For the last couple of years I’ve had a cameo on the Walking Dead.
You didn’t know?
Oh! You are thinking of the TV show.
No, I’m talking about the Ironman Marathon. You know, the 26.2 miles that comes AFTER you swim 2.4 miles and bike 112.
I’m having another cameo this year, because I guarantee I will not be running a marathon; at least not the one on July 26th in Ironman Lake Placid. This is not an example of being pessimistic or setting a low bar so that I can reach it. This is reality.
By the time people like me get to the marathon in an Ironman, all you want to do is survive. The pros are finishing, the fast people are on their last thirteen miles and you realize that “all” that’s left between you, and the finish line you’ve worked so hard for, is 26.2 measly miles.
And so you see all kinds of characters who like you, are the walking dead. One species is the super fit athlete who must have completely combusted on the bike. That is, they probably pushed their bodies so much that now they are cramping, feeling terrible, or injured. Just by looking at these people, you know they are not the walking type. Though I have the utmost respect and compassion for that person who is just having a terrible day, I have to admit I get a little pleasure from coming across them. My success doesn’t depend on their failure, but it’s just a little bump in spirit passing someone who looks like they should be running like a gazelle. It tells me: “this is hard even for him, you are doing okay.”
Another species are the chatters desperately looking for company. If they see you up ahead, they do what they can to catch you and strike a conversation. Then they hang on for dear life. In Arizona, I had one of these who caught up to me as I walked. I heard ALL about him as he talked incessantly, and felt terrible wanting to jog again. After a while I was realized: my race, my rules. I may not be fast, but I was faster than this guy who was holding me as a willing hostage.
There is the eventual runner vomiting on the sidelines, or the one getting medical attention. Anyone with a head down is sure to get pats on the back and encouragement. We all tell each other “looking good” even as we waddle like ducks, because in truth, by this point we all want to just make it to the finish before seventeen hours pass.
Sounds fun right? I know. An Ironman marathon for slow people like me sounds horrific, but the truth is it doesn’t have to be.
So you know what I mean by slow here are my marathon times (blush):
Ironman Florida marathon November 2013: 5h23 (12.30 min/mile)
Miami Marathon Feburary 2014: 4h51m (11.07 min/mile)
Ironman Arizona marathon November 2014: 6h13 (14.2 min/mile)
I’ve linked the races in case you wanted to read reviews. I’ve heard people say “anything over a 10.00 min/mile should be considered walking” or “unless you can keep at 10.00 min/mile you shouldn’t race a marathon.” To those people I say take your self righteousness and go race Boston. Leave me in Miami in peace.
Since “failing” in Arizona, I haven’t been able to pick up my speed faster than an 11.30 min/mile pace. Of course I could run faster, but I am not willing to do all the work it takes. So where does that leave me, and why should this matter to you?
If you know you struggle with running, and you will be doing a 140.6 mile distance race, just accept walking will be involved. But how you walk can make a big difference in both your time and how you feel. It sounds so darn simple, but this just occurred to me … as I get ready for a third Ironman.
When I first began running, my Coach was not in favor of run/walk intervals and instead I just ran really slowly and walked when he wasn’t looking. He was condescending and though I ditched that coach a while ago, I’ve been carrying the thought of “if I walk I suck.” Therefore I kept setting running goals with the least amount of walking possible, felt pretty miserable, hated running, and walked more than I planned for. Except for when I ran next to world champ Leanda Cave. Then I ran my heart out.
Accepting I would be walking, a lot, I seriously considered speed walking.
I love walking! I could walk for hours on end. To China if I had to. No problem.
My twitter tweeps mentioned they can speed walk at 12.00 min/miles and faster, and a friend of a friend walked the Ironman Florida marathon in five hours.
Emboldened I set out to speed walk reaching a whopping 14.00 min/mile. And it was HARD. I wondered if getting faster at speed walking would actually feel any better than getting my run in shape. Probably not.
If you are a speed walker and think otherwise or have ideas, PLEASE share them. I am by no means dissing you, I just don’t know if I can be like you.
I looked at Jeff Galloway, an Olympian runner who has helped millions come into the sport of running with the run/walk approach. The idea is you run for an interval, then walk (or “glide”) for another. If you do that, from the beginning, you will be able to finish faster than if you tried to run the entire way. If you only begin intervals once you get tired (like I used to) then you will see your pace slowly slipping away (as I did).
For Ironman Florida and the Miami Marathon, I was focused on running better and tried to maintain a 10/1: run ten minutes, walk one minute. It wasn’t very official, I didn’t have a watch which told me when to walk, and I didn’t stick to it either.
For Arizona, I couldn’t keep up 10/1s in training therefore I tried 4/1s and hated it.
I went too hard on the four minutes, and one minute was not enough to recover. I couldn’t get myself to run slower on the four minutes. So I kept looking at my watch to see when the heck the interval would be over. By the end of a long run I was doing “f$$$ it” intervals. I couldn’t care less and cursed the whole way home.
Yet I kept that interval because that little annoying voice in my head kept telling me anything lower was not real running.
Until I began training for Lake Placid.
As I wrote here, I told my coach I just want to finish it smiling. And so I thought, what the heck … I’ll try a shorter interval. Something that would get me faster than the 14.00 min/mile I managed speed walking, but wouldn’t be so agonizing as waiting four full minutes for a walk break.
I decided on a 2 minute run, and a 40 second walk. Can you guess what happened?
I got a teeny tiny bit ….
That’s right. With that interval my short runs are closer to 11.00 min/mile.
The best part is that they feel good. I don’t look at my watch incessantly wanting it to reach the walk interval, nor curse when it is over. I found I run those two minutes closer to a 9:30 pace and so I feel like a runner because I am indeed moving. But the run interval is so short I don’t die, and I have time to recover.
Every mile I give myself an extra twenty seconds walking. That gives me something to look forward to and I’ve tried this interval on enough runs to know that it is works for me.
Who would’ve thunk? Me! Enjoying my run. That’s a miracle.
So here is my advice to all of us walking dead runners out there. To those of you who KNOW you are going to walk in that marathon.
Get over it.
Accept that walking will be a part of your day and PLAN for it. I am okay with a 15.00 min/mile pace at Lake Placid which leaves me a whole lot of time to run slower in my two minutes. But my bet is that if I train for 2/40s and I like how it feels, I will have a better chance of sticking to it. And if I stick to it, barring any major trouble, I won’t have to slip into the Walking Dead.
In fact, I’m starting to think there is a chance I won’t be having a cameo performance after all.
How do you feel about the Galloway method? Do you run/walk? What is your interval?