Swim: 1,040 m/111,685 m
Bike: 0/1,247.9 miles
Run: 20.1/514.6 miles
I wanted to wait until the day after until I wrote anything about my 15-miler this weekend, just to see how everything felt 24 hours later. This 15-miler was the longest run of this training cycle, and also my longest run in almost four years – since the day of my last marathon in 2007. As I mentioned earlier, this run was an important milestone for me psychologically as I contemplate what’s realistic for my upcoming half-marathon and what running goals I might aim for when that race is finished.
It turns out that I felt great after the run – I was a bit sore and stiff but nothing hurt. I came home and took an ice bath and that seemed to help. Otherwise it was the kind of “good” soreness that lingers after a hard effort. This morning I woke up and was almost afraid to move – I was expecting some joint or muscle to shout out in pain but, miraculously, there was nothing. I felt great all over - even in my left knee, which has been a little worrisome lately.
About the run itself – I covered about 15.1 miles in 1:47 for an overall 7:08 pace. It was my fastest long run of any distance this training cycle (probably my fastest long run ever). My pace was a textbook descending curve, starting at about 7:30 for the first 2 miles, dropping to the low-7′s and then into the 6′s for the last 6 miles. The last two miles were covered at a 6:45 pace. I felt strong all the way through and didn’t even feel like I had to stop when I reached the end. I couldn’t have asked for a more positive run.
I always feel a little awkward talking about the paces of my runs – on one hand I don’t want to sound boastful, and on the other hand I don’t want to sound trivial to the much faster runners out there. Like I’ve said before, I’m only comparing my performances to my previous efforts. But I can’t deny my improvement this year. Last fall, when I was training for the same half-marathon, all of my long runs were at a pace of over 8 minutes/mile. I set my current PR at last year’s race, and completely surprised myself with a 1:41, or a 7:44 pace. At the time I thought I had given my supreme effort and couldn’t possibly get faster.
As 2011 got under way and I began my triathlon training, I noticed a distinct difference in my runs – I was consistently faster. But I had a hard time believing it, and every time I went out I ran hard to be sure that I could at least match the pace from previous runs. I would say that most of my runs for the first seven or eight months of the year were rooted in a little bit of fear – that I wouldn’t be able to maintain what I had been doing with my runs. I admit that I’ve even checked my running watch against other clocks on several occasions to be sure it’s accurate.
Only lately has my fear slowly blossomed into a quiet confidence. Every one of my long runs has been in the same low-7 range. After I surprised myself with a strong 5k last weekend, I’ve been filled with a renewed sense of enthusiasm, and last Wednesday I set a 24-second course record for my standard 5-mile tempo run, coming in a full 10 seconds/mile faster than my current 10k PR pace. I set out for my 15-miler this weekend with no fear – I was willing to accept a slightly slower pace because of the length of the run, but I had an underlying confidence that I would run well. I just let myself go by feel, and knew I was in the zone as I started seeing those sub-7s in the last half of the run.
I can’t say I know where this is coming from – I’ve never run like this before. But, then again, I’ve never trained like this before. My goal in previous running seasons was to log miles regardless of the pace. But my focused training – and cross-training - this year have paid big dividends. And while I passed a huge personal test with this weekend’s 15-miler, the biggest test of the season awaits on race day – November 12.