Monday, November 24, 2008

going long

I did another long run yesterday. Again, no pressure on going fast, pushing it only on the Lyon Street stairs. Curiously, I was feeling a big bogged down going into the stairs, but they seemed to really open things up, and I felt like I was cruising from there back home. That didn't stop me from being tired, afterwards...

rate of improvement for marathon goal
Rate of improvement needed to reach endurance goal for Austin

So the question is: where do I stand with respect to a 15 Feb marathon goal? Pretty good, it seems. If I assume this run was my endurance limit, which clearly it was not, to target race-level endurance 4 weeks prior to race data, I need to improve by 6.04% per week to reach that goal. That's very doable: I've seen a maximum rate of improvement of 10%/week claimed.

What do I know about marathon training? Not much. A handful of Running Magazine articles, some web pages, yadayada. The longest competitive run I've done is 10 km. My coach could address these issues much better than I can. But it seems to me preparing for a marathon is simple. There's only two components: distance and speed. Bike racing, with all of its tactical accelerations, is more complex, but in running allows one to settle into a sustainable pace and hold it. So that's it: distance and speed. Only at the event do you push each of these elements, together, to their limits.

So, for preparation, the goals are, addressed concurrently:
  1. Bring endurance up to the desired level.
  2. Bring time able to sustain target speed up to within striking distance of the goal.

The first of these is simple: run long, then ramp that up. That's going really well. The second is subtler. One way might be to go out race pace, then ramp up the distance. But an alternative is to train above race pace at a reduced distance, then backing off the pace on race day. My prescribed speed work to data has been more of this second option. Running repeats at 400 meters to 1200 meters (only two of these workouts do far), with some tempo intervals of a few kilometers each. Additionally, I've taken the initiative target a few races along the way, 10 km road races and middle distance trail runs slightly longer, to give myself experience running a race pace (actually faster than my marathon target pace) in competition. My next race on this schedule is the Run Wild for a Child 10km in Golden Gate Park. Then early December brings trail runs.

There is a Daniels formula for converting comparable paces between different distances. A good calculator is available on-line. I suspect this is related to the critical power model for cycling, which serves a similar role. The issue with the critical power model is that there's no universal conversion scheme. Individuals differ depending on their relative values for, in the model, "critical power" (sustainable aerobic power) and "anaerobic work capacity" (expendable anaerobic power). In cycling, my ratio of anaerobic to aerobic to power is relatively low: I can't ramp up my effort at shorter durations as well as an average cyclist. If this also applies to running, then it implies the Daniels predictions of my marathon pace, based on shorter distance results, would be pessimistic. However, this is only true if I'm limited by my available power, and not my muscular endurance, specific adaptation. My adaptation seems to be improving every week. I feel better in my runs and recover from them better. So I am cautiously optimistic. Qualifying for Boston seems an attainable goal. Daniels already says I can get there.

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