Pacing at HHHalf & Boston-related misc

After posting the race recap last week, I got some feedback from a reader (runner/coach) interested in more pace detail.

Some of the reasons I don’t put much detail in terms of speed in posts and tweets are the same reasons I don’t blog under my full name – privacy, safety, day job. Additionally, I know I can find myself challenged when reading the posts of those faster than I am (many folks) – they can be inspiring, irritating or depressing depending on how I feel and how my running is going….someone who to me is “fast” complaining about a “slow” time sometimes is tough for me to read. Thus you’ll note my tweets and posts talk about which pace “zone” I am in or paces relative to each other (e.g., 30s faster miles x-y). Since I’m slower than some and faster than some, I don’t want to be the cause of anyone else feeling bad, or losing a feeling of kinship with fellow runners because someone thinks I’m too different one way or another.

However, point taken that more detail might be interesting to some readers and might be useful for me to look at in the future. So what follows is my attempt at balancing detail with the other concerns.

I started the race running with a pace group, since I don’t have much experience with hills and I wanted to run with folks who did. The pace leader was clear we would run even effort, not even pace, given the hills, so some variability no doubt was in her plan as well as making sure to hit each water stop. I finished the race ahead of the pace group’s target finish time. According to the race results web site, my average pace was 7s/mi faster than the pace group’s target pace; my Garmin has my average pace at 15s/mi faster than the pace group’s target pace.

I don’t think I’m that great at pacing, given I have the treadmill to do it for me. It’s something I need to work on. When outside, I tend to run by feel (trying to not feel unpleasantly pushed, mostly) and just check my pace from time to time. In races, I generally have some idea what I’d like to run, will check my pace at mile markers or other splits, and try to adjust as I can. If I feel I’m working harder than I should be, I’ll definitely check my time and see if I need to pull back. Speeding up is, of course, usually harder….. My DH ( @mrrdeatwriterun ) tells me I tend to go out conservatively in races and then speed up at the end, possibly out of old fears of not finishing. (He may not be wrong, though I think at least now I’m more afraid of going out too fast, blowing up, and then having to trudge at a slower pace than I want to finish the race and likely in a time I won’t be happy about.) Much for me to improve upon in pacing for my fall races and Boston!

Note the mile pace info I’m using as the basis for comparison are the ones from my Garmin (since the race splits/pace aren’t to this level of detail). My Garmin shows a different average pace and finish time (Garmin was about 0.15mi longer than course) than the race results. So the below is deltas of what Garmin says is my pace for that mile with the other relevant paces.

Here’s a graph of my pace and the elevation of the race according to my Garmin (pace is blue, closer to the X axis is slower).

HHHalf pace and elevation per my Garmin

HHHalf pace and elevation per my Garmin

Note: “-“ means this mile’s pace per Garmin is faster than the other pace,  “+” is slower, both in seconds & ignoring the last 0.1 or 0.2…..

pace deltas HHHalf per Garmin mi pace

pace deltas HHHalf per Garmin mi pace

Re Boston:

I’m starting to think about what I might want or need to change, improve, tweak for Boston. It’s hard when it’s all N=1. Do I go with what worked to get me where I am, which is someplace I’m thrilled and amazed to be (BQ!), or do I change things up to see how much faster, stronger, better I can get?

One example is changing the timing of my Saturday long run. Since Boston starts so much later than I normally run, I think my training cycle starting in January will need to be adapted to start around the time I’d expect to start Boston. This definitely means I need to think about pre-race fueling. While now I take my required meds at 4 am and may be up by 6 or so on the weekend, running by 8, Boston will be different in how long between when I get up and when the race starts, and the level of activity and alertness required of me in those hours.

Another example of something I may want or need to play with is fueling. I love my EFS Liquid Shot gel, but again – can I get better performance from something else or a different approach? Fueling changes are something I want to try now, and use my training for my A race (Baystate in October) as a learning/testing ground. I don’t take food before a race or long run since my stomach tends to rebel once I start running if there’s any food in it (water and BeetElite with my supplements seem to do ok). Right at the start of a race, I take a tiny bit of Liquid Shot during with water.

Lately, I’ve seen more and more runners (Meb and OT hopefuls ultrarunner Larisa Dannis @larisa_elaine and Erin Henderson @seemomrunfar among others) talking about the success they’ve had with UCAN, which is a gluten-free “superstarch” made from nonGMO corn. It appears they take UCAN before running, and sometimes also during the run. Using UCAN would violate my self-imposed grain-free status (a choice for GI comfort and performance; gluten-free isn’t really a choice given how horrible I feel if I consume gluten). I’m wondering if it’s worth a try given the results I’m seeing/hearing.

Re my dietary constraints, some are because the items in question make me sick, some are avoided for other reasons like GERD or autoimmune concerns, and some are choices for comfort or some other benefit like lower carb eating. I have made limited exceptions to my “rules” in certain areas, for particular reasons. For example I use (isolated) whey protein for recovery and supplemental protein in bars, powders and in Arctic Zero, because the research seems to show it’s the best bet and because I can tolerate whey (possibly not casein). However, I am otherwise dairy-free due to significant lactose intolerance (as much as I miss goat cheese, yogurt, etc.)

It is challenging for me to make these consider and make these tradeoffs. I know there really aren’t dietary “police” and no one is grading me except me, though I’m my toughest critic. My performance and health/well-being are the real goals rather than conformance to rules, even my rules – but it’s hard for me to change these decisions once I’ve made them and they seem to be working out. Occasionally doing so can seem like a “failure” or “compromise”. (kind of strange, I know, but being honest here) Risk vs. reward vs. ego? A challenge on multiple levels for me.

Have you encountered similar challenges in trying to improve your running? How did you decide whether or not to stick with what’s apparently been working and when/how/why to change? What have your experiences been?

Thanks for reading!