Same Distance, More Long Run Benefit

Feeling like Heather on race day is the ultimate long run goal.

Feeling like Heather on race day is the ultimate long run goal.

Rather than the usual Long Run questions of why, how far, and how fast, let us focus on making the most of your long run distance. I’ve linked below my other long run posts for those answers.

The primary purpose of your long run is to train the muscle fibers (and the energy system feeding them) to become fatigue resistant and gradually raise the level of tension your muscles can withstand for 13.1 or 26.2 miles (or more!). With that in mind one of the first things that you can do to gain more benefit from the same long run distance is to reduce, if not eliminate, stoppage time during your long run. This is something that without technology is hard to measure. But to the chagrin of some of my runners it is easy to identify when I look at their watch download. I look at the differential between moving time and total time and can see how long they were stopped during their long run. I like to look at this from a standpoint of how much time per mile they were stopped. While we expect some stoppage due to aid stations, bathroom breaks and traffic, those things can add up if you’re not keeping an eye on them. It is not uncommon before I point this out to somebody to see that they stop 20 to 30 minutes over a 20 mile run. Because our sport does not have time outs this can be a problem. Every time you stop and let the muscular tension and aerobic pressure drop, recovery begins. The issue is that now you have to run even faster or longer to get the same training effect that simply continuing would have earned. So keep moving and keep any necessary stops as brief as possible. The most common problem with this is that with a group it takes awhile for everyone to get a drink while the clock keeps running. In those situations do a little out and back so you can keep moving but also regroup when everyone is ready to go again. I know that with 20 or 30 minutes to go in your long run you will be very happy to be done. Reducing or eliminating stoppage time is the best way I know to make that happen.

The next way to increase your long run benefit is to run on hills. It will become very obvious, maybe painfully so the first time, the extra special feeling that you get on a hilly course. While you might think it’s the uphill that is giving you the extra benefit it is also the downhill running. You know when the wheels start to fall off in a long run or race it is the impact that is the least comfortable. Conveniently enough, downhill running magnifies the eccentric contraction (lengthening of the muscle while it contracts) in the same way that landing with each stride stresses the muscle. This makes you more and more resistant to fatigue. Depending on where you live hill running may take a bit of planning. For most people it’s not too hard to find hills if you’re convinced that you’ll get more from your training.

I often tell people that getting in three-hour or four hour (or whatever your goal) marathon shape is not the hard part. It is actually running the time that is hard. One of the major variables between a successful day of cashing in training and a disappointing day is how well you manage nutrition and hydration. While there is no one fits all plan there are some guidelines from which you can start and determine your exact needs under various conditions. Any runner that does an exceptional job of staying hydrated and fueled has an incredible advantage over the others that are figuring it out on the fly. Use your long runs to learn your best nutrition practices beginning in the preceding days all the way through the run. This knowledge can prove to be as valuable as the long run itself. Taking this one step further, the more you can rehearse race weekend during your long runs or lead up races, the more it’s a matter of checking off the boxes on your way to achieving your goal.

While I have addressed this in previous posts, I think it’s worth touching on again. The first time you run a distance or the first time you run it at a faster pace there is incredible training effect. As those distances and paces become the norm that training effect begins to diminish. So you need to start running faster or longer to get the same benefit. If those solutions are unattractive or impractical think about the ideal way to run a marathon and the even pacing that it requires. It then becomes easy to go to the opposite end of the spectrum. Go ahead and do your long run inefficiently by running intervals at goal pace or faster, run positive splits (faster in the first half), or add a mix of stressors to make the run more challenging and engaging. These “mistakes” will increase the endurance benefit of the long run by building a deficit. You could also have the added epiphany of just how important good pacing is on race day.

The remaining question is how hard is too hard? The answers to many training questions including this one typically lie in recovery. If your long run is just nice easy jogging for a little longer distance than normal, one recovery day may be enough. But as the distance becomes significant and we start adding ways to make them more stressful, one day will no longer do. I like to plan two recovery days between a long run and the next run of consequence. My rule of thumb is that if two days are inadequate for recovery, then we probably overdid it. If we run into that situation we adjust the week and learn moving forward to the next long run.

Previous Long Run Posts

Go Long: How Far, How Fast, & How to Fuel.

Ideal Long Run Pace? Well, it depends...

The Same But More

Get the Most from Your Long Run

The Problems of Goal Pace Running

Rejuvenate Your Long Run

It All Matters

PB5 19 Leaders edited.jpg

I appreciate complex things simplified to their essence as much as the next person, but some things are less easily reduced to a single bullet point. While running may be the most simple sport, not to be confused with easy, there is more to it than right, left, right, left, and repeat. To do it well there are a number of things of importance worth your attention. Here are a few of them.

