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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.