Saturday, August 23, 2008

Anatomy of a Long Run

I wrapped up my hardest week yet in training, week four of a six-week endurance mesocycle. My understanding of the purpose is to lay a foundation of stamina on which to build later in training with an emphasis on lactate threshold. But it's led to many runs I've found almost lazy. I'm staying in the zone of what I'm suppose to shoot for, but I feel like my skittishness with injuries led me to err on the side of slower. That's OK for long runs and recovery, but it makes me worry I'm training my body to run slowly. This week featured a couple medium-long runs (14 and 11 miles), which I did a little over 7:45. Yesterday's 18-miler should have been at a similar pace. I wanted to go just a little faster and get a good idea of pace. I ran 17 of the 18 miles in Central Park, a course basically of rolling hills. Here's the breakdown of the Central Park miles:

Loop 1 (5 miles): 38:18. Pace: 7:39. The first 5-6 miles of a run are hard when I'm into distance training. It takes time to warm up and feel OK. This included a stop at the water fountain of about 30 seconds.

Loop 2 (4 miles): 30:39. Pace: 7:39. This is where I start to feel good and get into a rhythm. I decided to take a gel and get water at about 9 miles. Took ~ 45 seconds.

Loop 3 (4 miles): 31:01. Pace: 7:45. I was pretty much locked into a pace here. This loop was faster because it took me 1 minute to buy and drink Gatorade.

Loop 4 (4 miles): 31:17. Pace: 7:49. The last loop was mostly OK, although I started to fatigue some. I stopped to drink and dispose of the rest of my Gatorade, then took another gel at 16 miles. This proved a time suck because of a line at the water fountain. Still, I wanted to take a gel late in the run to jumpstart the recovery process.

Overall: 18 miles, 2:19:31. Pace: 7:45. My guess is, when you factor in the stops for water, etc, I ran at about 7:30-7:35 pace, not bad for a hilly course on a warm morning. More important, it felt comfortable. Taking a gel late in the run -- along with a chocolate milk immediately after stopping -- did appear to speed recovery.

5 miles, 40:10


Anonymous said...

"...but it makes me worry I'm training my body to run slowly."

hey bm,

actually, you are doing quite the opposite.

what you ARE training your body to do with long slow paced runs is use oxygen aerobically. among other things, this means building deeper more robust capillary beds as well as increasing the number of mitochondria in your muscles. you're also teaching it to store glycogen, burn fat, and generally use energy more efficiently. needless to say for a marathoner, these are tremendously good things.

the plain unavoidable truth is that these physiological changes take many months and miles to enact. plus, it is a continual ongoing process that goes on throughout your years of training.

now let me go off on a tangent.

what is it about us americans that make us feel that unless something is laborious/painful/difficult it is of no use? without doubt this is true about many things, but so is it false about many many others.

running, for instance. (let's leave speedwork out of this for a moment.)

the notion of running slower to run faster seems so intensely counterintuitive (despite the vast evidence to the contrary) that many of us dismiss it out of hand, as i once did.

you see this everyday in gyms across america. the guy or gal who sprints 2 miles at 6:00 pace and mistakes their extreme oxygen debt and exhaustion for "a good workout." then they wonder why they can't break 50 minutes for a 10K. (i have literally witnessed this on at least 3 occasions, and won $100 once on a bet).

know better.

know and embrace the purpose of each workout.

run like hell when it counts, but not a moment sooner.

back to the matter at hand, an old adage goes that intensity is no substitute for volume, and vice versa.

meaning, a person will not run their best marathon by doing a 14 miler at race pace as your long run. or by running 30 miles a week, even though all those miles are "quantity." you simply need the volume on your legs. you have no doubt met runners who have finished marathons on such "quality" programs, but they did not run to their ultimate potential, i guarantee it.

to do the speedwork pfitz will have you running later, you need the "slow" stuff now. except you won't be slow.

instead, your vast aerobic fitness will allow you to continue running intervals at pace while everyone else on the track is dead legged after just three repeats. in fact, you will find that you can run each repetition just a little bit faster.

in properly paced 10ks and half marathons, your last two miles will be your fastest.

so run for philly, not your ego.

running is a sport that demands PATIENCE as much as discipline, tenacity and balls.

trust your training. allow that maybe the internal pigdog has evolved into an altogether more devious beast. it is not telling you to stay in bed now. it is telling you you're not doing enough.

Brian Morrissey said...

Very true. I know the long slow runs are best for me. In truth, I love doing them.

I think it's normal for people to want instant gratification in our society. It's just the way things are in modern life. That's one of the reasons I like running so much. Lots of time and consistent effort result in rewards. I've been running now for nine years. It took me two years of regular running before doing a marathon. Yet I always see people who have never run start in order to "run" a marathon. It makes me feel uneasy b/c completing a marathon is kinda beside the point. Most of the gratification comes from the process that gets you to the marathon.