Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reevaluating My Goals (Subtitle: My Marathon Looks Hard)

Monday workout: 5 miles, 11:20, Connects
Tuesday workout: 9 miles with 2x3 miles (9:25), Pace Gloves

Today, I went to hell and back.

Today, I ran up a mountain and almost died.

Today, I ran part of the Mayor's Marathon course.



The good news is, I don't have to run up this. Just down. However, this somewhat traumatizing experience made me reconsider the elevation profile, which I previously thought looked pretty gentle.
I ran miles 15-19, I think. The course peaks at 500 feet and ends at sea level. I couldn't get it all to fit in a screenshot, but the first 14.5 miles are gradually uphill.

Last night I had a sudden urge to learn something about the course. I knew that it starts at a high school, goes through some military land, and somehow ends up by the Coastal Trail, but I was pretty unclear on the details. I took a closer look at the map, which is frustratingly sparse on street names, and was able to fill in some of the blanks. I realized that there are actually long sections I haven't run on that aren't restricted to military, and that one such section is right next to work. Hey, great; I'm always looking for new places to run! Let's go!

Because I'm an idiot, I looked it up on Google Maps

and I literally thought "That looks flat." Because Google Maps gives you a great sense of elevation, right?

Anyway, this run was really hard. I kid you not, I was so out-of-breath when I hit 3.9 miles (one-tenth of a mile before my first interval ended) that I stopped for a couple of seconds, convinced I couldn't go any farther. Then I yelled at myself and managed to finish. Barely. I had planned to go another half mile before turning around, but I was done with hills so turned around and cruised.

I wish I was a better downhill runner. I actually tend to go slower on downhills than on uphills, although today I was able to hold my own. I was really focused on my form and maintaining quick leg turnover, but I still felt awkward. Something to work on.

So I guess today's lesson is "do your research." After my run I decided to do just that by reading some race reports. The main thing I've gleaned from them is "hilly," "trails," "not a race for PRs," and "golf ball-sized gravel." Estimates vary, but this gravel situation lasts anywhere from two to seven miles. Ouch.

My new knowledge makes me think I might need to reevaluate my goals for this race. I was planning to aim for a 4:15, but now I'm thinking that may be unrealistic. Picking a time goal is tricky business because on the one hand, I don't want to pressure myself to go out too fast but on the other hand, I don't want to set a goal that's too easy and tempts me to slack when I'm tired ("Well, I said I was aiming for a 4:30..."). For now I'd say 4:20-4:25, but who knows?! I'm pretty sure I'm not going to run with a Garmin (my races turn out infinitely better when I don't), so I really won't know until after.


Even though I wanted to die on the way up and sort of thought I was having an out-of-body experience on my way down, I felt kind of awesome once I finished today's run. I would say I'm never running up that hill again, but I obviously have to run it in my Connects now. Probably during Thursday's tempo run.

Anchorage has been beautiful this week so here's a bonus picture from yesterday's 5 miles.

  • How do you choose a race time goal if you've never run that distance before? I assume most choose it based on other distance times, but I'd be interested to hear about any other factors that go into it.
  • Thoughts on downhill running?


  1. That's a killer mile. BUT you get to run down it all the way to the finish in the marathon, which is GREAT!! So 13-14.5 looks like it will be a BIT of a struggle (or a suckfest), but (having not seen miles 1-10), it looks like the "gradual" uphill might be one of those gradual climbs that you barely notice because it's spread out over so many miles? Like, even if it climbs 400 feet over those 10 miles, that's only 40 feet per mile, which isn't so bad. Yeah? Maybe?

    Can't help you on the time goal. BUT In the R&R half there is one "big" (okay, I think it's like 150 feet...sorry...) hill about halfway and I knew it was going to kill my time for that mile. Sure thing, I lost about 30 seconds, but the second half of the course is all downhill (similar to yours) and I ended up running like 15 seconds below goal pace for the next 4 or so miles because it was just easy speedy. I would say train for your goal pace the way you have, and then just see what happens on race day. Know that you are going to lose time on the front end, in the hopes that you can make it up on the downhill. I would also start adding some more of that hill into your workouts (both up and down...since you seem to want more practice on going down as well). That hill we had to run for R&R was right next to my work, so I would go out during lunch and run hill repeats on it..so some race day, I knew I could dominate it.

    I love downhill running...it's where I make up my time, ha. I love just letting go and letting gravity turn over my legs.

  2. Downhill running (in my opinion, others will disagree): Think about just lightly touching your feet to the ground. Lean forward, keep your momentum going, open up your stride, and let your legs fly free. This feels slightly out-of-control, and is probably a bit higher-impact on your lower legs - but it takes MUCH easier on your quads, so you're less likely to burn them out on downhills (a sucky way to waste good quad strength, in my opinion).

    I'd choose a few goals: A, B, and C. A is something solid and achievable (maybe you 4:30), B is a bit of a stretch, and C is "if everything works perfectly on a terrific day in awesome conditions 100% happy birdies whoooo!"

    As far as estimating time...do you have *any* races run on a similar kind of course? You could use that time to estimate your race time, with an adjustment for your current level of training. Or use your 4:15 pace as your estimated pace for the "easier" miles, then try to figure out a reasonable pace for the hillier miles. Figure out your goal time using these TWO paces, spread over the appropriate number of miles. <-- I've never actually done this, but it seems like a good idea, sitting here at the computer at 11:30 at night....

  3. Don't panic and don't over-research either! I blindly signed up for my half marathon clueless of the route until EVERYONE and their mama was like "you will probably fall over and die around miles 6-9 in the cemetery where it's all rolling hills, etc." And as much as I wanted to ignore them, it got stuck so badly in my head that when I was IN the race, I was like "OH NO HERE ARE THE HILLS!" and psyched myself out. Give yourself some training runs on the hills and you'll be okay...race day adrenaline can (literally) carry you a long way ;-0

    Also, I suck at downhill running. I feel like my body is going to fast and that my bones will just crack right through my skin. Normal thought, I think.

  4. Eeks! So this is a trail marathon? Forget my previous comment (I am out of it this week). Trails are always slower. I think 4:20-4:25 is reasonable. You have been following the paces so well for a 4:15, but have you been doing hills? I noticed Hansons is pretty quiet about hill training. Whatever you do, do not freak out too much. Just tell yourself to FINISH and your feet will take it from there, I promise :)