy I came in under my goal.   I had to have the photo...it’s nice to have my personal pacer, or so it appears.   







I quickly left the football field, knowing there was warm food, no rain, no wind and my drop bag waiting in the concourse.  I wasn’t disappointed. Chocolate milk, Doritos and a slice of pizza tasted great.   The dry shirt from my bag was even better.   



I made the short walk to my car and headed home.  


Ultimately, the most instructive moment from the HM happened later when I got a close look at my official pace chart from the various timing mats around the course. 




Had you shown this chart to me before the race, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.   Steady, consistent pace, all at the target pace.  Yet, this consistency was in marked contrast to how I felt along the way...it banged all over the place.   


I was pleased with the three races in two days.   Each was useful and I always enjoy race day.   Moving on now to some summer ultras.



Persevere.





.


Saturday, April 23, 2022

Race Report: Carmel Marathon 2022

ORN:  26.2 miles, 4:54:32, 11:15/mile; 6/1, then 3/1 R/W; 696 of 842 overall, 456 of 520 men, 6 of 10 M65-69

First 13.1:   2:13:28      Last 13.1:   2:41:04

Summary

The Marathon proves, once again, it is a master teacher.   The lesson this time?  The six-month plan I’ve been on failed.   Thus, I pivot my running trajectory.   

Gory Details

When I finished the Monumental Marathon last November, I knew something had to give.   It went poorly, I felt awful and didn’t want to repeat a marathon in that manner.    5:07:32, when I had targeted 4:45, just didn’t cut it.   

I set out to discover if I could run a marathon at something approaching the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon one more time.   The BQ for me, starting in the fall of 2022, will be 4:20; to actually get into Boston, I’d likely need 4:18.   

How to get to 4:18?   How would I know?    I set out a plan.   Fundamentally, it was about a) increasing my weekly miles and b) building in speed work to those weekly miles.    I set up a plan and started in mid November.   

How would I test if it was going to work?   It seemed wise to set intermediate milestones.   The first of these was this race, the Carmel Marathon on April 9, 2022.


Logic said if I was to run 4:18 by this fall, I’d better be able to run  4:30 this spring.   I worked hard through the winter weather and was encouraged by my weekly mileage and the speed sessions.    Two weeks before Carmel, I ran a 2:08:50 at the Sam Costa Half Marathon...VO2 max calculations said that effort was equivalent to what I’d need for a 4:30 full marathon.   So, I thought I had a shot but I knew the proof was in carrying pace through the final 8-10 miles of the marathon. 

Race day weather was not kind.   Temps steadily dropped in the days leading up and the forecast came true; temperatures in the low 30s at the start with a west wind increasing from 10mph at the start to nearly 20 by the finish.     It was darn cold as we gathered and set off right on time at 8:10am.   

My aim was to run a 6/1 run/walk sequence, running at a 9:40/mile pace when I ran, which would yield an aggregate pace of 10:18/mile.  This worked well for the full first half of the race.   I felt comfortable and held up in the portions of the course that faced the wind head on.   Around mile 6, we ran in full-blown snowfall for about ten minutes...yikes, springtime in Indiana 

Check the snow here on my sleeve


I came across the half marathon timing mat in 2:13:28, about right for my 4:30 target.   Mentally, though, it was tough to run through the finish area, zig-zag around the half-marathoners finishing and then head out for the second loop.  It knocked my rhythm a bit but I regained composure and got going again, south on the Monon Trail.   The wind was quartering from the right rear and the heavy tree cover over the trail broke it up.   Visually pleasant, quiet, mild.   It proved the “shelter before the storm”.

We turned left and then north at mile 16.5 and entered what I knew ahead of time would be the determinitive portion of the race. 

Up through Mile 23 was in a wide-open commercial district with little wind break and commercial buildings and parking lots to observe.   Into the teeth of the wind, I could feel my energy lagging.   At mile 17.5, the 4:30 pace group caught up with me, showing me just how much I was lagging.   I fell in with them for a while and that helped. 

Until...

At Mile 19, the course turned west across a long overpass traversing busy US31.   We went uphill, into the wind, completely exposed.    And it broke my effort for the day.   I was struggling and the attempt to stay with the pace group simply wasn’t there.   I didn’t think that bridge would end.   It did, of course, and we turned back north, 3 more miles of what felt like open wind tunnel.   I admitted the 4:30 wasn’t there, backed off to a 3/1 run/walk and determined to just get the race done.  

