"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sawtooth training... long run

Sometimes the coach in me and the athlete in me are at odds (and I'm hoping that sounds less emotionally disturbed than I think it does). This is one of those times. Yesterday, I went out for a long run at Afton; part of me thinks it was a good, successful run and another part doesn't.

Some people have finished the Superior Sawtooth 100 without running more than 20 miles or 3 hours in training on any one day. Others have finished running a weekly run of 30-40 miles and running nothing else all week. The more frequently one does very long runs, the more likely one will finish the 100, but it won't make one finish any faster. In fact, running long frequently just might make one slower.

I like running long at Afton. It's not as hilly and far less technical than Superior, but it's the best approximation within a reasonable distance of my house. It's also home to a 50K race, so there's a lot of data one can mine for comparisons. If you can run the Afton course in 7 hours, you can finish Superior no matter how badly you fall apart in the race; if you can run Afton in 8.5 hours on any given day, you can finish Superior with about the same amount of effort. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you want to set a course record at Superior, you should be able to do Afton in 4 hours all-out, and in 5 hours no matter how tired one is before starting.

Two weeks ago, I covered the Afton course, 30 miles in 6.5 hours, then shut off the watch and walked the last two miles (my Garmin measures the course as 32.0 miles). It seemed like a nice easy run, tiring - but it was 6-and-a-half hours, so it should be tiring. I'd had a couple of days off before doing it, so I was feeling fresh when I did it.

In contrast, yesterday I went out to do the course and died. I intentionally ran hard the day before (and that run was itself disappointing) in an attempt to start the next day already tired. The 100 mile, at least to me, is all about how fast you can keep running after you're completely drained. To me, all long runs seem equally hard; I have no inner sense of the difference between an easy and a hard long run.

The plan was to run slow and comfortable, walking when necessary, and finish the course. Instead, I ran rather hard at the start, partly because my legs were wanting to run the same pace as the day before, partly because I wanted to catch up to a couple of people I could hear (but not see) on the trail. Five miles in, I was dead; I looked at my watch and saw I'd done two of the miles at 8 1/2 minutes per mile and got mad at myself for being so stupid as to start that fast. Around two hours into the run, I was unintentionally slowing, so I was running solely on fat stores (I took in a total of about 300 calories in the first 15 miles, more or less by plan). This was the point where I wanted to be, finding out how far and how fast I could keep going when I was running on fumes. I was hungry by about 12 miles and starting to bonk. At 16 miles, I was done with the first loop and had a breakfast of a banana, a handful of cranberries, two gels (I hate gels; they just happened to have caffeine and that I wanted) and as much liquid as I could tolerate.

I got back on the trail and was severely tested; at 20 miles (4:13), I was trying to convince myself not to quit. I had another 12 miles to go and I had about 4 hours of daylight to do it in. I could walk it, and no matter how slowly I walked, I could do it. It's one of those gut-check things you need to do in a 100 mile race - just keep moving forward, even though you don't want to.

The next two miles brought me closer to where I could break off from the course and go back to the car. I couldn't continue. I stopped and walked uphill back to the parking lot. The battery on the Garmin died on me (it's old enough it doesn't hold a charge very well any more) and so I'm calling it 22.5 miles in 5:00, which is pretty close to what it was.

Crunching numbers later in the day, I could convince myself that that run was really comparable to running Superior in 33.5 hours. So... a good run, then, after all, just not what I planned.

But I'm still kicking myself for quitting.

Good run. Bad run. Both. I just wish that, after beating myself up physically, I didn't feel I have to beat myself up emotionally, too.


Colin said...

No need to beat yourself up! You know what went wrong yesterday, and you made the right call by stopping.

It sounds like you learned more from this run than if everything had gone according to plan. So I say, good run!

Running with MTP said...

I will never understand the idealogy of learning to run while tired. I think you know how to run while tired. What you should be after are the physical adaptations that will happen from the long run. The leg strength, the beefed up endocrin system, the stronger cardiovascular system.

If I were coaching you, I would much rather see you go into long runs more fresh and have either a more quality run or longer run because of it.

2 times every 5 weeks is enough to get the adaptations that you seek. This should leave you more time and energy for hill repeats etc - shorter but strength building.

Of course you are much more experienced than I - But I think the running while tired is more of a psycological toughness or a psycological realization of what your body is capable of ... You already have that.

Just my 2 cents ... stress - recover - repeat.

Good running to you!

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

I wonder what this good/bad run looks like on a quantum level.

Anonymous said...

Steve quit trying to teach yourself and your body that it is OK to quit. You make it an option in training. The same applies to running a race. Space out your long runs and cover the distance fresh.

Running with MTP said...

Based on my understanding of the run - Not much changes. It is still good and bad. I would guess the probability it is good is much lower than bad ... So in most of the parallel universes it is good. But there is that universe where Steve can walk through walls - In that one everything Steve does is good ... even his candy.

SteveQ said...

Hey, don't badmouth my candy! Even my failures are better than you'll ever know.