Monday, October 7, 2013

The Numbers Game

The Fun Part:
So I was bored, and decided to check some race predictors. You know, I have this marathon coming up, and I just ran a half, so yeah, it seemed like a fun thing to do. (Do you like how nonchalant I am?) I've only run two races recently. A 5K in 18:41 and a half marathon in 1:25:55. I used the half time for the predictors. Here's what I found:
  • I found this race predictor calculator over on Race Times, and really liked the predicted times it spit out at me. For one, based on my half marathon time it predicts an 18:41 5K time, which is exactly what I ran a month ago, so that's sort of interesting. And for another it predicts a marathon time of 2:59:08. Cool beans. 
  • This Race Predictor predicts an 18:51 5K and 2:59:35 marathon time based on my half time. (I like this one too.)
  • Another Race Calculator predicts an 18:26 5K and 2:59:56. Those are sweet times too (for me).
  • Yet another predicts an 18:42 5K and 2:59:07. This one is my favorite (for obvious reasons).
  • McMillan, on the other hand, is raining on my sub-3:00 parade with a prediction of 3:00:49. Boo, hiss, McMillan!
It seems only natural to find methods in which to predict one's marathon time. Especially once the taper begins. I mean, as the runner is forced to run less, we are also forced to go crazy. We tell ourselves that playing with the numbers is a way to keep us sane and mentally prepare for the big day to come, but in truth the numbers game really just displays our crazy for all to see.

Here, let me share an example. I was jauntily sharing with Nick how four of the five race predictors were predicting a sub 3:00 marathon based on last week's half marathon time. Rather than looking thoroughly pleased (as he should have). He looked really uncomfortable. Of course, I could tell what he was thinking. Race day performance is impacted by a variety of things like the weather and how one feels and a million other factors that play into having the "perfect" day. (Something I don't think I've experienced yet by the way.) Yeah, yeah, I know, but it's still sort of cool that some race predictors are predicting that I could possibly break 3:00, right? RIGHT!? (He pretty much continued to look uncomfortable until the topic of conversation changed.)

The Reality:
Do I really think I can break 3:00 on October 20th? I don't know. This is starting to feel stressful. Don't pressure me!!!

Seriously though, I have no idea. I didn't really train with a particular goal in mind. It's possible, but it seems (to me) if I am capable of breaking the big 3:00 mark, it would have to be a pretty darn good day. For one, I've never been able to run what the race predictors say I can run for a marathon. Realistically speaking, there's no evidence to suggest that this year I'll suddenly be able to run those predicted times. For another, though I haven't had a particular goal in mind, I've generally trained with a 7:03 marathon pace in mind, which is a 3:05.

Oh, also, I just started working full-time, which is definitely adding some unforeseen stress to this taper time. I woke up this morning at 4:50 am to run my 6 miles to find I had a sore throat and glamorously hacked out some thick green mucus before heading out on my run. On the plus side, I ran fine, so there's that. Am I worried? Hmmm, good question, I know I've been running well, and it would be nice just to feel reasonably well on race day, but I really have been more relaxed this training cycle. I have a lot going on, and other things that are taking priority right now, and that's just the way it is sometimes.

On a positive note, this was my last long run (yes, I'm still taking picture of Garmin and will use those pictures to console myself should I have a bad race day):

This "training" cycle has treated me surprising well. For this week, I'll embrace the taper, and focus on surviving work stress. Next week...well, let's not get too ahead of ourselves...

The Fun Non-Running:
We went apple picking again this weekend, and this was my favorite phone photo from the day. I love how my phone has a camera. I get to record these moments without any fuss or planning.

A Little Poll:
Do you believe in race predictors? Does anyone out there actually run the times that are predicted?


Anonymous said...

My half marathon PR (which is now kind of outdated, but I haven't run another one) came out to within 5 seconds of what one of the calculators predicted, so I vote that they work! Unfortunately, it was the McMillan prediction:)

Isn't your current PR around 3:10 though? So either way, whether you get say 3:02 or 2:58, you're still making a huge improvement! And personally, I think you're going to get under 3:00, if you get decent weather conditions. If you can do 6:50 for a long training run, think how much easier it will feel in a race, which should give you enough spare energy to keep up 6:5x to the finish...


Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

OK, here is why the AM predictor says that you will run a sub 3...I truly believe that you were in sub 3 shape at Boston. I think you were maybe a bit too tired (you trained SO SO hard over the winter) and then you also had the foot/leg issue going on. I think all that fitness placed you in a great position this training cycle to train hard, but not crazy hard, and still PR the HM. I think you would have PRed the 5K as well had you not had to slow down at the end due to other people not letting you go by. The HM was also untapered. I also agree that you need to have a good day. So, if the winds are going to go 40 MPH that day, probably adjusting your goal would be a good idea. Otherwise, I truly hope you go for it. I think the marathon predictors have never worked for you because you were not an experienced marathoner. I think you have a few marathons in your legs right now, and so you will be where the calculators have you. I also think your relaxed attitude will help. SO excited for you!

Michael said...

I've never put much faith in race predictors. The closest I've ever gotten to my predicted marathon time (based on a recent hm result) is about 5 minutes. Hard to factor in what happens to your body over those last that 6.2 miles.

BTW, if the weather is even reasonably OK for Baystate you have a new PR in the bag. Guaranteed. Anything more than that is gravy! :)

Karen said...

The one that most closely predicts my times is the McMillan one, but I've only tried that and the Runner's World one. I'm definitely checking out the others you posted here!!

There's a big difference between a tapered half and an untapered benchmark half during training. All of those predictors are if you trained AND tapered. If the marathon gods give you perfect weather and you are having a good day, coming in under 3hrs is definitely possible!!!

Katie said...

Alicia: That's amazing that your half predicts your marathon time within 3 seconds! I do think that weather will play a huge role in how close I get. 48-52 degrees would be perfect for me.

Ana-Maria: OK, I agree that I've never gotten close to the marathon predicted times because I didn't train like a marathoner, and that has changed. About 1.5 years ago, I also couldn't get close to my half marathon predicted time using my most recent 5K times, but now I'm within seconds, so my training is making a difference. I also think that I trained too hard last year, and relaxing a little has helped. But McMillan still only predicts 3:00:47, not sub-3:00, and he's really got the best calculator. I think if the weather is good and I feel good I'll probably go for it, BUT I'm keeping my expectations realistic. :)

Michael: Does your 5K or 10K time predict your half? Or does your 5K time predict your 10K time? I have read that the McMillan calculator can be split into 2. The shorter distances and the longer distances. People that do better at shorter distances can't necessarily use it to predict their marathon. And those who run better at longer distances can't necessarily use it to predict the shorter distances.

Karen: I forgot about the tapered half versus the un-tapered half. I'm definitely tapering for the marathon, so we'll see!

Michael said...

Katie - The 5k/HM correlation is a lot more accurate for me, for some reason. It's literally within seconds. So, I guess despite my best efforts, I must be a "shorter distance" guy.

BTW, just for fun I plugged my 400m time (60 seconds) into McMillian and it says I should be able to run a marathon in 2:45. Ha!