Thursday, July 19, 2012

Calculating... calculating...

News has come out over the last few days that the McMillan Running Calculator, the simple and effective training and goal-setting tool, has undergone some tweaks. The ranges given for workout paces have been widened, and most notably, predicted finish times have been added for distances beyond 26.2 miles.

Hey, I love the calculator, it's incredibly accurate and useful... but this update is just goofy. As the site plainly admits in all the disclaimers lower on the page that you don't read, there are so many variables with ultras that even attempting to extrapolate a finish time based on other results is a futile exercise.

Ultras take muscular endurance to a whole new level. They are emotionally taxing. And most of them are as unique as fingerprints. So telling someone, "Well, you ran a marathon in X time so you should finish a 100 in Y," is setting an unreasonable expectation that will only cause a letdown when it goes unmet.

Take my numbers for instance. I plugged in my time from my last race, 1:02:52 for 15K. The calculator says I should have a 5K time of 19:32, and my 5K PR is 19:23. The calculator says I should finish a half marathon in 1:30:28, and my PR is 1:29:51. So far, so good.

At the marathon distance, the numbers break down a little, as now you're getting into the body's physiological changes that the calculator can't account for (e.g., the depletion of stored glycogen). McMillan has me at 3:10:23, fully 2 1/2 minutes below my PR. It's not way off, but it's off, at least until I take a shot at 3:10 in Houston in January.

After that, it gets wacky. Fifty miles in 7:02? That would put me in the top 30 at JFK or the top 20 at American River. As it stands I'm good for 10 hours. With a lot of work and experience, maybe I can crack 9 in time. But a breath over 7 hours? Not in a million years. And at 100 miles, the calculator says 18:19. That figure is so invalid it's not even worth discussing.

I appreciate McMillan trying to innovate and cast a wider net, but this is very similar to Accuweather moving to 25-day forecasts on its website. It's fun to speculate and set goals, but these projections should be used for entertainment purposes only, not actual targets.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Schedule changes

I can't remember if I actually wrote this here or I just mentioned it on Twitter, but I blew up my fall schedule after Old Dominion. I still want to pull off the triple-double (back-to-back marathons 3 straight weekends) and I know I'm capable of it, but it's a stressful undertaking (logistically more so than financially or physically) and after another 100-mile DNF I felt like shedding some stress.

So I wiped it all out. I was only actually registered for Too Hot to Handle (done yesterday) and Santa Fe, so the time was right to rework things. Here's what I came up with (and I am signed up for all these so they are happening):

9/3/12 Labor Day 15K, Dallas
9/8/12 Get Ready to Rock 20 Mile, Minneapolis
9/15/12 Tour des Fleurs 20K, Dallas
9/23/12 Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon, Plano TX
9/29/12 Run from the Ducks (8 Hour), Weatherford TX
10/11/12 Santa Fe 5K, Dallas
11/4/12 DRC Half Marathon, Dallas
11/10/12 Arbor Day 10K, Plano TX
11/18/12 Big D 30K
11/22/12 North Texas Turkey Trot (10K), Frisco TX
12/8/12 Isle du Bois 50K, Pilot Point TX

There is room for one more that I'll fill in later. It's a much different look than before, with only 1 race out of town (as part of a family trip). And it's kind of a wild mix of distances, with a bunch of shorter stuff than I had in mind previously. The race distances don't seem to have much of an order to them, but I'm not going to worry about it -- no stress, remember? It's odd that I'm going from Big Sur this past April all the way to Houston next January without anything at exact marathon distance, but that's just the way it worked out.

Speaking of Houston, there are a few 2013 races I'm already registered for:

1/13/13 Houston Marathon
2/2/13 Rocky Raccoon 100, Huntsville TX
3/3/13 Sugar Land Half Marathon, Sugar Land TX

What does everyone else have cooking?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Race review: Too Hot to Handle 15K

Seriously, this was my best race ever. I finished in 1:02:52, 5 seconds ahead of my PR from Too Cold to Hold 2011 and 4:21 faster than this same race last year. It was a few degrees warmer for last year's run, but that accounts for a tiny portion of the drop, if any. It may no longer be unreasonable to think that on a 50-degree day, I could break an hour at this distance. Never would have imagined.

I'm still awaiting confirmation that any of this even happened, officially. The results are posted and I'm not on them. I've e-mailed the link to my Garmin results; hopefully they can find me. Omitting anyone else who might've been left out, I was 4th of 87 in my age group and 27th of 1049 overall. I beat a couple of my nemeses and only lost to one female runner.


I started comfortably, determined not to be zapped by a fast start like last year. But when I crossed the 5K mat in 21:14, 4 seconds quicker than a year ago, I got worried. All this business about running a better race was out the window already, eh?

Well, no. I kept waiting for the fade to come and it never did. I was through 10K in 42:13, 7 seconds faster than my stand-alone 10K PR (which is still my softest by quite a bit). I wasn't thinking about a 15K PR; in fact I hadn't even considered the 10K PR until typing that just now. I just knew I'd be safely in the 1:05s at worst, and I'd be more than happy with it. Only when I got close enough to the finish to hear the female winner being announced in 1:02:something did it dawn on me that maybe I could also finish in 1:02:something, and I did.

Last summer I got up before sunrise to dodge the heat. That isn't how you get better at racing in the heat. You get out there and get in it; it's the only way to acclimate. If staying out of the sun is the thing, it's still much warmer at 9 p.m. than at 5 a.m. My training in this regard is the main factor in today's success. I've been running most of my miles in the last month between 90 and 100 degrees. When you get up on race morning and it's 77 or so, it might as well be 57.

With last year's in parentheses:
7:08 (6:40)
6:45 (6:51)
6:47 (6:55)
6:47 (6:58)
6:42 (7:04)
6:37 (7:08)
6:42 (7:39)
6:34 (7:42)
6:40 (7:42)
6:37 pace last .33 (6:49)


They're sticking with the muscle shirt... really wish they would go back to the singlet. And you get a running cap.


Labor Day 15K, Sept. 3.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Race preview: Too Hot to Handle 15K


Sunday, July 15

Too Hot to Handle 15K

This is the middle event of a 3-race package sold by Run On (Dash Down Greenville and Santa Fe 5K being the others). I had to do the first one and figured I'd go ahead and get a deal on the other 2.

They're taking 3000 runners in the 5K and 15K and have less than 200 spots left. I'm guessing it'll be something like 1900 in the 5K and 1100 in the 15K.

There was a fleeting moment when it looked like we might catch a tiny break, but no, it'll be every bit of 80 degrees at the start of the race and rising quickly from there.


Last year I ran a 1:07:13 so let's set the bar there. It seemed I was pretty happy with that race at the time, but I ran positive splits for every single mile. Secondary to beating that time, I'd just like to run a better race. I've been running a lot of negative splits in training lately so hopefully I can carry that over.