Heart Rate Test

On the advice of my ultrarunning friend Grant Sisler, I ran a test this morning to gain some insight into what marathon pace I am capable of. When I ran my personal record at the California International Marathon (CIM) in December of 2009, my average heart rate was 157 beats per minute (bpm). In theory, I should be able to run another marathon with a similar heart rate. The test this morning was to see how fast I could go without allowing my heart rate to go above 155 bpm.

I ran 8.5 miles at 154 bpm at 6:58 pace. That translates to a 3:02:32 marathon. My goal is 3:04:59. On the surface, everything looks good. Here are the running computer results: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/109288129.

There are some caveats.

  1. The temperature at the start of the CIM was 31 degrees. Cool weather suppresses your heart rate. I’m not sure if that means that I am capable of a higher or lower heart rate over a marathon. The average starting temperature of the marathon I’m running is 62 degrees. It was 61 degrees for today’s run.
  2. My pace for the first couple miles of my test today was significantly faster than my overall pace. Also, my pace slowed while keeping my heart rate steady over the course of the run. I’m concerned that I may have to run slightly “harder” (read: higher heart rate) as the race goes on in order to maintain my goal pace.

In any case, today’s result was encouraging. With a heart rate three beats per minutes slower than the rate I ran a full marathon at, my pace was five seconds faster than I need to be. Next up: a 21.5 mile run on Saturday and my final track session on Wednesday. Both of those should serve to get my heart in even better shape.

Queen City Marathon Training Update

18 days until the Queen City Marathon. This training cycle has been a bit different from my past marathons in that making time for running has been a challenge. Fortunately, I haven’t missed a run yet, and my times and average heart rates have been dropping throughout the training.

My biggest concern right now is the health of my left knee. I withdrew from the Boston Marathon earlier this year due to crippling pain in my left knee. Two weeks ago, I started feeling something similar to what I felt back in February. Not nearly as intense, but the feeling was familiar. Since then I’ve been using a lot of ice, ibuprofen and yoga to nurse it along. Some days are worse than others, but, so far, so good. Rest is not really an option at this point, since I’m going for a personal record time.

Another minor inconvenience is that the course for the marathon has been heavily modified. Regina, Saskatachewan has apparently experienced unprecedented precipitation this summer resulting in flooding of the original route. The modified route is two loops of the same 13 mile course. Not ideal, but it will all be new territory for me so the repetition shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

I have chosen a goal time: 3 hours, 5 minutes. That translates to 7 minute, 3 second miles. Based on a ton of analysis of my training sessions I think this time is aggressive but possible. The weather will have to cooperate; if it’s too hot I likely won’t be able to keep my heart rate low enough to sustain that pace. The average temperature for this race has been 62 degrees historically. That would be fine, although something in the 50s or high 40s would be ideal. If the weather is above 65 or so, I’ll have to adjust my goal.

I have two important runs left in my training. The first is a 21.5 mile long run on Saturday. The second is an attempt at 10 Yasso 800s at 5:34 / mile pace next Wednesday. If I can get through both of those, I think I’ll be tracking well toward my goal.

Setting an aggressive goal for the Queen City Marathon

I would like to qualify for the 2012 Boston Marathon at the Queen City Marathon on 9/11 in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The 2011 Boston Marathon sold out in eight hours. The previous record for fastest sell out was two months. In response, the Boston Athletic Association is making some changes to the qualifying standards. For 2012, they are letting runners who are dramatically under the qualifying standard register early. For 2013 they are dropping the qualifying times by 5 minutes.

Sep. 12, 2011 – Qualifiers 20 minutes or under the qualifying times listed above.
Sep. 14, 2011 – Qualifiers 10 minutes or under.
Sep. 16, 2011 – Qualifiers 5 minutes or under.

Registration will close if the field fills up between September 16th and 19th. If there are still spots available on Sep. 19th (week two), all qualifiers can register. This doesn’t mean you have been accepted into the race. On September 23rd, applicants who register during the second week of registration are notified if they qualified for the race. All the applications will be processed, and the fastest runners from the second group of applications will be allowed in.

I’m not sure what it’s going to take to qualify. My marathon personal record is 3:08:03 (7:11/mi pace), which I think I can get close to. That may not be enough to get into Boston with the new process, but it would be enough for me to know that I gave it my all.