Yet, further insult awaited.    Around mile 22, I detected what we’ll delicately call “intense lower abdominal cramping and distress”.   Yeah.   In all my years of marathoning, I’ve never had this happen.   I was looking around for trees or bushes, fearing I’d need an emergency stop before the next aid station.   Thankfully, I made it to an aid station with an empty porta potty and resolved the issue.   Yikes.   And the clock kept ticking. 

I finally made it to mile 24 when the course turned back south onto the Monon Trail.  


The wind once more at our back and with the trees diffusing the wind, it was just a matter of getting back to the finish line.   With a half mile to go, I allowed myself a look at my watch; I was relieved that I’d finish under five hours. 



Crossing the finish line, I collected my medal and observed how deserted the finish area seemed compared to most years at Carmel. The cold and wind was so gnarly very few people were hanging around.   Yet, the key volunteers remained, I got some chocolate milk, some granola bars and some hot pancakes.   I lugged them to my car, got out of the wind and started to process what had happened.   

On the one hand, it was disappointing to run so poorly and take so long to get through a familiar marathon on a familiar course.   While the weather didn’t help, that wasn’t the reason...I just didn’t have it.   

So, I shift to simply enjoy running for the sake of running.   But qualifying for Boston just seems a reach too far. Therefore, racing now means participating and enjoying an event, more than “needing” to hit a particular time.   I can pivot to try more ultras and trail races.   I’m getting comfortable with this.  

Reality can be jarring.   But it is wise to understand it. 

Thanks for reading.   Persevere.


.

Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 Year in Review

Totals: 2021 -- 1,636 Miles Since 2004 -- 24,565 miles This year was quite a pivot point for me personally, as I retired from my day job and now have had a full calendar year to try to figure out what my life now holds. One component to that is running and the year contained a lot of useful learnings. For the year, my monthly miles (the figure of merit, in my estimation, of running) left me with a “bleh” view...yet I learned from it.













I am not pleased I had only five months over 140 miles and only two over 150...I’d like to see all months at 140 at least. Yet, the low months came as I tried to figure out my new daily routines in retirement (I finally got that solidified in November...). August was super low as I took on an interim consulting gig and grappled with where and when to run in a different town. So, while I’m not impressed with the chart, I do have a much better grip on my daily running routine and my long-term running trajectory. Thank you, Hal Higdon. Stepping back further, here are my annual miles since I started this era of running in May, 2004.











Whereas I felt “bleh” examining my monthly miles, I’m quite pleased looking at the total miles for the year...my first year over 1,600 miles since the excellent training year of 2017. In many respects, I think I “refound” my rhythm in running in 2021 and I’m very pleased it shows up in the aggregate miles for the year. I turned 68 this year and I feel no need to lower the mileage totals, despite what many would say. Given the further clarity on training plans I found late in 2021, I’m quite excited about what 2022 will hold. Specifics of 2021 included 18 races of varying distances, including six marathons and four ultramarathons. I never get tired of race day! The camaraderie, the vibe, the competition with oneself and others, the ups and downs of each event...they just never get old. I’m so thankful to be able to still participate. Clearly, the highlight of 2021 was finishing my 100th marathon/ultramarathon. This took place on September 25 in, of all places, Ely Minnesota at the Ely Marathon, made even greater by having two of our sons join me...three Elys, running Ely in Ely. Just amazing. It was a phenomenal experience alongside a major milestone. You can read my race report if you wish.


Onward to 2022. Thanks for reading. Persevere. .



Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Race Report - HUFF 50K Trail Race 2021

ORN:   50km, 8:04:51, 15:33/mile, R/W 3/1, 142nd of 157 overall, 5th of 6 Men 60-69

Summary:  The HUFF 50K Trail Race is one of my favorite races of the year.   This was my 11th consecutive start and tenth finish.   Overnight rain and 34F temps made this year’s run a muddy one.   It was hard to run on much of the course but I never tired nor doubted I’d finish.   Nevertheless, this was the slowest of all my HUFFs. 

