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.
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.
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”?