I see a pattern emerging. As I taper after peak marathon training, I speed up in my shorter runs. It’s not intentional since I usually start my short runs at a comfortable pace and don’t check my Garmin for pace until I’ve run a mile or so. But I definitely speed up as I shorten my long runs and cut back on total mileage.
Last weekend I was at the 53rd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival (my 43rd festival), so I ran on Saturday on the Perkiomen Trail which borders the festival grounds near Schwenksville. Weather was ideal — for the festival and for running — and the upper Perkiomen Trail is well-shaded and relatively flat with one exception. I first ran north to Salford Station Road, then turned back south to run along the festival grounds. The trail is always crowded during the festival with attendees enjoying the trail and its access to a refreshing dip in the Perkiomen Creek as well as local residents using the trail for walking, running, biking, and horse-back riding. Some access the festival from nearby and even sit along the trail behind the Camp Stage to listen to the music without needing a ticket.
I passed the grounds heading south, crossed Haim Road and over the Perkiomen, and reached the park where the trail crosses back over the creek on Main Street/Sprint Mt. Road. A short distance from the chair lift for Spring Mount Ski Resort, the trail makes that exception to following the creek bed with a short but intense 12% grade climb to the top of Spring Mount. I hadn’t intended to run up that hill, but I felt pretty good and just kept going. I was pleasantly surprised to find the hill had been paved since the last time I’d run it a few years ago — much easier and safer to run and bike that kind of incline than fighting to maintain traction on loose gravel. I topped the hill and ran on to Schwenksville Road before turning back to retrace my path.
To my surprise, after logging 6 miles that day, I still managed an average pace of 10:42, and not too long ago my normal short, easy run pace has been well over 11 minutes per mile.
Since then most of my short runs have been around 10:30 or faster, and on my last short run Friday my last two mile splits were 9:59 and 9:14. And I wasn’t really trying to run hard or fast, it just felt right. Today, I ran the Valley Forge Park outer loop plus a little extra on the Schuylkill River Trail at Betzwood for 10 miles at an 11:38 overall pace even though I was using a 2/1 run/walk ratio throughout.
So I’m going to have to really keep myself from starting too fast at the Ventura Marathon in two weeks. I’m not worried about the Disney Dumbo Double Dare Challenge races this coming weekend (10K & Half Marathon) since they are chock full of distractions like characters and costumes and a huge number of runners. But I’ll have to carefully control my start at the Ventura Marathon so I don’t run out of steam by going too fast in the first half like I did in Vermont.
My plan is to do the first few miles at an easy 13:00 pace, then very gradually let myself speed up if it feels right. I’m taking the early start just in case I do run into trouble and exceed the 6-hour time limit. The early start takes off at 5:30 AM — an hour before the regular start — giving me 7 hours if I need it, but I’m hoping I’m properly prepared and control the start so I finish somewhere between 5:00 and 5:30. That’s the plan…