Midweek Tempo Run and “11 Major Marathon Mistakes”

This morning I did something I haven’t done in awhile: I got up early to run outside. Those who know me know that I am NOT a morning person. I love the fact that as a PhD student I can sleep until 10am everyday (though I have anxiety thinking about returning to the “real world”). Typically I can force myself up a few times a week while I am marathon training but I absolutely refuse to get up early in the freakin’ hot, humid summer when it’ll still be 90 degrees and humid anyways. That’s why I do most of my runs in the summer on the treadmill (I know, I’m crazy; I ‘d rather run outside all winter long…as long as the temps are above 10 degrees. 10 degrees is my cut-off).

But finally today we got a bit of a reprieve. The high is only supposed to be 85 degrees! Wohooo! I saw this on weather.com earlier in the week and decided to push my mid-week tempo run back one day to wait for cooler temps. On a side note, is it just me or do all runners check the weather like every 5 min?

Today’s run was one of my favorite short/medium length routes. Because Cville is so damn hilly (literally you cannot find a stretch of street or sidewalk that does not have ridiculously steep, rolling hills), I really only have two mostly flat routes. The first is my go-to for long runs (I talk about it and post pics here). For that route I need to drive 15 minutes just to get out to where there is a 4 mile stretch of road that is relatively flat! I run it a few times back and forth depending on the distance I need to go (for my 20 mile runs I run it multiple times back and forth). Even that route has a couple big hills!

Today’s route is a path that winds around the Rivanna River, from Darden Towe Park to Riverview Park in Cville. I drop my water bottle off at Riverview (the turnaround point) before I drive to Darden to start.

Seriously, I have no idea why the park signs in Cville are so ugly

There and back is a little over 5 miles. Since today was my midweek tempo run, per my adapted training plan, I ran 4 miles at 8:30 pace (36 min) and cooled down with 1 mile at 10:00 pace for a total of 5 miles in 46 min.

Ruby's in the background asking, "why you not ride me no more, you no like me"??? 😉

It’s amazing how pushing yourself to go faster really can feel different and help you build the endurance to go farther, faster. Maybe I just shy away from discomfort as much as possible and run almost all of my long runs at a 10 min/mile pace. It’s like I have one gear when I run marathons: 10min/mile. I can nail it perfectly in every marathon, but always wonder why I can’t run faster! This time I’m hoping my tempo runs will help me shave even 10 minutes off my time.

I’m just afraid that once the midweek runs start getting longer (I usually build up to 10 mile runs midweek during training) I’ll abandon the tempo runs and just slog along at my usual 10 min/mile pace. But I read something yesterday on Active.com that caught my eye: “11 Major Marathon Mistakes“. Now most of this was stuff I’ve known for quite some time but it’s always helpful to read/hear it again. Especially #s 2 and 9:

2. Most marathon runners fail to fold goal-pace running into their long runs.

“As incredible as it seems, many marathoners perform their long runs at a specific, slower-than-goal pace and then expect to complete their marathons at a tempo which is about a minute per mile faster! This is a bit like preparing to build a 747 jetliner by fooling around with Lego blocks! Endurance and running ability are always speed-specific; being able to run 26 miles in training at eight-minute pace doesn’t increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to run the marathon distance at seven-minute tempo–or at any speed faster than eight minutes per mile. Such non-specific exertion is “magical” training; an athlete is working hard and then hoping that the gods of running will sprinkle magic dust on him/her at the starting line of the race, allowing new talents to blossom. Far better than a 20-mile run at slower-than-marathon intensity would be a 20-mile effort, with about 10 of those miles at goal pace. Such a training session would permit a marathon runner to see if goal pace was actually feasible, would improve efficiency at goal tempo, and would optimize endurance at hoped-for speed. Believe it or not, these are all good things–and none of them are optimized by long runs at slower-than-goal tempo.”

9. Too many marathoners emphasize volume of training over quality. 

Come on, people–when you get ready for a marathon, you’re not training to run across the Sahara Desert. Seventy-mile-plus weeks might be great preparation for a multi-day race in which at least 10 miles must be traversed every day, but the idea in the marathon is to cover 26 miles, in a single dose of running, as quickly as possible. For many runners, a 35-mile week can be far better preparation for the marathon than a 70-mile week, because the former can more effectively foster the completion of higher-quality training. Contrary to popular belief, a 70-mile week isn’t necessarily specific preparation for the marathon; after all, one could run seven miles 10 times during the week, and this would not imply better preparation than 35 miles of higher-quality effort.Once again, it’s what happens on the race course that matters, not the big numbers written in a log book. It’s more effective to build up to a 20-mile long run, with about 10 miles at goal pace, than it is to accumulate tons of miles at slower-than-goal speed.”