To that end I’ve been training hard for the last month. After a spring dominated by my new job, I was very undertrained. But I’ve been diligent lately, and I’m now up to 35 miles a week.

I’ve been doing track workouts to build speed. The track workout I typically do is called “Yasso 800s”. This workout can supposedly predict your marathon time. The workout is comprised of 10 fast half mile separated by resting jogs of the same amount of time as the fast half miles. If you can complete 10 of these with three minute half miles followed by three minute jogs, you should be able to run a marathon in three hours flat. During my most recent track session I completed 10 at 3:06 pace, which should correspond to a 3 hour, 6 minute marathon. While this is encouraging, I did complete 10 at 2:55 pace before my personal best marathon. On the other hand, I’ve been increasing the pace of my jogs during this training cycle, so 10 at 2:55 would probably be more like 10 at 2:58 or so with fast jogs. I have five track workouts remaining, my hope is to complete the final one at 2:50 pace (5:40 half miles). That’s probably too aggressive, but it’s the goal for now. This week I’ll be attempting 10 at 3:02.

*Update: I’ve been advised to run my intervals faster and my jogs slower. My new plan is to attempt 10 at 2:59 this week with much slower jog intervals.

I’ve also been racing each of the last two weekends. Two weekends ago I ran the Wharf to Wharf race in Santa Cruz. I completed that six mile race in 38:33 which is 6:26/mi pace. Though my heart rate for this race was very high, this was a very encouraging result. I also ran the first half of the San Francisco Marathon this weekend. My time there was 1:32:24 which is 7:04/mi, a very disappointing result. Another good indicator for marathon ability is to take your half marathon time, double it, and add 10 minutes. Using this methodology, I’m currently capable of a 3:15 marathon, which is not fast enough to qualify. This was the reason for my disappointment in my result.

However, I did some checking, and I am no longer as concerned about my somewhat poor performance yesterday. The first half of the San Francisco Marathon is a ridiculously difficult course. I decided to check to see what the top finishers in the half marathon yesterday have run in other half marathons. The winner was Brett Geithman, with a 1:12:33. He doesn’t have any easily found half marathon results, but he did run a marathon at 2:26:58 pace, which would vaguely correspond to a 1:04 half marathon. So he was eight minutes slower on this course. Similarly, other top finishers saw a 5-10 minute spread between their San Francisco half and personal best half times. So, this means that my time of 1:32:24 more likely corresponds to a half marathon time around 1:27. This is a much more positive result, especially considering the marathon I am running on 9/11 is flat, and easy.

I have a lot of work to get there, but 3:08 seems within reach.

Irritated with the Tron nostalgia

The movie we're all going to see this holiday season

In case you haven’t heard, Disney will be releasing a movie on Friday called Tron: Legacy. Commensurate with it’s release has come a wave of nostalgia for the original movie that seems unreasonable.

The original movie was a box office flop. In it’s first week of release it was the #2 movie. By week two it was #4. In week three it was #7. Its total US box office take was $27 million, versus a $17 million production budget. Adjusting for inflation, Tron would have made around $61 million in 2010. It would have been the number 47 movie this year, sandwiched in between two movies you haven’t heard of (or wish you hadn’t): The Wolf Man and The Last Song. Nobody saw Tron when it came out (source: The Numbers). Even Disney is embarrassed by the original. It’s not available on DVD or VHS or online anywhere.

So why are fans of the original suddenly coming out of the wood (NSFW) work?

Some have argued that Tron has transcended it’s pathetic box office numbers by becoming a cult hit with the technorati. Its hacker-chic plot and revolutionary use of computer graphics are pretty cool. However, Tron’s supposed cult status has never resulted in many DVD or VHS sales, and so I’m forced to conclude that very few folks have ever seen the movie.

So why is everyone so excited? Duh, it’s Disney’s marketing department.

Disney has been “priming the pump” on this movie for years. They’ve released teaser trailors at Comic-Con for the last three years in an attempt to start an internet wild fire. They’ve been blanketing bus stops, bill boards, train stations, magazines, you name it in order to put it in the collective consciousness. They even painted the monorails at their theme parks to look like Tron lightcycles and gave the Black Eyed Peas a lightcycle prop to use on their tour.

That’s all fine, but are we really so naive to think that we’re all big fans of the original movie?