Swim: 0 m/112,725 m
Bike: 32.8/1,441.3 miles
Run: 35.4/705.6 miles
This weekend I finished the third long run of this training cycle, knocking out 17.4 miles at a somewhat relaxed 7:33 pace. It was my slowest long run in a long time, but that was intentional – as I reach these longer distances I’m not quite sure what to expect so I’m using a conservative approach until I have a few more long runs under my belt. Not only do I want to make sure that I run an even pace the entire distance and don’t burn out too soon, I also want to avoid a flare-up of the knee issue that ended my 13-miler a few weeks ago. (I wore the ITB strap again this week and had no issues with the knee, or anything else for that matter.)
So far, the long run has become my favorite workout of the week. Mentally, I’m completely in the groove of burning through the long miles with relish. There’s just something refreshing about hitting cruise control and making my way across the city, from posh suburban neighborhoods to gritty industrial areas to bustling downtown corridors. Maybe part of it is that my other two key running workouts each week, though shorter, are pegged to certain paces that force me to push hard.
The long run, however, is just about running for a long time. As the season progresses I’ll be focusing more on my long-run pace, but for now I’m still in the exploratory mode where I’m discovering again what it feels like to hold a steady pace for more than two hours. One thing I’ve noticed is that I didn’t feel much different at the end of this week’s run than I did after last week’s 16-miler, even though that run was completed 17 seconds per mile faster. It seems that the pace itself, if reasonable, doesn’t have as much of an effect on me as just the accumulated mileage. In other words, after you’re out there for a long time you’re going to start feeling it, no matter how fast (or slow) you’re going. The purpose of this training, hopefully, is to push back the point at which I start feeling run down.
One factor that has made me happy with the long runs in this cycle has been my recovery. The last time I was running these distances – four years ago – I seem to remember being out of commission for the rest of the day after a long run. I’d come home, take an ice bath and an Aleve, take an hour nap and then limp around the house for the rest of the day in a fog of soreness and fatigue. My wife started to complain that even though the run itself only took two or three hours in the morning, the rest of the day was pretty much consumed with my recovery.
This time around I’ve been coming home from the long run and jumping into the rest of the day. I don’t hesitate to schedule long runs on a work day, either. Maybe part of it is that I have a kid now and I’m used to the fact that I have to carry on with my daily duties no matter how tired I might be feeling. But I’m also not feeling that bad after the long runs – my legs aren’t sore and the only real side effect seems to be that I’m insatiably hungry all the time. Four years ago I would pop an Aleve every day to help with my sore legs, but I have avoided that this time around because I don’t want to mask any symptoms and, mainly, because I haven’t needed it.
This coming weekend will mark a major test for me. It will be the first of five 20-mile runs of this cycle, and if all goes well it will be the first 20-mile run that I have ever finished without a season-ending injury. I feel very positive about it and I know that if I take certain precautions – wearing the ITB band, fueling properly, focusing on form – I have a good chance of making it through unscathed. Getting through it is a mental hurdle for me since it’s been an unlucky distance in my past, and once I make it through I’ll have a clearer outlook on how to approach long runs for the remainder of the cycle.
Aside from the mental games, I’m finding a lot of fulfillment in knocking out the longer distances and feeling good at the end. Like I’ve said before, I know it can change at any moment, but, for now, I’m loving the long run.