Thursday, September 29, 2005

18... Is Such an Awful Number

Today's workout is the one that is the hardest of all the workouts in the week. It is the dreaded 18 mile mid-week run. It requires a 4am rise and a 4:30am start in order to be back in time to get the eldest daughter on the bus, eat breakfast, and get to work. In addition to the early rise and start times, 18 miles seems to be approaching that never-never land of depletion. It's just past the end of the feel good miles (around 15) and just before the nose-bleed heights of 20+ where we smile the grim smile of pain mixed with might. The pace is always a little harder than the labeled "long run" on the weekend and generally I don't meet up with any other runners at 4:30 in the morning.

In fact, 18 miles is where I experience a drop in motivation during a marathon. I'll cruise up to this mile but I struggle terribly with maintaining pace right at this point. I can't recall a marathon where this hasn't happened. If I can cross the bridge to 20, I can occasionally rally my spirits and drive to the finish with renewed energy. I have begun to recognize this little foible of mine and I recall at last year's MDI Marathon that I was expecting the challenge. Sure enough, the drop occurred and I remember encouraging myself to keep it together. I battled myself to mile 20 where, as I walking through a water stop, I heard a boy ask his Mom, "Mom, why is he not running?" If I had my wits together I would have thrown the cup at him but I could think of only one thing - finish under 3:10. Spirit renewed, I was back in the race. Yep, good ol' 18 miles. The no man's land of marathon training - and it comes to this neighborhood once a week.

18 miles. It's not a long run but it's not a short run either. It takes longer than 2 hours but less than 3. I'm supposed to do it on a weekday but I must really pay attention to the start time. Over-sleep by just a few minutes and the run is shot. In a marathon, at mile 18 you're far from the start but not very close to the finish. 18 miles. Just wicked.

After all that, my 18 miler went well this morning. I left the house at 4:30 in the complete darkness. It remained dark right into my 4th 5k lap. I was able to increase the pace through each lap until 15.5 miles. The final 2.6 miles was done at a slower pace as I was out of steam. Here's the 5k splits (the last being a 2.6 mile split):

5k 24:10 7:48 pace
10k 23:19 7:31 pace
15k 22:35 7:17 pace
20k 22:04 7:10 pace
25k 21:14 6:51 pace
18.1 19:08 7:22 pace

Add to the above about a 1:30 rest stop for bread and water at each 5k point. Total time including breaks was 2:19:48 or about a 7:44 pace. I am a big fan of taking on fluids and snacks during long training runs as it allows me to run faster and more comfortably during the training period. I believe that the purpose of training is to maximize muscle and cardiovascular development and not to deplete glycogen stores or dehydrate oneself. Since I have found that I don't like going out on a course and leaving water bottles around then having to drive and pick them up later, I have resorted to just stopping at the house and grabbing a quick drink, nibble, and stretch at the end of each lap. Occasionally I will simulate a race and take PowerGel and water on the run just for practice. But there's no need to stress over stopping during a training run. A good workout is a better workout when the engine is fueled properly.

Yesterday's workout of 8.1 in 1:01:57 (7:39 pace) was fun. A) I didn't have any math mishaps and B) just knowing I'd be done in an hour put a little spring in my step and I ran a little faster than I thought I would. I guess I am starting to like this easy/hard setup. Or in my case short/long. Something I read in Lydiard's training plan sort of stuck with me. He mentioned that the phases (conditioning / hills / speed / coordination) all had "core" workouts to be done three times per week. The other days were for various drills (leg speed, long runs, strides etc) but were not the focus. The focus being on the core workouts according to the phase you're in. So here I am in the conditioning phase. This means that the core workouts are the three "long" runs per week (Tues - 15, Thu - 18, Sat - 22). The other workouts are additional capacity building runs but are shorter and should be done so the core workouts can be completed consistently and safely. So when I got up this morning I was motivated to get this core workout in. Tomorrow, I'll take it easy and do an easy 1 hour jaunt about town.

And finally, a little comment on shuffling. I, like others, do not stretch prior to running. I do some pushups and crunches but stretching is minimal. Doing stretches cold makes me feel like I am pulling a muscle that should not be pulled. On the other hand, nothing gives immediate pain like taking off on a training run too fast. You can just feel the muscles groan and creak, and possibly injure. So when I, sleepy-eyed, come stumbling out onto my front walk fumbling with my watch I just shuffle down the street and up the first hill. This has worked wonders. By the time I reach 1/2 mile I start feeling pretty good and by mile 1 I am usually running at the pace I want to be on. The first mile split is slow (but it makes it that much easier for a negative split on the second lap). I have also found that when I stop for water and a snack that I am able to get right back into the pace I had prior to the stop without any difficulty. I guess it's muscle memory.


Blogger Guernsey Man said...

Looking forward to following your progress

9/29/2005 12:09 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Thanks! I see you're into triathalons. Running's tough enough for me!

9/29/2005 2:33 PM  
Blogger Duncan Larkin said...


Amen. I was nodding my head up and down when reading your posting on where it hurts the most in the marathon. Everyone talks about the last 10k, but real 'men' are made at miles 17,18,19 b/c you have so much left to go. This is where I see my times begin to fade rapidly. Good luck with your taper coming up.

10/01/2005 10:41 AM  

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