“That’s it. You can’t race anymore!”

Not my words. That phrase came out of Goddess’ mouth this afternoon. I’ll explain later.

This weekend I ran a marathon. Not a race, but a marathon.

Training.

It came about in an interesting way. Following my training plan, I had my standard 20-miler scheduled for Saturday. You know, the same 20-miler that’s in every marathon training plan. Yeah, that one. No worries, but it was a matter of scheduling.

Everything was piling up towards this weekend: two mid-terms due, the 20-miler, volunteer hours for the Greyhound Rescue and multiple jobs for both work and home. There just wasn’t a good fit for a 20-miler. At least, not without getting up at 4am and running in the dark.

So I ran across a very good blog entry by Gary Ditsch that reminded me of some viewpoints on the 20-miler. Specifically, don’t do them.

Now, there are many arguments on both sides of the fence for and against the 20-miler. And there’s certainly a time and place for them, but not in a typical training plan. At least for me.

I don’t know about you, but a run that long wipes me out for quite a few days. The quality of my runs in the following week are marginal, at best. And that’s assuming that I do them. Some days I’m just knackered and don’t feel like getting out there. That’s tough on the psyche to see the red flag on workouts I’ve skipped.

After my normally scheduled Saturday long run, I take my standard rest day on Sunday. That was something that I stuck with all last year through the IM training – keep a weekend day open for family and relaxation. I’ve continued that this year with the run-focused training. Unfortunately I often feel my legs slowly stiffen up through the day, which makes for a painful Monday morning run.

I think I found a solution to part of the problem, which I worked through last weekend’s 16-miler. Following Jeff Galloway’s plan of run/walk, I felt pretty fresh in the days following the run. Sure, my legs were tired, but I wasn’t stiff and sore. By Tuesday my legs felt recovered and I was quite comfortable through a 6-mile cruise interval workout.

So what does that have to do with this weekend and the title of this entry? Quite a bit.

After reading Gary’s blog and recalling several articles along the same lines, I looked at employing the Double Long strategy this weekend, which I could fit into my schedule. Much easier than a 20-miler. But instead of doing simple math, I decided that I’d do a 15-miler on Saturday before our Greyhound Rescue commitment, then a 10-miler Sunday morning. That adds up to more than 20 miles (at least by my calculations, but math in public is not my strong suit).

Saturday was a beautiful day to run – 42 degrees, a bit of wind and cloudy. I employed the same run/walk strategy as last week – 4 minutes running, 30 seconds walking. The walk breaks do a great job of making me stay focused on hydration and fueling. Plus, by keeping an eye on the Garmin, I was able to quickly catch the two times that it decided to turn off by itself.

And I felt good. Real good. Running the same course as last weekend’s 16-miler, I covered the distance in 2:26:50, which averages out to 9:47 miles. Certainly not anything that will get me on the Olympic Team (right, Karl?), but better than last weekend’s average of 10:19 miles. I was even able to push the last half-mile at 8:05 pace while knowing I still had more in the tank. Here’s my accumulated pace:

running-fort-campbell-ky-3-29-2008-accum-pace.png

For the increases in accumulated pace (Miles 4, 9, 11 and 14), there are long, gradual climbs. Miles 11 and 14 are the same hill, which is a wall at the bottom, followed by a steady climb for 200-300 yards, then leveling off. Mile 3 is a nice flat section where I finally start warming up, so I’m usually much quicker through that stretch.

During the run, I realized that my weekend plan would have me running 25 miles (see, I’m real quick with that math in public). Well, that’s only 1.2 miles short of a marathon, so that means I needed to extend my Sunday run to be 11.2 miles. Why? Just because. Well, not just because, because “just because” equates to junk miles. There was actually a purpose. Mentally and physically.

Within two hours of finishing the run, we were standing on concrete for three hours introducing folks to the joys of greyhounds. We had seven hounds in attendance and they were everywhere. Since they grow up in very close quarters, they are very comfortable with other hounds. As soon as we went through the front door of the store, Skinny caught sight of the others and about pulled my arm off so he could get to sniffing butts.

Standing on the concrete didn’t do much for recovery, so my glutes tightened up a bit. Nothing horrible, but I was definitely ready to go when we were done. Even Skinny had enough and curled up in the one crate that was set out; too much standing for him, especially since he’s used to lying around the house for 20 hours a day.

I woke up this morning, just a touch tired in the legs, but no soreness. I’m really starting to see the benefits of a run/walk strategy.

Another beautiful day – low 50’s, a bit of a breeze, overcast. But humid. Plenty of moisture as a precursor to the rain we were to get this afternoon.

I figured that the first mile or two were going to be pretty slow as I found the pain in my legs. No such thing happened. Right out the gate I was pulling very comfortable 9:30-ish miles. Even through the hills. Heading out to the turnaround, I had a tail wind, which isn’t all that great, since I end up heating up too much. As I approached the turnaround, I wanted to wait until my scheduled walk (today I was employing a 5-minute run/30 second walk strategy), so I ended up turning around at 5.78 miles, guaranteeing that I’d be over 11.2 miles for the run.

