Tag Archives: pace

Rethinking the Long Run

Short version: I’m increasing the base pace for my long runs. It should be okay, so long as I am disciplined about running my recovery days as slow as necessary. The real topic of this post is agonizing over details.

It occurs to me that maybe I should be running my long runs faster. I’ve just gotten back to them, after an injury or two in July I wasn’t doing them. Now I’m up to 8 miles. I was reading up on Lydiard (as one should from time to time) and saw something about “it’s not Long Slow Distance it’s Long Steady Distance.” I dutifully consulted some pace charts. I could run my long runs a little faster, I mused.

This against the background of my coach who just shakes his head when people talk about long runs. Because usually they are, in his opinion, talking about slow running. And his assertion has always been that such running just teaches you to run slowly. Of course, that has to be right on some level. Coach may be a tad dogmatic — fanatic even — but he knows his stuff. “At a certain point you’re not doing anything in those 10 milers.”

The most recent spark was coming across a table of paces (p. 82) in the Hansons Marathon Method: A Renegade Path to Your Fastest Marathon. (I freely admit that I mostly bought the book for its various tables, pace charts, and such. I have no immediate plans to train for a marathon.) I noticed it indicates, for my goal of a 1:30 half marathon, long runs at 7:42 min/mile pace. This surprised me a little. Maybe I haven’t been attending to my running goals much recently. I looked over my (not very well kept) records. I’ve only run a handful of long runs under 8:00 min/mile pace and most of them were actual races. The other two exceptions were time trials the week or two preceding a race.

Is this a limiter in my training? I’ve run perhaps a half dozen 15-milers. Pace often around 8:30 min/mile or slower. Possibly it’s because I’m relatively new to this — have only run 4 half marathons. (Times roughly: 1:54, 1:43, 1:33, 1:35.) I’ve mostly been focusing in distance in my long runs, assuming that the tempo runs and speed work would take care of the pace. Maybe this will give me that little boost? I think it may very well.

But the initial realization led to a kind of dizzying, fortunately not-too-time-consuming, reappraisal of everything. I think this is because I’m bothered by the arbitrary nature of selecting a goal pace. You might say it’s not arbitrary, it’s based on your race results. True. But how do you know those are good results? So much of how we judge our results is based on assumptions. And assumptions drive me crazy. So I decided to consult a few of my favorite running books. I noted that since I’m not running anything even remotely like high mileage (nor have I ever) that leaning on a Lydiard-type philosophy for my training assumptions didn’t make much sense. I found some cool quotes, like this one from Matt Fitzgerald’s Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel:

In fact, lately I have noticed a trend among runners of trying to put a positive spin on their suffering avoidance by couching it in terms of a Lydiardian training philosophy. High-intensity training is risky, even dangerous, they say, and therefore its place in the training process must be minimized to prevent injury and overtraining. It’s not that these athletes are afraid of the intensity of high-intensity training. They’re just being smart.

and another quote:

So your natural pace does have a place in your training. However, natural pace becomes a limiting comfort zone for many runners.

I decided to read that book again. It is so good. And I continued to peruse the handful of books. I have included some of my findings from those book below, under “Ancillary Materials.” In the end, I got too into details, but I noted a few things.

  1. There is more than one way to skin a cat
  2. Long runs often include an important hill component — especially at the end — and thinking back, this is part of what kept my pace down in quite a few of my long runs
  3. Increasing my long run pace is probably a good idea — so long as I include rest weeks and a variety of approaches
  4. Pace, like distance, for the long run depends on the race for which you’re training.
  5. It is the tempo run which most bedevils me.
  6. For variety, I’ve already started consulting with a favorite freebie from Jason Fitzgerald’s Strength Running website, a pdf entitled: 52 Workouts, 52 Weeks, One Faster Runner. It’s worth a look. Recommended.
  7. You’ve got to trust your gut about what you can do. And face up to the fact that you can probably run faster, it’s about whether you’re willing to suffer enough to run to your potential. Fitzgerald, in particular, writes engagingly on this topic.