Let’s start with the most obvious thing that matters but often hides in plain sight. Mileage matters. There is no substitute in training for mileage. Of the three basic things one needs to do to get faster, more running has to happen when one begins training and will have to happen again after the other two are addressed. Increases need to be gradual and progressive to be effective. Otherwise, injury or lack of improvement will occur. One of the things that only experience at higher mileage can tell you is that oddly enough you feel stronger with more rather than with less. While there is a level of chronic fatigue with significant mileage you will actually feel stronger while running. Yes, there are smart ways and not so smart ways to increase mileage, but don’t let that lead you to think mileage does not matter.

Quality matters. Finding the right balance between quality running and mileage is what any runner or coach should spend much of their time pondering. While doing a long run you have probably found as you get stronger it takes more and more miles before your legs become fatigued and your energy level starts to drop. That’s great news, you are improving! However, that’s also where the training effect starts to diminish from the same distances that used to be incredibly effective. There are only so many times a week you can run long enough to get that training effect, so running harder will now be necessary to get you to that point. Recently while doing a “short” long run with a mix of quality, it was very clear when our watches told us we were at 6 miles our legs where already telling us we were at 12 miles, we were getting great long run training effect on a shorter day.

The long runs, the mileage, and the high intensity workouts get all the glamour. Meanwhile, the small things matter. Small things like staying flexible, getting strong, maintaining balance, not letting your shoes get too old, warming up, cooling down, keeping the easy days easy, and the list goes on. These are all the little things that allow the big things to get done. Without the little things you become the fittest cheerleader on the sideline.

One of those little things is important enough to get it’s own category. Sleep matters. Sleep is the magic in training. Without adequate sleep you do not recover and you do not adapt to the training. Not to mention you’re worthless for everything else that you do during your waking hours.

Recovery matters. I have alluded to this in the last two subjects but again this deserves it’s own category. Recovery tells us everything we need to know about your training. How long does it takes to recover between intervals, from a hard workout, from a high mileage/quality week, and how many days of recovery or reduced training do you need to be ready to race? These answers tell us if your training load is being maximized or if it’s beyond your current ability.

Racing matters and is important for three primary reasons. One, it’s the best gauge of your fitness and should set expectations going into the most important races. Two, there’s no training quite like racing. It’s very rare to have a workout where you give a sustained effort at 100% with nothing held back. If you plan to give your best on marathon day it makes pretty good sense to practice giving your best even (& especially) at shorter and more intense distances a time or two before then. The last important reason to race is that it stirs up the crazy. To get into three hour marathon shape (or whatever your goal) is one thing. To actually run a three hour marathon is another. A big part of that is because of the race day crazy that happens and the decision making that is necessary during the race. Practicing making the right decisions under pressure will give you your best shot at cashing in your fitness.

Support matters. Most runners have a high level of self-reliance and as a matter of fact typically that’s one of the great attractions of running. You don’t have to count on a team, the coach doesn’t have to like you, there are no politics regarding playing time, you just go out and race and only your performance matters. However, the higher level at which you’re training the more important the support becomes. Support comes from many directions. The support of training partners, whether they are at the same level or faster or slower, and having some level of accountability and interaction with runners of a similar mindset is vital. Having the support of a coach or a veteran runner that knows what you’re going through, knows the pitfalls, and knows how to make the most of your effort will keep you on track. The support of the important people around you, especially at home, is critical. Make sure your training not only fits into your life but into the life of those that are important to you. Figure out the right level of give-and-take and where you can cheer them on and support them when you’re not running to make this work. Their encouragement and support and having them to celebrate with you makes all of your accomplishments so much better.

Plan Your Run & Run Your Plan

Karen Fort Myers June 2019.jpg

Plan your work and work your plan has proven to be one of the more useful phrases I’ve found and it applies as beautifully to running as with most things in life. The length of a blog post will not allow this to be a comprehensive look at planning your running, but I will offer a few very good reasons to have a plan and several essential ingredients your plan requires.

Establishing where you are and where you want to go are usually easily determined. The how to get there part is what requires a plan. By writing down the blueprint of your plan you will begin to determine if your destination is something that can be achieved with the training time available. At the onset, don’t get bogged down with too many details. You might see right away you don’t have the time to get in the necessary long runs or workouts or weekly mileage. Once you’ve determined a workable time frame, you can start to fill in the details and develop a step by step plan.

