Third time’s the charm

  • This was printed in March of 2014 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 42nd installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

They say you get out what you put in. If that’s true, March 23 will be the day I BQ.

I’ve focused my last several columns on other runners, while in “real life” I was focusing

on my own Modesto Marathon training. My third 26.2-mile race — and my third shot at

qualifying for the Boston Marathon — is 17 days away.

My marathon training consists of a four-day-a-week running schedule, with light cross

training of 30 minutes of yoga or core work on the other three days.

I do all of my training runs with my group, the Wicked Fast Wascally Wunnahs — or the

Wascallys, for short — coached by longtime runner and running advocate Brad Castillo.

Mondays we run Yasso 800s (I’ll explain). Wednesdays we run intervals as a group. Easy

Peasy Fido Fridays consist of four to six miles at an easy pace (10-minute miles for me),

usually with our eager dogs in tow. Saturdays we run long and hard.

I have put my trust into the Yasso 800 method of marathon time prediction. The method,

developed and named after Runner’s World magazine’s race services manager Bart

Yasso, predicts one’s marathon finish time based on how fast the person can run 10

repeats of 800 meters, or half-miles.

Every Monday, the Wascallys hit the Eaton Trail at Woodward Park in Fresno, running

hard for a half-mile (marked by our coach) and then recovering with a light jog for a

quarter-mile. The time it takes to run the half-miles should be the amount of time we take

to recover during the quarter-miles.

The trail, which is actually a wide, paved cycling and running path, has a few rolling hills

to challenge our legs as we do these speed workouts. I keep track of my half-mile split

times using my Nike+ SportWatch GPS.

For the past several weeks I’ve worked up from four Yasso 800s to 12. When I hit 10 of

them last week, I was able to average 3 minutes and 25 seconds for each half-mile. This

week I did 12 of them in an average pace of 3:19. According to Yasso’s theory, my

marathon finish time will be between 3 hours and 19 minutes and 3 hours and 25

minutes. That’s perfect, as my BQ time is 3:35. It’s nice to know I might have a ten-

minute cushion.

This theory works for all marathoners, according to Runner’s World. Someone who can

run 10 half-miles in 4 minutes will run a 4-hour marathon. The beasts who can run their

half-miles in 2 minutes 30 seconds will finish a marathon in 2 hours and 30 minutes.

This, of course, is assuming that nothing goes wrong on race day. While training for the

Two Cities Marathon I was hitting 3:35 for each half-mile, meaning I should have

finished the race in 3:35 and qualified for Boston.

But things didn’t go as planned. I started out way too fast and didn’t have anything left

after mile 18. I crossed the line at 3:53, 18 minutes too slow.

This time our training schedule has incorporated more speed work. In place of medium-

long, slow runs we’ve been having some fun with group interval runs. They’re commonly

referred to as Indian runs, but the politically correct term is “last man sprints” or “leap

frogs.”

Whatever you want to call them, this is how we do them: For three miles, we run in a

single-file line at a moderate pace (about 9 minutes or 9:30 per mile). The last person in

line sprints to the front of the line. When they arrive there, the “new” last person sprints

to the front, and so on. After three miles of this, we turn around and run three miles back

to the start at our own comfortable pace.

The Yasso 800s and these leapfrog runs have made my entire running group noticeably

faster.

Our usual LSDs, or Long Slow Distance runs, have turned into long, hard runs. On

Saturday I ran 18 miles at an 8:07-per-mile average pace. My goal was to run at my BQ

marathon pace of 8 minutes and 12 seconds.

I was pleased that my average came out five seconds faster than my goal, but shaken

when I looked at my splits and saw such inconsistency. My mile times jumped all over

the place, with my fastest being 7 minutes and 38 seconds and my slowest being 9:13.

This Saturday’s goal: 20 miles at a consistent marathon pace.

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