For the moment, I’m going to focus on running a solid, convincing 5k time. I really need to improve on my 20:11, which was done on a quite hilly course. Anything 19:30 or better should not be a problem. Ideally, I’d like to run it without my Garmin (or at least with pace not displayed), and really run hard. See what happens. You do not bonk on a 5k. Then, I’d like to use that as motivation/justification for pursuing my next goal: 1:30 for the half marathon.

(It is even possible I might sharpen that goal, but one thing at a time.)

Ancillary Materials:

Run Less, Run Faster (apparently referred jokingly in some circles as Run Less, Get Injured More) has a slew of paces in its various pace charts. Here you come to the problem of scale. While training for a 5k they suggest 5 miles at “mid-tempo” pace. If the goal is a 19:30 5k (roughly equivalent to a 1:30 half marathon) then that mid-tempo pace is 6:49 per min/mile pace. For a 10k, the long runs are done at “long-tempo” pace — 7:04 min/mile. For a half marathon, the suggestion for most of the training, is to run half-marathon pace + 20 seconds per mile — in this case around 7:11 min/mile (which just so happens to be “marathon pace”). For the marathon, they advocate training that starts about a minute faster than marathon pace (8:11 min/mile and gradually closing the gap. Marathon pace + 45 seconds, marathon pace + 30 seconds, etc.). This gives you a 3:08:20 marathon. The bottom line with the Run Less, Run Faster crew, is that your long run pace varies according to race. Not something I’ve given much thought to — but then again — can’t say there’s much to argue with there.

Brad Hudson’s Run Faster: From the 5k to the Marathon (a personal favorite) to my surprise, mostly advocates easy long runs for 5k training, adding progression runs for the 10k, half and marathon. The emphasis throughout seems to be finishing moderate for the last 10 – 20 minutes, and then progressing to finishing hard for the last 10 – 20 minutes. As the runs get longer, this only seems to make sense.

Matt Fitzgerald’s Brain Training for Runners (a book with a really long subtitle), another longtime favorite, tackles the issue in terms of “base pace,” defined as “more or less the pace you adopt naturally when going for a training run of a particular distance.” For my last half-marathon time, this range would be 8:44 – 7:53 min/mile. Which feels just about right. I’ve often noticed when going on a moderate, easy run, my pace often falls around 8:40 min/mile. For the race I’d like to run, the base pace is listed as 8:20 to 7:31 min/mile. Note that there’s a little overlap there. At the faster end, it’s not an easy pace for me, there’s some effort involved.

Finally, but not the least in any way, I checked the McMillan Pace Calculator. It gave me a range of 7:35 to 8:52 min/mile for long runs. So there it is. The 7:42 pace might be a little aggressive, but it’s not outlandish.

Two Weeks Out

Fourteen days, 14 hours until my half marathon race. Of course, I’m assessing where I am in my training, starting to think about particulars. As I think about how my training’s gone, I’m also thinking about what I might build on for the next training cycle. Not sure I can manage a full blown narrative, but I can put a ragged list together.

A Few Pre-Race Considerations:

