Thunderstorms were rolling over NW Austin last Saturday night and into early Sunday morning. My eyes opened around 3:40 a.m. with flashes of lightning through the blinds and the sound of Dom rolling bowling balls around up in heaven. Our first “real” long-run of the training cycle was on the schedule on Sunday. 18 miles, which for me is the run that serves as the demarcation between a “medium-long run” and a “long run”.
Anything in that 14,15,16 mile range is challenging, but not anything all that different from what we ask ourselves to do on a Wednesday morning during marathon training. Maybe just an extra mile, two or three. But once you get to 18 miles you are talking about having to worry a little bit more about what you eat the night before, making sure you have a little something in your stomach before leaving for the run. Taking some nutrition with you in the form of gels or blocks and making sure that you have access to water and/or electrolyte replacement along the way.
I run my long-runs at Marathon Goal Place +:60 seconds – meaning for Big Cottonwood – we are shooting for 6:52 pace for 26.2 miles on race day, which translates to somewhere around 7:45-7:55 pace for our summer long runs training for a Fall Marathon.
If we were training in cooler temperatures, perhaps 7:35-7:45 would be a more accurate target. The idea is to get used to being on your feet for an extended period of time. Working on your nutrition plan and coping with fatigue.
It helps me to start the run with somewhat “tired” legs, having run a medium intensity workout the day before my long run. This also helps get the body, mind and spirit in the right place for long run training. If I was fresh, coming off of an off-day before my long run, hopping into an 18-miler in 7:15 pace would be a little bit challenging, but nothing to terribly de mandingat this point in our cycle.
But the marathon is a funny race, faster in training is not ALWAYS better. You need a solid mix to get the potion just right. By running an 18 mile long run :30 seconds per mile “too fast” – you are robbing yourself of 9 minutes of training and adaptation. 9 minutes of being on your feet later in the run when you are physically and mentally ready for it to be over.
9 minutes may not seem like such a big deal, but on race day at Marathon Goal Pace I will cover 1.38 miles in 9 minutes. When you think of it along those lines, 9 minutes is quite a lot. If you add in the degree of difficulty coming off of Friday and Saturday runs as well as a pretty hairy track workout on Wednesday – now you are getting the full benefits and adaptations from marathon training.
So as I dressed, ate a bagel and drank some EFS before heading outside I took some stock of where our legs should be and how we should be feeling on a warm 75 degree morning with 90% humidity that was increasing. Pressure dropping, it sure seemed like we were going to get some rain while we were out there. All the better I thought. If you don’t train in it, you can’t race in it.
Friday’s workout was 10 miles – descending pace by :10 per mile finishing at 7:00 min./mile prescribed by coach. The goal was to start at 8:30 pace and then decreasing by :10 to 8:20, 8:10, 8:00, 7:50, 7:40, 7:30, 7:20, 7:10 and finally 7:00 flat.
Our times were: 8:26, 8:16, 8:10, 7:59, 7:48, 7:40, 7:28, 7:20, 7:10, 6:56.
A little bit fast here and there, but for the most part, pretty solid.
Saturday’s workout was 9 more miles in a 3 X 3 X 3 format. 3 miles warm-up, 3 miles at Marathon Goal Pace (6:50), 3 miles cool down.
Our times were: 8:18, 8:03, 8:01, 6:45, 6:45, 6:39, 7:33, 7:36, 7:32.
Another quality effort, just a touch fast on the Marathon Goal Pace miles – but again, close enough to feel good about our pacing while we are still adjusting to the hot, humid and windy mornings here in Austin.
Sunday’s run gave me a lot of flexibility regarding which route I was going to take – I have a somewhat endless amount of 6 mile, 8 mile and 12 mile options. It makes runs in that 18, 20, 22 mile range a lot more fun than they could be if I had to circle the same loops or run the same areas every single weekend. I decided that I would hit the 8 mile hill route to warm-up, carry my running hat with me and see what the weather was going to do. If it started to rain, I would probably stick to the roads and avoid the trail so I did not have to battle heavy shoes filled with mud and dirt.
But if it stayed dry, I would then loop by the house, change out my socks and shoes into dry gear (from sweating in the humidity) and then hit the trail for the final 10 miles and run on a softer surface.
I got my answer as I approached mile 8 as the sky opened up and I was soon drenched from head to toe. No trail for me.
Heading back home to change out my shoes seemed a little bit silly at that point, so I made a quick decision to head over to the neighborhood golf club and run the course there that would take me up to about mile 14 or 15. I could then pick a route home to work a few final hills and turn this into a long-run that featured a lot of uphill climbs and downhill bursts.
I had not run the golf course since training for the Houston Marathon last year – it is not something I do often as the golfers are not very happy about having a runner out there while they are playing. I typically have only done this in rainy weather or with thunderstorms in the area as I know the course will be empty – which was the case on Sunday as I saw only a few members of the grounds crew tending to the course.
It was a nice distraction to count Holes instead of miles and despite having to run through ankle-deep water on a couple of occasions at the bottom of a few deep descents – the run was about as enjoyable as it could be in a downpour. I was able to get ice-cold water every couple of holes to stay hydrated exiting the course with just the 3 mile loop back to the house.
My math was just a little bit off as I was returning home and ended up tacking on an extra 385 yards to the run to finish it off at 18.2 miles. The same “extra” distance that the marathon demands.
2:22:43 – 18.2 miles – 7:51 pace. Spot on perfect.
So with 14 weeks to go until race day which includes 8 more long runs of 19, 20, 20, 20, 21, 21, 22, 20 I am pretty excited about our prospects come race day. I feel like with another few long runs and a taper we are pretty close to ready to go right now. An enviable position to be in with more than 3 months left to prepare.
The physical piece is close, the mental piece is where we need to still do some sword sharpening. Right now I know we can run the first 20 miles of that race perfectly. The next 14 weeks are all going to be about the final 10 kilometers. In the end, the marathon is all about the last 6.2 miles.
Everything else is just the warm-up.