Gory Details: 

In my blog post about last year’s HUFF, I noted the silly idea I had to sleep in my car near the start line the night before.   Remembering that ill-fated plan, I booked a room in Columbia City and drove up on Friday, December 17, 2021 for the race.   I picked up my bib, had dinner with a fellow runner and slept well.    

Interestingly, the company who did race timing for this year's HUFF used a returnable chip on a Velcro ankle strap, as opposed to the now-more-common disposable chip on the back of the bib.   Think mud on Velcro here...more later on this.

I was up early and scored a good parking spot at 6am of race day.  I enjoyed breakfast and a nap in my car...I like an unrushed approach to race morning whenever possible.   I was pleased to see the number of runners up from what we had a year ago...the 2020 HUFF was one of the very few live races a year ago.

The weather dictates the nature of each HUFF.   This year the theme was “mud”.   While it had been dry for most of the week, it began raining in the area around 6pm on Friday and continued uninterrupted through noon on Saturday.   Overnight, it was often heavy...during the first portion of the race it alternated between a steady rain and a drizzle.   But wet it was.    

Off we went, right on time at 8am.  It appeared 200 or more runners started th 50K.   Another 150 or so would start the single loop race an hour later.   

The first four miles were reasonably runnable.  Once past the first Aid Station at the School House, however, we turned west and ran along the entire north boundary of the park.   Easily 70% of this full 4 mile stretch was gooey.    I slogged along, though, and felt OK.   The Rally Camp Aid Station at Mile 8 was quite understated this year but marked the end of much of the  mud and the start of the hillier portion of the course.   Familiar territory all for me.  It’s hard to describe the beauty of the final 7 miles of the loop.   


Even with the leaves gone, the woods are full of life and scenery as the route criss crosses the long ridge winding through the park around each of the connected lakes.   Photos don’t do it justice and I drank it in.  

Finishing Lap One, I made a few gear changes at my car.   The rain having stopped, I swapped my rain jacket for a windbreaker, swapped one soaked knit hat for a dry one, grabbed a pile of peanut butter filled pretzels and headed back out.   I had contemplated changing into some dry socks too but decided it wouldn’t be worth the time.   That was one good decision on the day.  

I ran Lap Two almost entirely alone, encountering only two other runners in the entire loop.   The rain was no longer falling from the sky but that which had fallen filled up the rivulets draining onto and through the trails.   The 700 or so footfalls which had preceded me by this point had churned the mud into a muck often over the tops of my shoes.   More than a few times I felt my foot begin to come out of my shoe as I moved forward.   I carefully avoided that...retying a shoe over an even-muddier sock while sitting on the soaked ground didn’t seem a good idea.   

As muddy as it was, though, I found the day very pleasant.   Temperatures were flat at 34F / 1C all day, with very little wind in most of the woods.   It was quite comfortable.   It simply wasn’t very runnable.   For much of the course to the Rally Camp Aid station, I just had to walk to avoid falling.   

Experience may also have helped.    During Lap Two, I thought repeatedly of my first running of the HUFF on this course in 2011 and my long blog post on that race.   I anguished over the mud that day....fell once...felt defeated mentally through it all.   It all came back to me.   On this day however, despite similarities in conditions, the mud was simply mud.   The race was simply a race.   I was grateful to be in the woods and doing an ultramarathon.    I truly enjoyed the final 6+ miles on the hillier (and less muddy) portion of the loop and was grateful I could comfortably run a ridiculous distance like 50 kilometres.   

The highlight of the last section of the race was the final aid station, a loud, fun event.  I loaded up on flat Coke...an amazing elixir found only at ultramarathons.   Man, the sugar and caffeine tasted good over the last couple of miles.     Back to the main road, around the lake, through the Boat Ramp parking lot, up the hill and across the finish line.   One more HUFF in the books.   



I got the muddy gear secured in a bag.  Those Velcro timing chips??  Volunteers at the finish line asked us to pull them off and put them in a bucket.   Oh my...what a sloppy, stinky mess that looked.   Glad I wasn't the one having to clean them to reuse!!   

I didn't rush off, took care rehydrating with chocolate milk and more PB Pretzle Balls.  I ultimately got on the road and slept very well that night.    

I was very pleased with how un-sore I felt in the several days following the race.   The only surprise was a rash on the top of my feet, which I attribute to abrasion from the mud and grit that soaked my shoes and socks for eight hours.  It cleared up fairly quickly, but I've never seen this before.  