Coming back, I had a good 5 mph head wind. It was beautiful, since it really cooled me down. Double layered up top with a technical long-sleeve shirt and an Under Armor compression shirt, the breeze really helped with the evaporational cooling. Ahhhh, sweet relief.

How did it go? Awesome. Negative split, even with the headwind on the return leg. 11.53 miles in 1:47:38, which works out to a 9:20 average pace, 27-seconds per mile faster than yesterday. Here’s the accumulated pace:

running-fort-campbell-ky-3-30-2008-accum-pace.png

Mile 2 is a long uphill. Since it’s climbing out of a deep ravine, the return leg was mile 11. I was cruising at that point and didn’t lose any time. Mile 4 was a very convenient porta-potty stop. So even with the headwind, my average pace dropped from 9:35 for mile 6 to 9:20 overall by mile 11.5.

And same as yesterday, I was able to crank it up for the finish, starting about a mile out. Not a sprint, but a strong, steady effort. The last half mile’s split pace was 8:12 average, but my Garmin tells me that I was down to 7:04 for a stretch there. HR was in Zone 5 for the last 1.1 miles and it all felt good; I still felt like I could have given a bit more if I needed to (e.g. if this was a race).

And that’s how I got the title of this entry. Goddess asked how the run was and of course I was quite pleased. That’s when she said “That’s it. You can’t race anymore!”

We both find it funny how I can have these excellent workouts and then suffer and slog through my races. Each and every one of them. Go figure.

While these were both good experiences, the proof will be in tomorrow’s pudding. I ran my PT test on Friday and was not at all pleased with my 10:42 for the 1.5 miles (7:08 pace); I was shooting for 9:45 (6:30 pace), which I held for the first 1/2 mile, but then faded gradually the rest of the way. We’re doing the test again tomorrow and I think I’ll give it another go. I suspect that I won’t better Friday’s time, but it will be interesting to see what my legs have in them. Then I’ll take Tuesday off.

Well, off to read some California 70.3 race reports…

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13 thoughts on ““That’s it. You can’t race anymore!””

  1. I am glad that this was a positive experience for you. The discussion was just how I like to see people attack these workouts, double long, little quicker on Sunday… feeling good at the end of the weekend. Now 26.2 miles is a bit further than most folks can manage… but just think about the psychology of it when you get out there for the next marathon, knowing you ran this workout and felt good at the end. That edge is beyond most aspects you can take away from a training program.

  2. There’s actually quite a bit of logic in the double long workout concept. It puts added strain on your legs simulating the later portions of the marathon (the Sunday run). Plus, like you said – it’s sometimes easier to break it apart (either mentally or calendaring or physically).

    Btw, nicely done negative-splitting the crap out of that run. With pretty Sport Tracks graphs to prove it!

  3. Great running Bill.
    I always played better in soccer games when I had a crappy warm up…maybe there is some truth to Goddess’s philosphy!
    Love the picture of Skinny on the side bar!
    Take Care

  4. @ Gary,

    Absolutely! Definitely a huge boost.

    But I’ll tell you, I am absolutely knackered today. I woke up this morning and I haven’t felt this shelled since last summer during my build period for my IM-distance race. I sure miss that feeling! πŸ˜‰

    I was able to pace a few of my folks around the track today for their PT test at about 8:30 pace. Nothing faster. Only two miles. Nothing more. So I’m definitely looking forward to taking tomorrow off from any running, instead filling the time with a good stretch/yoga session.

  5. @Rain,

    Thanks!

    The mental boost was definitely well-timed and needed. Physically, I’m shelled today.

    I am a big fan of Sports Tracks. Great tool that Garmin’s Training Center needed to be from the get-go.

  6. Interesting post. I have been a follower of Galloway for a long time, but he recommends going over distance. I’ve tried that and it didn’t work for me. I’ve also tried run/walk, again didn’t equate to a faster marathon for me. This time out I’ve really tried to listen to my body, which means less mileage and running only 3 to 4 days a week and cross-training. Bottom line is discoving what works for your body. πŸ™‚

  7. @Lisa,

    That’s it. I’m still in the discover phase of figuring out what works. Because what worked 20 years ago certainly doesn’t work now. πŸ˜‰

    Re: Galloway’s longer than long philosophy – I honestly can’t imagine pushing 29 miles for a workout. Sure, it may make you stronger, mentally and physically, but the damage it would produce in my old bones would definitely counteract any benefits. Plus, I never swam 3 miles, rode 140 miles and ran 29 miles just to make sure I could get through an IM-distance race. There’s gotta be a point of diminishing returns. For me, it’s when the run takes more than two or three days to recover from. 29 miles would be that way.

    Now, I could see pulling back-to-back 15-milers.

    I tried running with less frequency and a bit more intensity. I ended up tighter than a drum from the belly-button on down. That meant over a month of little-to-no running. So it’s more frequency, less intensity, with longer runs thrown in. We’ll see how it goes.

  8. Bill–thanks so much for the link to that book. I am very interested in sports psychology. I am going to see if I can find it today. πŸ™‚

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