Now, I haven’t made the mistake of trying to run a faster pace than I have trained at as #2 suggests, but this point helps to emphasize why I always run the same damn pace in every marathon. I never push myself to go faster during my long runs when I’m training. Sure, I can and usually do 2-5 mile tempo runs but I’ve never been able to push myself in my longer runs. These points help remind me that I don’t need to run the whole distance of a long run at a tempo pace (which for me is my 10k pace of 8:30). I can run half of it at a faster pace and the other half slowly like I usually do! Nothing groundbreaking, but still another reminder for me that I can push myself in little ways. It’s not all or nothing.

I recommend reading the other 9 “major marathon mistakes”, although if you’re a runner (meaning if you run at all) you probably know them already. Some of them I’ve committed and some I just don’t agree with (like #5 says “You should consume a sports drink–and nothing else–during the race”…umm, I like my Gus and they work for me, thank you very much!). Probably the biggest mistake I know most people make is #8, not tapering properly. This one’s tough because tapering SUCKS (I’ve bitched about my taper before my last marathon, The Shamrock Marathon). Not only do you get anxious that your body will lose endurance over the 3 weeks prior to the race, but you feel cranky, tired, and achy. Chapter 15 of Hal Higdon’s Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide is great for tips on the taper. I re-read it every time I taper for a race.

Do you agree/relate to or disagree with any of the “11 Major Marathon Mistakes”?

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7 Responses to Midweek Tempo Run and “11 Major Marathon Mistakes”

  1. Carina says:

    Very interesting! I’m a new reader but I run marathons too and lived in Cville for grad school. I didn’t like most of the “major mistakes” and found several of them untrue from personal experience, but I may be in the minority and they hold true for the majority?

    I always run my long runs about 45 secs/mile slower than my goal race pace, but I do add in goal race pace during lots of them. And I’ll usually try to add in some races too, like a half where I run 1/2 to 3/4 at marathon pace before dropping the hammer down to half pace.

    I do weekly long runs, but I step the distance up and down pretty regularly.

    As for # 7, it’s hard not to try something new on race weekend. Esp if you’re travelling to a marathon. For a normal training run, I have no desire to get up at 4:30 a.m. and be out the door at 5:15 just to get to the start point and have to wait an hour or 2 before I get to start running, which seems to be how it works for big marathons, you have to get there early to be parked, lined up, etc., so of course you’re going to need to accept that your eating, drinking, bathroom routine will be diff on race day. And in the days before, if you’re out of town in a hotel, you might not be able to make the same thing you always cook at home, and you’re probably going to spend more time walking around the expo than you might the day before a normal long run. It just happens that people do new stuff that weekend. I’d of course never try new shoes or a new outfit, or the new pills as discussed in the example, but it’s unrealistic to think everyone will be able to or should follow their exact training routine on race day.

    I kind of disagreed with # 9 about volume. I think it works differently for everyone, but most people I know are experienced marathoners and looking to improve, and I (like them) believe that miles are king (as long as you’re able to recover and hit the right paces for other runs). Seems like most of the best runners at least at the marathon distance are very high mileage. So it makes sense that many people gunning for not professional times, but faster than the average bear, would model off the elites.

    And I def disagree w/ number 11 for some people at the slower end — I think walking can absolutely help them finish faster. I started off fairly slow and tried it both ways — run/walk, and just run, and run/walk was faster for me — b/c when I attempted to run I just got slower and slower over the last 6-8 miles, but if I took regular walk breaks, my run pace stayed much steadier and faster, and averaged out the walks. But I think I’m at the point now where walking would def hinder my time. Though I almost walked Heartbreak — it was just the crowds that kept me going!

    Can’t wait to read more — I found your link from Running w/ Reeses’ blog.

    • I totally agree with you!! I’ve actually been walking a bit more (ok, well once or twice in a marathon) and I think it’s helped! I definitely walked the second half of heartbreak hill and I think it helped my quads a lot in the final 6. And #7 (trying something new) is so tough. I always end up having GI probs at marathons because I have to eat different things then I am used to.

      So you lived in Cville for grad school too? I’m sure you’re off to bigger and better things. Any favorites? I’ve been here now going on 3 years but there are still places I have yet to try 🙂

      • Carina says:

        Absolute faves — sandwiches at Bashir’s on the downtown mall, and sandwiches at Bellair/Gourmet Exxon (I used to get the Belmont, but I’m a vegetarian now, but still liked sandwiches there when I went back last year). Good god, I try not to think about either of those sandwiches b/c then nothing I eat for days will taste good and those sandwiches will even appear in my dreams. I like Mas a lot. I’ll have to brainstorm some others.

  2. oooh, I liked reading this! and i was just starting to wonder whether i’m pushing myself too hard during my long runs by setting pace goals for myself… many of my friends run super slow for their long runs.

    and i could SO see how easy it would be to get caught up in the volume of workouts rather than the quality of them. always quality over quantity!

    and hey, you’re not creepy. we totally SHOULD hang out. 🙂

    • Haha, ok I was worried that came across as creepy. I’m thinking about coming to Va Beach for the 10k on halloween. I’d do the half marathon in September but I think it’s sold out…If you know of any good races there let me know! I’m always down to make the trip to run on the boardwalk 🙂

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