Marathon Training : Taper Week 2 – Pacing For The Race
Tick, tick, tick went the metronome in my head as I ran along at a steady 5’23”/km pace, feeling like I was in cruise mode. Not a very interesting run to be sure, however very important – especially for me – but more on that later.
I’ve just finished the second week of my taper, which I’ve dubbed ‘metronome week’, and the week was all about pacing – getting used to the pace, honing my pace, and mental pacing.
Getting used to the pace
As I’ve been following a training schedule that combines short, fast runs with medium steady pace runs and long, slow distance runs, I’ve not done a huge amount of running at marathon pace. Probably only 25% of my running has been at this pace (my midweek medium distance run), while half my mileage has been much slower (weekend LSD runs). By doing a ‘metronome week’ I get to do two things – get my body and mind used to the pace I’ll be trying to keep on race day, and reduce mileage without losing too much intensity in my training.
Overall I was able to get used to the pace this past week. At the start of the week I went out on my short run and I was straight away champing at the bit to go faster. My pace fluctuated wildly as my body said “run faster!” while my mind (and Garmin) said “slow down!”. By the time of my second short run I was getting used to the pace, and during my long run on Saturday I was very comfortable at race pace.
Honing my pace
As my running has been at various paces throughout my training, I find I have 4 ‘gears’ – super slow for recovery runs, slow for LSD runs, medium for mid-distance runs and fast for my short runs. I can get into those ‘gears’ pretty easily, and can change between them reasonably easily during my runs. However, my aim for this marathon is to run even splits (more on this later too) so I need to hone my pace. This means removing all but one gear from my gearbox, leaving only the race-pace gear. Sure, my pace will go up and down a bit during the race, however the plan is to try and get even splits throughout the race, and if all goes well, negative splits.
In the last week my pacing kilometre-to-kilometre was pretty good overall, but my pacing within the kilometre needed (and still needs) some improvement. I noticed myself speeding often, resulting in a need to back off to get the kilometre back on pace. These faster portions take more energy so I could be burning more energy than I need per kilometre by speeding and then backing off. The aim is for easy constant pace, without needing to make many adjustments. By the time of my long run on Saturday I was getting the pace more even throughout the kilometre, however I still wasn’t immune to speeding, which brings me onto mental pacing.
You may have detected a theme in the above. I’m not good at pacing marathons. Yet. Maybe never. But I am determined to improve. Reviewing my two previous marathons one thing is abundantly clear – positive splits. And I mean big positive splits. Total fade in the last 10km or so. In my first marathon I overestimated my fitness and paid for it in a massive slow-down thanks to ‘the wall’. It was like someone had literally built a brick wall in the middle of the road and my goal of ‘under 4 hours’ turned mid-race into just ‘completion’.
While I evaded the ‘wall’ in my second marathon, reviewing my splits is still not pretty reading. Even though I’d trained better for it and did more pacing miles, my brain switched off on race day and I just went for it. I completely overcooked the first 5 miles. A 4’11” km to start with and nothing resembling my race pace until about 8km in. Absolutely bonkers! This sums it up:
Needless to say the final hill at the 20mile mark was the beginning of the end, and even with the downhill into Athens I wasn’t able to get my pace back up. I still improved on my previous time but I wonder what I would have done without those recklessly overcooked miles at the start. Maybe no faster, but certainly without the damage to my body and mind that came with the last miles as I battled cramps, bone bruising and a rapidly deflating ego.
During the last week my ‘mental pacing’ generally went well. But it was not perfect. I need to work on my focus. Saturday’s run was good and I was able to easily complete the 13km at race pace with a 2km slow jog either side for warm up and cool down. However, my mental pacing was off. There were whole stretches where I drifted off and my pace changed. Generally I was speeding, requiring me to rein myself in, however there were also parts of slow-down where I just didn’t twig to a terrain change or a drop in my work rate, requiring a ‘much-more-difficult-on-race-day’ increase in speed to make up lost time. For race day I need to avoid these periods where I drift off and my pace changes. I need to improve my mental pacing so my physical pacing stays on target. Grateful Running by Dr. Grayson Kimball has some good pointers on focus for runners, so I’ll be re-reading a few chapters tonight!
In the meantime, it’s six days and only 15km of easy running before I take a long run around the shoreline in Palma de Mallorca.
Happy running everyone!