Race day strategy!

I've been thinking about my "pace" strategy for race day.  Last year Kelsey and I ran 3:40 at Disney, but I am a "different runner" than last year.  I had my third knee surgery last year and was advised that "running is OK, but just don't go run a marathon."  Paraphrased from my doctor…ummm……..

As a result of the surgery, I have run many many fewer miles this year than last.  I have also shortened my stride quite a bit.  My theory is that my new "shuffle" is a little bit lower impact and perhaps shocks my knees a bit less.  Not sure if it's true and I certainly can't quantify it, but it feels a little bit easier on the joints. 

So, the surgery, the fewer miles, and the shuffle have made me slower.  My fastest 5K this year is 26:38 (2009 5K was 22:03), my fastest 10K this year was 57:30 (2009 10K was 46:31), and my fastest half marathon this year was 2:03 (2009 was 1 hr 41 min).  I'm about 20% slower now, so extrapolating for the marathon distance, I would expect to run Boston in 4 hours and 24 minutes.  This time depresses me a little bit when compared with the time Kelsey and I were able to do in 2010, but it is realistic.  And, when setting goals, it is important for it to be quantifiable and attainable.  This is both.

Based on this projection, I have set my goal pace at Boston at an average 10 minutes per mile.  This is respectable and would have me crossing the finish line in a feasible 4 hours and 22 minutes.

There are a lot of discussion forums, blogs, and articles that talk about Boston in particular.  The course is "net downhill" with 1422 feet loss of elevation and 962ft gain.  This Marathon Nation article uses the elevation information of the Boston course and overlays it with suggested pace changes over the course of a marathon.  Basically, start a little conservative (5 miles), gain a few seconds back per mile over the next 11 or so, most likely slow down for the next 5, and then hopefully you will have enough energy to finish out the last 6.2 at your goal pace.  For my goal average pace of 10 minutes per mile, this breaks down to:

Average Goal Pace = 10:00 per mile

  • 1-5 – because this porition of Boston is downhill, the goal would be 9:50 pace, but add 15 seconds to be conservative, so target pace of 10:05/mile.
  • 5-16 — this portion of boston is Rolling/Flat, so no advantage from the terrain would make the goal 10:00 pace, but Marathon Nation suggests "earning early miles back" with a slightly faster target pace of 9:55/mile.
  • 16-21 — this is the "Newton Hills" including Heartbreak Hill.  For a flat course, you would try to keep up your pace the same as for mile 5-16, but this is uphill, so Marathon Nation suggests to "dial pace back by 15" and target a pace of 10:10/mile.
  • The last 5 of the course is downhill to flat, so I should be able to maintainmy target pace of 10:00/mile

The nice thing about being a little slower is that it is much easier to calculate splits in my head for the 10 minute pace than it was for 8:23 pace Kelsey and I did at Disney last year.  Silver lining I guess!

I am still planing to run 5 minutes and walk 1 minute throughout.  I did the math and need to run at about 9:40 pace when I am running and walk at a normal but not slow pace.  If I'm feeling OK, I am going to try to run the last 5 without stopping.  Hopefully with this strategy I won't burn out as Marathon Nation discusses in this article.

Wish me luck!!!

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