I ran nearly identical marathon times five (and a half) years apart, with a 3:10:18 this year and a 3:10:11 in 2010. The times were so similar that I was curious to compare them.
First, I give you some obviously copyrighted photos. These are actually from very similar spots in the races — around mile 25.
Some things haven’t changed — my stride looks almost identical. Over-striding but a) it’s a race photo so you never know what’s really going on with your feet in them and b) it’s mile 25 so whatever.
Check out my posture and arm-carriage, though. So much better! (Thank you Pilates!!!) I’m also much leaner now and with more muscle and definitely more muscle definition. Plus now I don’t race in a sports bra which is unfortunate only because you can’t see how much better my abs are. I am way stronger and much more athletic than I was in 2010.
This summary (while slightly incomplete) gives a good overview of my marathon training for every one that I’ve run.
Digression: I’ve written before about how disappointed I was after Boston 2008. This is why. I bumped up my mileage across the board and had a great training cycle and truly thought I’d run much faster than I did. Weird race.
Shamrock 2010 I believe was my first time using the Pfitzinger Advanced Marathoning book plans. I suspect that high week was supposed to be 70 miles … and I’m going to try and track down my logs from then to see. Also, the new me would not record “.24” of anything.
So my average was about 15 miles a week higher and my max 12 miles higher. What’s really interesting is looking at the race before Shamrock — Marshall in 2009. Never mind, here, I made you a graph.
Conclusion: Lots more miles does not equal faster. It does, however, equal a broken shin and a pulled hamstring.
This time around I had a great training cycle and hit all my mileage. I was not as diligent as I should’ve been regarding speedwork.
I am reaching back a bit to remember how Shamrock played out, but I was trying to pace a friend to his 3:10 BQ. I found my race report on my old blog. Thankful for internet preservation, a little embarrassed by the writing style.
I do remember even without the blog that I woke up really early before that race and ate half a Clif Bar and some cereal. Then the rest of the Clif Bar later. Apparently I thought I was going to starve. This was the point in time where I thought I needed more calories pre-race to not hit the wall. Since then I think I have a better routine, which is basically sleep as long as possible then eat half an almond butter sandwich, which is about 200 calories. This year I ate that around 6:30, then half a pack of Honey Stinger chews around 7 (nervous snacking), for an 8 a.m. start.
The plan appeared to be more like 3:05 pace, because I intended to go out at 7:10s for the first 5k and then settle in around 7:05. I failed miserably. I used Roctanes and and my stomach hurt … same as they did when I used them at the marathon before that. Dummy. I walked through most of the water stops after mile 16/17. The later miles of the race along the ocean were hot and I was very salty (it was caked under the nosepieces on my sunglasses). And my achilles was taped.
This time I did regular Gu gels, one without caffeine and two with small quantities that I had tested during long runs. And the weather was perfect. And, for the second marathon in a row, I didn’t walk at all! (I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with walking at all, I had just gotten really accustomed to walking through water stops when things got tough and it’s a personal accomplishment to have learned to run smarter.)
You can see that a) I sucked at using my watch this time and b) my splits were way more consistent. Seriously, that’s a lot of 7-flat pace in there that I didn’t need to be doing. You can see the effect of walking through water stops at Shamrock starting around 17 — that’s the on/off pattern for the pace. And then from 22 on it was a concentrated effort to hold it together. You can see that in the photo, too. I am on the struggle bus.
Look at this year, though. My slowest mile was mile 3, which was also the only mile I actually hit my planned pace. Did you hear that? Mile 3 was my slowest mile. Fastest mile? A 6:55 in mile 2, but I was trying to catch the pace group and also that was downtown and I don’t trust those splits quite as much because of the building interference. There’s also sub-7 splits at mile 19 and mile 26. Holy moly.
Pace per mile spread:
- Shamrock: 6:57 to 7:50 — 53 seconds
- Monumental: 6:55 to 7:27 — 32 seconds
Half marathon splits:
- Shamrock (apx): 1:31:16 and 1:38:54 — 7 minutes, 38 seconds
- Monumental: 1:34:56 and 1:35:26 — 30 seconds
When I ran Shamrock, I thought I was on the cusp of breaking 3 hours. A fall marathon, I was sure, would get me down to 3:05 at least. But I was running really on borrowed time because my stress fracture had been lurking since the fall before. (Anterior tibial cortex, Google it, interesting twist.) Then I took a two-year hiatus, ran three marathons (between 3:25-3:19), took another two-year hiatus, and dropped a 3:10.
So, now what? First: It’s bad luck to put your mouth on times your feet can’t reach. I’m going to focus on short-term goals, one race at a time, with the only long-term goal Boston 2017. For now, what matters is my little Turkey Trot next week and Otter Creek in December (distance still TBD).
great analysis! I need to keep track of my training stats like this, find out what worked as part of a bigger picture. I use Garmin & Strava but never break it down per event training block.
In the pictures at the top of your post, you look so much more relaxed in the one on the left. Great times by the way.
I don’t remember when I started that spreadsheet, but now I keep it on Google Drive and fill it in each marathon training cycle. There are so many other fields you could add, too. Garmin does have some decent reporting capabilities on Connect, and you can also export various data sets as CSV files and then poke at them in Excel.
And I agree — such a huge difference in how I felt finishing those two races. I’m going to use that photo to remind myself!
I love data analysis like this. I also have a doc that tracks average/peak mileage and times for each training block. It’s clear you ran a much smarter race this year!
Wow, you are so fast! Congratulations on your incredible running success! So you don’t think that high mileage equals faster times, what do you think is the best prep for fast times? I am currently training to BQ again in Phoenix and am hoping for a 3:30 (doesn’t compare to you!). Thoughts/suggestions? Thank you!
I don’t think higher mileage necessarily guarantees a faster time. My experience is that quality is more important than quantity, at least to some extent (you’ve still got to put in a minimal amount of work). And, lots of miles = more opportunity for injury. I think it’s much too individual for there to be a “best prep” for fast times — I suggest trying different methods and plans, and tracking that data like I did so you can analyze and develop your own best plan from there! Thanks for reading!