3:56 versus 4:06. What Is The Difference?

[caption id="attachment_9613" align="alignright" width="225"]3:56 marathon - ironman - goal - running Finishing the marathon at IMTX 2013.[/caption] 3:56.  This is an arbitrary number but it made so much sense to me during my run in Myrtle Beach while on vacation.  I kept repeating this number over and over.  I was essentially cheering myself on to a 3:56 and all the while I was comparing it to 4:06.  The chant in my head eventually became 3:56 versus 4:06, 3:56 versus 4:06.  Every time I felt like I could not take another step in the pea soup humidity I heard those words and was able to keep moving until the run was finally over and I doubled over in a pool of sweat and exhaustion.  Deep down I knew I could do it but it took a simple and somewhat silly mantra to push me to that level. Now, what does 3:56 mean?  As I mentioned previously, this number is arbitrary but at the same time it is also a number that is below 4 hours.  A sub-4 hour marathon is my goal, and has been, for the Ironman marathon.  For some reason this is the holy grail for me.  I could take 2:20 in the water and ride for 7 hours but if I broke 4 hours in the marathon I would be smiling from ear to ear.  Why? No clue, but it is what it is. When you break down the 4:06 pace versus the 3:56 pace you get a difference of :23/mile.  That may or may not seem like much but to me it looks like they are worlds apart.  Why? The reason is that in the three Ironman races I have competed in my times have looked like this:  4:09, 4:06, 4:06.  Yes the last two are identical and both have their own stories.  The first 4:06 happened at IMAZ 2012 after a bike wreck where my hip was throbbing and making a running motion with my right arm was difficult.  The second 4:06 happened at IMTX 2013 where we were racing on the surface of the sun with lava running over the ground.  I believe the heat index that day was 110*.  Honestly, it felt like 1,010* but I managed a 4:06 and the 15th fastest marathon for M40-44. When I look back at those two races I could come up with the excuse that had this not happened or that not happened I would have run that sub-4, but ifs do not help you accomplish your goals.  Training hard and focusing will help me accomplish my goals.  Do I have a 3:56 in me?  Sure I do.  When you look at my stand-alone marathon PR time of 3:31 and add 10%-12% for it being an Ironman marathon you get times of 3:52-3:56.  Maybe I am cheating myself by looking at 3:56 and should be targeting 3:52, but that mantra does not roll of the tongue the way 3:56 versus 4:06 does. [caption id="attachment_9614" align="alignright" width="276"]3:56 marathon - ironman - goal - running The bike wreck at IMAZ most likely wrecked my chances at a sub-4 hour marathon that day.[/caption] The numbers tell me that I am capable.  The fact that I am fairly well recovered from Lake Martin 100 and have not been training for 3 Ironman races in 12 months is an indication that I should be going into IMTN as fresh as I can possibly be.  When I review my per mile paces for the 3 loops at IMTX they look like this:  9:09/mile, 9:27/mile, 9:40/mile.  The slowing down is expected but what does that translate into when the goal is 3:56 or a 9:00/mile pace. If my math is correct then the first 8.9 miles have to be run at a pace of 8:47/mi and then the degeneration to 9:07/mi for the next 8.9 miles and finally down to 9:28/mi.  These are not impossible paces but it also fails to take into account that this bike ride, weather, time of year and a million other variables are going to be different in Chattanooga in comparison to The Woodlands. These sorts of things are out of my control but what is in my control is my mental approach to breaking 4 hours.  Training hard and smart, recovering well and preparing my body for the rigors of the race will be done, but in those moments when it is me versus my mind I have to be able to continue to repeat the mantra 3:56 versus 4:06.

Will Ironman Chattanooga Be The Race I Break 4 Hours?

TAGS: ironman , marathon , race , goal
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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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