Monday, August 05, 2013

Fitting in quality (2013 version)

As a multiple marathoner, I've taken a long path through various training cycles. The first years, I tested the distance, followed by many seasons where I sought peak performance, only to be replaced by maintenance and consistent years of running for the sake of running, not fast race times.

Enter year No. 8, where I'm ramping back up to fast running. The last 11 weeks or so has me regaining -- in real terms -- the form, fitness, strength I had in 2008 and 2009. I know it looking at the scale and in how I'm feeling when I'm clicking by those 4:45s at what almost feels effortless, run-forever pace. If I asked my body to do a long run  at 5 minute kilometres in February or March, I knew I'd be asking a lot.

So how, other than road races, am I to figure out exactly where I am? Am I back in 3:20 marathon shape or, dare I say it, in a slightly better  and faster place?

There's this thought that in the midst of marathon training, when your body knows little rest, that your training times can give you signs. For instance:

  • A 8K race in the 34:00 range, a time I hadn't done since 2009.
  • A 10K tempo run in relatively flat course, done in 42:59, pretty much unheard for me in training unless I was racing the distance
  • A 20 mile run done yesterday in 2:32, average pace of 4:43 (right in that sweet spot marathon pace).

20 miler in 2:32:10

And this is with another 10 weeks until marathon day.

The last 20 miler was a bit of a headscratcher for me, so I went to the tape. I compared it to August runs from 2009 to 2013 (omitting 2012, which was a blah year anyways).

Click to expand

My 2013 20 miler was done at 7:36 mile pace, compared with a 7:58 pace in 2009, my last quality year. In 2008, I had a sub  8 minute pace, and also a 7:13 paced 30K race (in 2:13).

The years 2010 and 2011 (and 2012) where merely me doing the mileage, not focusing on quality training. The 2009 run included a jaunt through High Park, which included some hills, but nothing to really describe the seven minute difference.



Before I make any grand projections, I looked at the weather for 2009 (yes, I'm that geeky), found it to be on a coolish side. Also, realized that I was also in the midst of heavy training. I had another breakthrough run two weeks ago, when I did 20.5 miles in 2:39 or a 7:45 mile pace.

Back in 2009, I wrote a post the week after doing that 20 miler titled "Fitting in quality running." This is what I had to say:

I just came off a big running streak, one that saw me log three 20 mile days in five days, a Monday to Sunday cycle with 72 miles and an 18 day streak. More insane, there was a seven-day period that I logged 92 miles. I do have more time on my hands to get this pure endurance in since I don't start work for yet another two weeks, but now I want to really hone in on some specific aspects of my running.

Where I am today is probably 3:20 to 3:25 marathon shape. I say that because I believe with constant running I can maintain that type of speed over the long distance. My last long run of 20 miles, I was able to comfortably keep a sub 8 minute pace. I`ve been able to slog my way through hot runs. What will bring me to 3:15 shape will be more time for more endurance training but also the insertion of quality.

Quite an amazing post, looking back. With the big miles and the "insertion of quality," it was a banner year, topped off with my best marathon and a ticket to Boston. So today, do I see myself as 3:20 to 3:25 marathon -- or actually faster?

I look at yesterday's 20 mile run like this, through the eyes of a 24-time marathoner. I chose to push the entire 20 miler, turning an aggressive '13 mile pace run' into a full 20. My run streaking this year (I'm on day 31 of one right now, and did a 72 day stint in the winter) has made my legs a lot more resilient. The temperatures were near perfect, and I took the opportunity to use yesterday to insert major quality, instead of showboating for my own sake. Quality runs like these are what literally transform your body over the course of a training program. And I can't ignore that I've been doing everything else right. I'm eating so well, have dropped to an almost ideal race weight, and my core/strength work has me kicking ass.

So, am I back at 3:20 already? Or?

Blue sky dreams, right? It's happened before.

Blue sky goal?


Stan ( said...

Those are some good-looking numbers Kenny. I wonder if we ran right by each other on Sunday. I was out along the Martin Goodman Trail from 7 to 930 doing my long run.

For the 4:43/km 20-miler that you pulled off and with 10 weeks left, I actually think you're better than 3:20 shape right now and on track for a sub 3:10 full.

All the best!

Sam said...

Dare to dream. Dare to compete. Otherwise, what else do we have, no?