Showing posts with label half marathon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label half marathon. Show all posts

Friday, May 18, 2012

Race Inspiration

Tomorrow morning , a mere 15 hours from now, is the Palos Verdes Half Marathon. This will be my fourth half, exactly one year after running my first on a horribly cold and rainy morning in Cleveland. I remember the buildup for Cleveland - I had never run 13.1 miles in a race before and I was terrified and excited at the same time.  It was all I could talk about with family, friends, and coworkers, and of course the question always was, "What's your goal?" I had decided that I should be able to match race pace of a hilly 15k that I had run in late March, 8:20/mile, so this was my answer. But by mile 8 I was hurting, the dreaded side cramp. I stopped to walk for a few seconds, and then ran again, but slower, and walked painfully slowly through a water stop near mile 10 or 11. The thought of having to tell everyone who asked that, no, in fact I wasn't able to hit my goal, was unbearable. I decided at that moment, leaving the water stop and turning onto the bridge to head back toward downtown, that I wouldn't do it.  Give up on my goal, that is. Thank God for the quarter mile downhill to the finish line! I had done it, averaging 8:16/mile. Monday I hobbled around, more sore than I'd ever been (maybe I should have spent more time stretching and less time celebrating at Winking Lizard post race), but I was proud of my accomplishment.

Back to Palos Verdes.  In contrast to a year ago, I now know that in addition to a simple overall average pace, I need a race plan. I need to study the course, understand each mile, each climb, and know where each water stop is located. I need to refuel, at least once, maybe twice, on the course, preferably about a tenth of a mile before a water stop. Instead of trying to bank time early, causing myself to run the last miles slowly, I need to conserve energy, watch my heart rate, get through the final hill at mile 9, and leave it all out there on miles 10 through 13, which are downhill. What thought will keep me going tomorrow? The desire to PR, and prove to myself that with of of my training I'll be able to PR at the Missoula Marathon in July.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Negative Split

The negative split is one of my favorite distance running techniques that is sure to help you cut seconds and minutes off of your race times.  A negative split is defined as running a later portion or a race at a faster pace than an earlier portion of the race.  In essence, you start out slow and speed up as you go, each split is successively less than the one before it (negative). But why would you want to do that and how will that make you faster? Let's start at the beginning.

When I began running, I, like many others, believed that you should start fast when you are fresh and slow down as you wear out and become tired.  Some call this 'banking time'. You are running faster than your goal at the beginning in an effort to bank enough time so that you can run slower later in the race.  There is a fundamental flaw to this line of thinking and it has to do with your physiology (fancy word for body science).  As you might already know our muscles get energy during running from glycogen (carbohydrates) and fat stores in your body.  Glycogen is limited in quantity, and even a well trained athlete will not last long running above 85% of their max heart rate. They will be running anaerobically and burning a great deal of glycogen and producing lactic acid in their muscles at a rate faster than it can be removed.  Lactic acid stops your muscles from converting fat into energy.  This will cause you to slow way down or even walk.  Your goal is to use your fat reserves, which are much greater in quantity and will keep you going longer.

The negative split running strategy coupled with the right aerobic training you can teach your body to use more fat and less glycogen which will allow you to run for much longer periods of time while burning fat and without running out of glycogen or generating large amounts of lactic acid.

So what can you do about it?  First focus your training to be aerobic, in the 60-75% of your maximum heart rate range for at least 30 minutes.  Yes that means running slower when training; it seems counter intuitive but it works.  And the next time you race, instead of going out at full speed and fading in the later miles, start out at a pace a few seconds per mile (10-15) slower than your goal pace for the first few miles, and slowly pick up the pace running each mile a few seconds faster than the last.  During the second half of the race you should be cruising at a bit faster than your goal pace and if everything goes correctly your second half will be faster than your first half and you will meet your goal.

Negative Split Works!

The first time I attempted to run a negative split it took almost 4 minutes off of my previous half marathon time where I went out at 6:59 at the start and slowed greatly at the end.  This time I started off at a 7:20 - 7:24 min/mile pace for the first 3 miles and had tons of energy during the second half of the race and passed several people.  I finished with an overall pace of about 7:09 min/mile.

First Half: 47:30  (7:15 pace)
Second Half: 46:03 (7:02 pace)