[120] Long-run ramblings

Swim: 1,000 m/109,645 m

Bike: 27.3/1,247.9 miles

Run: 19/474.1 miles

As my half-marathon creeps closer, my long runs have been getting a little longer (big surprise, right?), and I need things to think about while I’m spending all this time on the road. Here are some thoughts/issues that have occurred along the way:

Pace: I really need to figure out what I’m doing with my long-run pace. When I started this training plan in July, my goal was to run a sub-1:40 half-marathon, which would be almost 2 minutes faster than my current PR. Then, using a race-time equivalency table, I plugged in my 43:12 10k from earlier this year and discovered my goal time should be around 1:36. So that’s what all of my training paces have been based on. But it didn’t take long to figure out that I was running almost every workout faster than the goal times prescribed by my plan.

So instead of blindly sticking with the 1:36 goal and slowing down a pace that feels natural, I’ve just been running by feel, and I think I’ve found my comfortable long-run pace to be around 7:10/mile (which I’ve hit on recent runs of 12, 13 and 14 miles). The 1:36 training plan calls for long runs at a 7:40-7:50 pace.

While my faster pace has generally felt good on these runs, I really started to feel it in my left knee and right calf by the end of my 14-miler this past weekend. It was the first run this year (outside of a race situation) during which I’ve felt specific pain, and it makes me question how hard I should be pushing the pace on my long training runs. On one hand, I’m not going to get faster unless I train faster. I’m not going to start magically hitting paces during a race if I’ve never trained there. On the other hand, if I’m injured on race day, none of this makes any difference.  

Training hard is going to strengthen my body to handle even faster paces. Until it doesn’t. When does hard training turn into risk-taking training? As my runs continued to get longer this summer and I was still holding the same pace, I began to wonder where the threshold was before I could no longer keep it up. If the discomfort from the end of the 14-miler is any indication, the magic number may lie somewhere around there. The trick for now is to find out how far I can push it without going too far – and to know how much to back off without completely throwing in the towel.

I read somewhere recently that if you don’t appreciate a rest day, you’re not training hard enough. The training plan I’m using incorporates only three runs per week, with a goal of pushing hard in each workout and then getting plenty of recovery time (plus cross-training). For that reason, I’ve felt comfortable running aggressively during my training – usually any tweaks or soreness I feel are gone by the next workout, including this week when I had a strong, pain-free speed session two days after the 14-miler.

My long-run distance reaches 15 miles in a couple weeks before coasting back down to 13.1 on race day. My plan for now is to run hard for the 15, just like I have for my previous long runs, and just see what happens. The results of that effort will be enlightening as I start to contemplate what running challenge might come after the half is finished.

Nutrition: After trying out lots of products and regimens throughout the summer, I seem to have arrived at a nutrition plan that works. I tried lots of solid energy products during tri season, since it’s much easier to carry them on the bike and chew them as I ride. But now that I’m focusing on fueling while running, I’ve moved exclusively to gels. I really like the taste and consistency of the strawberry-banana PowerBar Energy Gel. It’s a little more liquidy than other gels/gus that I’ve tried and goes down more easily. Plus they’re easier than the solids to carry and consume while running.

On the last few long runs I’ve taken a gel about 15 minutes before starting, and then at about 25 minutes and 55 minutes. My longest run so far has been 1:40, and I haven’t seen the need to take anything after about 60 minutes since it won’t really have an effect on the run. I carry my CamelBak with me on long runs, filled with Nuun. Obviously I won’t have that on race day, but I’ll just plan on taking my gels as I approach water stops so I can wash them down.

Up next: And now that I’ve spent all this space writing about long-run strategy, I’m thinking about running a 5k this weekend. After the fiasco that was my last 5k, I want to give it another shot, and for some reason this weekend sounds like a good time to do it. The race I’m looking at could have more than 1,000 participants (although it’s a charity event and lots of those people will likely be walkers) and will hopefully be a little more well-organized than the last one. I’m supposed to do 10 miles this Saturday, so I’ll probably try to pick up 6 or 7 more after the race – if I haven’t left everything on the course!

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4 Responses to [120] Long-run ramblings

  1. Blaine says:

    Is so hard to take a rest day after you’ve done so well in a previous run. But the day after feels sooo much better! Enjoy your 15 miler.

  2. David H. says:

    I’m becoming a bigger and bigger believer of running long runs harder – something sort of close to race pace for a good portion of the runs. As with everything with running, you have to find what works for you. What we all have in common, though, is that a rest day or two is much more beneficial than forcing the training to happen.

    • traintotri says:

      You’re absolutely right, David. I’ve done a lot of things with my training this year that I previously might have thought were against conventional wisdom. You just have to find what works for your your own training/goals through trial and, perhaps, error.

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