Overall, my experience at HUFF served to confirm the choice I made after analyzing the Monumental Marathon in early November and determining I just needed more miles to make this all work.   

Thanks for reading.   

Persevere.  






HUFF History


I went back and listed all my times for HUFF...Clearly “Each year the course is the same; each year the race is entirely different; you have to always adjust.”   


2011  7:33:44    High Water year link

2012  6:36:49 link

2013  6:32:01 link

2014  6:19:28 link

2015  5:59:51    Course and 50K PR link

2016  7:23:12 link

2017  DNF...ran one lap only in near blizzard (and didn't write a report)

2018  6:46:46 link

2019  6:25:42   Best running conditions link

2020  7:09:29 link

2021 8:04:51

Monday, November 15, 2021

Race Report-Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2021

 ORN:   26.2 miles, 5:07:32 (11:45/mile); 3,441 of 3,947 overall; 30th of 37 M65-69

             first half:  2:21:17     second half  2:46:15

Summary:

I started the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 6, 2021 with high hopes of a clean run of 4:45, setting me up for a winter and spring of solid training.   During the 21st mile, those dreams crashed in a hurry.   

Gory Details:

The Race Itself


This is about the eighth time I've run this event and it's grown to be

a major event in Indy, not just a major running event. The impact

on hotels and tourism is significant.



The drill is familiar now. Up at 4:20am, out the door before 5 and

in a good parking spot by 6am. I was able to walk around the

early morning preparations at the finish line and get ready to go

with little rush.





















By 7:30am I was in the grid but not seeing the pacing group signs.

Since my plan was to hang with the 4:45 marathong

group, this was a bit disconcerting. But, about 15 mintues before

the 8:00am gun, I spotted the pacers, well behind me in the packed

grid. So, as the field started to move out, I stood still and slid in

behind them. Better that way than trying to move up in the packed field.


And that's how the race went. I settled in and stayed with the 4:45

pacers. I actually knew one of the pacers, as it turned out and it was

nice to see Heather again. Through mile 14, it was easy.


At mile 14, though, I really needed to find a portapot. When one

appeared, there was a line but I had no real option. It took me about 2

mintues to wait but I then took off at the same pace we had been running.

I lost sight of the pacing group but still felt comfortable all through the

hills around Butler University, past the Museum of Art and down the

lonely stretch by the White River. I was encouraged.


Until.....


Midway between mile markets 20 and 21, my race fell apart. Quite

literally, in 500m, next to some abandoned baseball fields, I went from

feeling fine and optimistic to being reduced to a mere shuffle interspersed

with much walking. My legs haven't hurt that much in a long time.

I slogged to mile 23.5, made the right turn onto Meridian street, a major

milestone on the route and it didn't get any better. Especially discouraging;

the 5:00 pace group passing me at mile 24. Other than a nice conversation

with a guy from Iowa and a laugh with a DJ in front of the Murat, it

was a slow slog to the finish line. I was quite disappointed

with the 5:07 on my watch.




My mood lifted somewhat with a nice chat with Carlton Ray,

the race founder and Board Chairman of the race's parent organization,

whom I've met several times now.



I got the official printout of my splits, hard data which confirmed 

what my legs felt.  



But there were no triumphant whoops or euphoric embraces

this day. I just found some chocolate milk, talked with

a couple of guys from the race management company who

I know, got in my car and drove home.


My Analysis


I went into the race with a goal of running a 4:45 marathon by running with the 4:45 pacing group from the start to the finish of the race.    


4:45:00 for 26.2 miles is a pace of 10:53/mile.   


Here are my individual mile times from my Garmin: 



mile

Lap time

Average

over miles:

1

10:34



2

10:39



3

10:41



4

10:29



5

10:36



6

10:39



7

10:44



8

10:12



9

10:31



10

10:52



11

10:57



12

10:49



13

10:44



14

10:52



15

10:46



16

10:17



17

11:02



18

10:12



19

10:26



20

10:36

10:37

1 to 20

21

11:25



22

13:09



23

14:16



24

14:39



25

14:03



26

14:16

13:38

21 to 26


Consistent through 20, in fact 16 sec/mile faster than required on average.   Failed during mile 21.   Pace fell to barely a walk for the final six miles.   