  1. Pace. I’ve been doing “wave tempos” between 6:45 and 7:15 min/mile. Somewhere in there is my race pace. Today’s tempo run went pretty well, though I still could have suffered a little more. Maybe a lot more. For my next training cycle, renewing my relationship with pain is going to be a priority. Because, as someone wrote, when the pain hits that means you’re on track to a PR. And that’s not any crazy 110%, no-pain-no-gain philosophy — it’s just the facts. Coach Jay Johnson has a nice post about it, “Feeling good, being uncomfortable and suffering.” (I leave my strength and speedwork pretty much up to the group of middle distance runners I run with in Griffith Park. They have me running much faster than I ever would have done before, and in completely different ways. They are not averse to a little suffering.)
  2. Step up the strength work. Really what I’m talking about is The Standard Core Routine I found at Strength Running, and the Lunge Matrix I found at Coach Jay Johnson’s site. I throw in some pushups. The reason for stepping up the strength work is not just because it feels good, and contributes to running form or preventing injury. There are a couple of other things in play. First, being diligent about doing some strength work right after the workout is another training stress, another layer of fighting fatigue and working with a little suffering, especially on one of your “hard” days. The same Jay Johnson post, link above, touches upon this idea. And second, (taking out) strength work can be an element in your taper. At least that’s something I read, and it makes sense to me so I’m going to try it out. Idea being, the week before your race, that in addition to cutting your running volume you could cut the volume of your strength work. Thus creating a zippy, energized body. Not sure where I got this idea, but quite likely it was from Strength Running, Jason Fitzgerald’s site. He has a good post on tapering, here. And speaking of tapering…
  3. Tapering. In the past, and it’s been a while now, I think I reduced both volume and intensity of workouts. I’m not doing that this time. Just volume. I’ll do short, intense workouts at race pace just to whet the appetite without introducing the element of fatigue. I’ll also be considering my diet. I’ve been reading Matt Fitzgerald’s new book, The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition. Just taking a cursory look over the book I realize I have no idea whether I get enough carbs or not, to be carb loaded up. Do I eat 300 grams of carbohydrate a day? Who knows.
  4. Fueling. I’ve greatly enjoyed experimenting with taking medjool “fancy” dates on my long runs, but am not sure they’re a great solution for a race (just one type of sugar, probably not too many electrolytes). I haven’t ruled it out. I tended to use those only after about an hour of running. Just recently tried some other fuels. My last long run I took Gatorade, which worked fine. Not sure if I want to take a fuel belt for the race, though, and I don’t think they’ll have Gatorade at the race. Today I took raspberry flavored shot bloks, with caffeine. They’re okay, but require a fair amount of water to get them to go down and I find I don’t tolerate them that well. The whole process is a little distracting. I may end up going with the dates and fill them with a pinch of salt or something crazy like that.
  5. Mileage. I’ve got my long run comfortably up to 15+ miles and weekly mileage up to 40. I’m ready to move up to 50. Maybe I’ll get one week of 50 before the race? Maybe not a good idea. Honestly, not sure I’ll have the time to get to 50 in the next training cycle. Not sure how people train for marathons. Where do they find the time?? Perhaps become a Predawn Runner?
  6. Shoe choice. I recently got the Saucony Kinvara 3 (see runblogger’s review), which I quite like, but it feels a bit minimal for a half. I know many would disagree. Right now the Brooks PureFlow (see runblogger’s review) is the frontrunner. It’s light, has a sort of cushiony feel, without being as gigantic as the Hokas. I really enjoy the Hoka One One Stinsons (runblogger won’t review it for some reason, though the Hoka One One B2s seems to be helping his wife deal with hip pain — here’s a little video about the Hokas) for eating up sidewalks on my long runs, but having gotten used to lighter shoes, it feels a bit much for a race. Undecided, though. I’m going to be weighing all the shoes, out of curiousity.

Beyond this it just gets into minutiae and worrying. Socks? Packet pick-up? I feel good about my training and just want to get some good, confidence building workouts in. I may have to get creative carving out time for my next training cycle, but I also have some ideas about what to work on.

Numbers

Maybe because it’s 91 degrees? Garmin is helping me out again with the motivation, perspective, on the numbers front. Sure, I’d like to be running more. But the calendar shows me this small weekly mileage increase: 1.9 miles, 2.78 miles, 8.86 miles. Thank you, Garmin.

And for today’s run, minute per mile pace for quarter-mile laps:

8:24 min/mile

8:16

7:30

7:10

7:04

7:05

6:57

A bit faster than I would usually run, but quite a bit shorter on the distance. Satisfying. Feels like a new gear. There’s some stress there, and with recovery, hopefully, adaption.