Among this week’s ups and downs were a Half Marathon race that was both a first place age group finish and an eye opening look at a real weakness my training. Up until this point, I have felt good about my training: a 76 mile week, some decent length runs at goal marathon pace and a handful of 20 milers under my belt. But my the race results of my half marathon fitness check on Saturday proved my fear that I have not been pushing myself to race level intensity during much of my harder speed work. Here is how the week went:
Monday AM: 3.0 easy miles in Seattle at 10:30 pace on a treadmill. High heart rate after a cross country flight and insufficient sleep caused me to cut the workout short.
Monday PM: 4.3 easy paced miles on a beautiful afternoon in Seattle (9:26/144 bpm/64 degrees). I felt great.
Tuesday AM: 5.25 before sunrise on treadmill with 3×1 mile at 7:48 pace (176 bpm). I did only three miles of speed work instead of six this week, as I knew that I had a half marathon on tap on Saturday. Pace was slower than I target outside, but my heart rate was higher than almost all of the other speed work I did this season so I did not feel comfortable going faster.
Tuesday PM: 3.25 easy paced miles (9:36 avg/144 bpm/64 degrees).
Wednesday AM: 6.8 miles before sunrise on treadmill with 5 near GMP (8:06/171 bpm). Again, I cut the mileage of my speed work because of the upcoming race. I ran slower pace because 171 heart rate felt high (I had run 7 hilly miles at GMP in hot weather at a lower heart rate the prior week and have been able to run 8.5 miles at GMP outside with a lower heart rate).
Wednesday PM: 4.13 easy paced miles (9:23 avg/71 degrees) outside in Seattle while listening to Fast Girl.
Thursday AM: 8 easy paced miles (9:35 avg/142 bpm/61 degrees) in Seattle. Finished Fast Girl and started To Kill a Mockingbird.
Friday: 4.25 easy paced miles (9:35/61 degrees) on trails at home. Ran extra easy, pre-race.
Saturday: 13.7 miles, with 13.2 at 7:53 average (177 bpm/59 degrees) at Hogsback Half Marathon in Colebrook CT.
I wanted to run a half marathon about a month before the NYC Marathon as a fitness check, and this race five weeks out fit into my schedule. The course was set in beautiful Northwest Connecticut, on rolling hills of country roads just coming into fall leaf season. The 59 degree weather was the best I have enjoyed for a hard run in a long time.
After 15 weeks of solid post-marathon training, I had hoped to finish the half marathon in 1:40-1:42, a substantial improvement over the 1:43:35 PR half marathon I ran one month before my spring marathon. At the start of the race, I settled in at the tail end of the 1:40 pace group, hoping to keep the group in sight but be slightly behind them so I would not unravel at the end of the race.
During the first half of the race, I was on track, running the first two miles at 7:20’s before settling in to more comfortable 7:40’s. Checking my watch five miles in, I noticed that while my pace had slowed, I could not hear myself breathing and my heart rate was only 170 (80%), and thought I should be able to race a half marathon faster. Several times, I pushed myself a few seconds faster, only to find myself slowing again. When in the eighth mile my heart rate rose to 178 (83%), my pace slowed to 7:58 and I was unable to pull faster. In the next mile, largely uphill, I could only manage a disappointing 8:12 split. I struggled to pull the pace up slightly to 8:07 and 8:09 in the next two miles, though my heart rate had dropped to 174. At mile 12, I was on pace to eek out a few second PR, when I encountered the steep 3/4 mile hill I learned about at the starting line. I gave the hill my best effort, but slugged through the mile at an 8:33 pace with (finally appropriate effort!) a 189 (89%) heart rate. I sprinted the last quarter mile at maximum heart rate and finished in 144:14. I was disappointed after so much training that I did not PR, but pleased to have finished first of 52 women in my age group and in the top 5% of women overall.
I examined my results closely after the race, and realized that even with heart rate spikes in the second mile and at the end, I raced this half marathon at 21 seconds faster pace but an average heart rate of two beats per minute SLOWER than the first half of my spring marathon, which was on an easier course. What this seems to mean is that I have built my fitness from the “bottom up,” with substantial improvement in my cardiac fitness since the spring, but I have become worse at pushing myself with race intensity (“top down” improvement). I chalk this up to speed work where I have not been pushing myself quite to race level intensity.
I think my body limited how fast it would go during the race because it wasn’t used to the intensity and wasn’t sure it was safe.
Sunday: 7 recovery paced miles at 10:30 pace. Felt better than expected post race, good enough to run 7 miles, though post race heart rate spikes prompted slow pace and a couple of short walk breaks.
Weekly total: 60 miles, approx 8 hrs 50 mins aerobic “time on feet,” 112 JD intensity points
I have three weeks for a course correction doing speed work with race level intensity on the hope that my fall marathon will be an improvement over the spring. Your thoughts and suggestions are welcome. Please wish me luck!
Thanks for reading.