So, the race did not go as I had planned.   The question now is Why?   


Stay with me a moment, as I provide background to how I’m trying to answer the marathon question.   


I’ve been doing a lot of specific reading and thinking over the past 10 months on predicting business performance.  It’s been a general topic of interest to me, though, for many years now.   How do we arrive at predictions?  In my work experience, it seemed most often we made forecasts based on hunches, intuition and often unwarranted optimism.   And we were seldom accurate, which bred skepticism and cynicism about both.   


My thinking on the topic was first piqued about fifteen years ago, after I read and digested the book “Moneyball”.   No surprise I liked this book, as it combines two of my favorite topics:  Baseball and organizational change.   The book sought to answer a predictive question, central to baseball;  How do we predict if a player will be successful in the major leagues?   The compelling answer--a scout or manager’s “intuition” was far less accurate than simply calculating how often a hitter could reach base (more is better) or a pitcher’s ratio of walks and hits given up per inning pitched (less is better).   In addition, shockingly, the ability of most players to field their position defensively was irrelevant to their success.  A few simple measures outperform human judgements.  This really ticked off grizzled baseball veterans.   And has ultimately changed the game, profoundly. 


Coming out of the 2008 stock market crash, I dove into another predictive question:  How do you select stocks which will yield profits over the long term?   Compellingly, I came to see that stock index funds outperform human picked stock funds.   Index mutual funds are run by an algorithm, allocating any investment equally across the entire target index of the fund.   Costs are nearly zero to administer such a fund, the performance of which mimics the market and, over time, the market rises about 6.5% to 7% per year.   It works.   And I’m retired based on that decision. 


In fields as un-alike as baseball and stock picking, simple algorithms and metrics outperform human intuition or judgement.   


It was therefore with some interest that I picked up a 2010 book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by the Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman last March.   He cogently describes how our minds use both quick intuition and slower analysis to help us function.   And how we get tricked by these two at times.   He devotes over a fourth of the book’s 600 pages to the specifics of predicting business outcomes.  He builds a nuanced logic that simple formulae will generally outperform human judgement in most business cases. Further, he describes how best to develop such formulae to specific issues...like how will a new product perform, or how might a marathon runner succeed.   


Which brings me back to the question at hand;   Why did I perform so poorly at the IMM?   More specifically, why did I hit my target pace 20 miles in a row and then fall apart in the space of about 500m during mile 21??   


My intuition (my quick thinking) on race day and the day after was a) blame myself for choosing to hang with a pace group which diminished my focus on hydrating or b) blame the organizers for having so few portapots on the course when I really needed to pee a couple of time (these two blames seem self-contradictory, don’t they ?) 


Then, I slowed down and asked what is predictive of carrying through The Wall that hits at mile 18-21 for most normal humans in a marathon?    I looked at my own data.   


So here’s my chart of monthly mileage, going back to the start of 2017























I worked hard all of 2017, leading up to my BQ in November 2017 at Monumental, this very same race, with average monthly miles in the 135 range.   What have I done lately??   My monthly miles in 2021 is hovering around 115.   20 miles a month lower, 5 miles a week.   Not shown on the graph above...the 2021 miles are also slower and less focused than the 2017 miles.  


Looking further, I ran a lot of miles during the winter of 2018-19, leading to the 2019 Boston Marathon.   While my 4:40 at Boston was disappointing, two weeks after Boston I ran a 4:09 at the Wisconsin Marathon.   I’ve not come remotely close to that 4:09 since.   


My conclusion?   I have to add more miles and better (i.e. quicker) miles to my training if I want to get to even a 4:30 marathon.    It’s just not complicated. 


Secondarily, I need to learn to run a steady pace with long run intervals and short walk breaks.  My training since Boston has been mostly at 3/1 or 2/1 run/walk ratios (3 minutes run/ 1 minute walk).  I have to stretch that out to 8/1 or 9/1.   The fact I ran solid for 21 miles tells me I can do the longer runs.   Yet I need the walk breaks to eat, hydrate and adjust gear in a marathon.  I really think it also helps preserve my legs.   I will also need to adjust targets to allow for about 2 minutes per marathon to stop and pee.   Ugh, my 68 year old bladder is not what it was at 48 :-).  


So that sets up my winter training plan. Can I get quicker through the spring? It's up to the process.


Persevere.



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