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Breakfast on the Run

January 12, 2012

Little G and I know that we need to put in miles to get ready for the Michelob Ultra Challenge, which will require us to run 30.5 miles over two days. But the challenge of the weekend isn’t just to run those miles, but the way you’re asked to run them: we run a 15k at 6am Saturday, then come back at 9am to run a very crowded 5k. Then we show up again at 6am Sunday to run a half marathon, and not long after finishing that race, run an 8k. So part of the inherent difficulty in running the races is getting through one event, and cooling down, letting your muscles relax, and then having to get all your stuff together to run again.

With that very much on our minds this week, Little G and I decided that on one  of our longest runs of the season, to train the same way we’ll be required to run on race weekend, or in conditions as close as we could simulate in training.

We set out for our run around 6am, planning to cover 18 miles. We were trying to go at about 10-minute pace, or roughly a minute per mile slower than we’ll need to hit during the half marathon on race day. We covered a lot of ground, trying to get in as many miles as possible before heading to the destination we wanted to end up at at the halfway point. It’s probably not the typical breakfast destination for marathoners in training, and we missed our intended arrival, but we ended up at one of our local McDonald’s at the ten-mile mark. We split a coffee and biscuit, tried to sit downwind from everyone since we probably smelled pretty bad, and purposely rested for about twenty minutes before completing the last eight miles of the run.

What this forced us to do, in preparation for race weekend, was to cool our muscles down for some time, before starting to run again. We also had to practice running with food fresh in our stomachs, which we’ll also need to do on race day. As you can see, we’re being very intentional about our training this time around.

On Monday, speedwork day, we eschewed the bridge in favor of intervals. I warmed up with an easy mile, then ran 1 x 2-mile at half-marathon goal pace with a 3-minute recovery, then 2 x 1-mile at 10k pace with a 2-minute recovery, then 2 x 800 meters (a half-mile) at 5k pace with a 2-minute recovery. I finished off with a mile cooldown.

Now, the last time I ran this workout, I targeted an 8:10 pace for my half marathon pace, and worked out the rest of my paces off that pace. But this time, I’m not targeting a personal best, so I figured I could target a much slower pace, and in fact needed to. As I have probably shared before, I’m not very good at knowing my own pace when I run, so part of my goal when I run workouts like this is to train myself so I get to know each pace, especially at an event like the Challenge where I’m running so many different paces.

I had planned to run my first interval at a pace of 9-minute miles, which is what we hope to hit for the half marathon. A steady 9-minute-per-mile pace will get us to the finish line sub-2 for the half, and we’d both be more than happy with that finish at the Ultra. But when I started the workout, it was evident that the planned pace was not ambitious enough. Even running a fairly relaxed pace, the way I’d like to run the half, I was hitting 8:45. I went ahead and finished that 2-mile interval at the 8:45 pace and adjusted the rest of the workout accordingly, targeting 8:15 pace for the 10k-pace intervals and 7:30 pace for the 5k-pace intervals.

The rest of the workout went well, and I hit my targeted paces as intended, which gave me confidence that I’m on target to run the paces I’d like to at Gasparilla. It reminds me, in fact, that I’d be in shape to run much faster than that–that I could probably run a personal best if I trained and gave it my all. But that’s not what this event is what it’s about, and that’s not what my training is preparing me for this season. I’m getting ready to run 30 miles in two days, and that requires a different kind of strength.

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