A good plan is an effective tool of challenge. A good test of a training plan is that each week on top of each other looks manageable, but if you just flip to the end, it looks beyond your reach. The challenges you can meet through consistency can be mind blowing.

A good plan will eliminate the fundamental debate* of what to run let alone should you run. The debating about the what and if will drain you of energy that is best spent getting on with the work at hand. If it’s clear what you will be running tomorrow and the next day and the day after that you can settle into working the plan and arriving at your destination.

A non-negotiable ingredient of any good training plan is that is must be gradual and progressive. If it’s not gradual, you will break down or at the very least not adapt to your work. If it’s not progressive you will stagnate and be busy without improvement.

Training also has to be balanced between workout intensities, stress and rest, and mileage. One dimensional or unbalanced plans will limit your ability to improve and leave you competitively vulnerable. We can look at this on a very basic level. Mileage is great, but without higher intensity training you won’t have the speed to be in the race. High intensity work is also great, but without the mileage you won’t be there at the end of the race. Your goal is to arrive on race day with the total package. Of course, what that requires will vary a bit from person to person.

While we are confined to training in the real world, your plan better be flexible. The best laid plans… Things will happen along the way, some that limit training and progress and at other times you may find yourself ahead of projected progress and need to update the workload and time table. You may also find upon review that parts of your training have become out of balance and a plan tuneup will have you back on track.

Need help planning your running? I have teamed up with the Monumental Marathon to offer several marathon and half marathon plans. You will see more about this in Beyond Monumental emails. Enjoy these free “Finisher, Pacer, & Racer” plans courtesy of the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

Other PBT Coaching Options

*One of my favorites from Once A Runner. “Quenton Cassidy’s method of dealing with fundamental doubts was simple: He didn’t think about them at all. These questions had been considered a long time ago, decisions were made, answers recorded, and the book closed. If it had to be re-opened every time the going got rough, he would spend more time rationalizing than training; his log would start to disclose embarrassing information, perhaps blank squares. Even a self-made obsessive-compulsive could not tolerate that.”

Heat Tested

Brady Hall Boston 2019 Flag Finish.jpg

Before we launch into our topic of training and racing effectively in heat, I want to recognize you may have heard much of this before. However, when I see the same avoidable mistakes made repeatedly, there must be some need for review. There are a number of important and helpful things that any coach repeats often enough even they get tired of hearing it. At some point the emphasis of repetition gives way to tuning out. My hope is that by putting these things in writing it will regain some status of importance that these points deserve.

Show up hydrated. Maintaining hydration in warm humid conditions is a losing battle. We can only hope to stay above the critical point where we feel terrible and slow to a crawl. Even that is a lost cause if you start a training run or race already dehydrated. The most simple and effective way I’ve found to manage hydration is frequent weighing. The most important times are in the morning, pre run and post run. Additional times will help you monitor your progress and let you know if you are back to a full tank or need to keep working on it. If you check your weight only in the morning or pre run, you do not have much recourse if you are too light. If weighing yourself stirs up crazy, there are tricks to be played to get the same information. It is not your actual weight we need to know, it is the differential due to dehydration. When you feel fully hydrated set the scale (you’ll need a less techie model) on a random number. Then use that random number as your set point. Interestingly, the same weigh ins can also give you an idea about your glycogen replenishment. Two very important things to monitor.

Drink early and often. I like the IV drip analogy. Before, during and after a run think of hydrating as a steady infusion like an IV drip. Too much at once does not get absorbed as effectively as a little bit at a constant rate. During exercise this also keeps the stomach happier and we know the workout and race often go as the stomach goes. While running, 6-8 ounces of fluid every 20-30 minutes is a good starting goal. You might be thinking, “I can’t drink while I run or I feel terrible.” Just like the running itself, this is trainable. Start small and build. There are plenty of days a year this is your limiting factor and no matter how fit you may be, it will not matter if you do not solve this problem.

Salt is a sponge. As the dew point and heat index head north the hydration battle becomes more bleak for your side. Salt tablets can be your not so secret yet effective weapon. Salt is what allows water to cross the cell membrane and become useful. If water does not get into the cell, it is not helpful at best and can kill you through hyponatremia at worst. You can get sodium through drinks, gels, and tablets. A starting dose is 150-200 mg per 8 ounces of fluid. However, I have many athletes that have become proficient at getting much more. These are the same athletes I will bet on as the temperature goes up. There are others that ignore this specialized training that predictably wilt and see the backsides of their less talented and trained competitors.

Hydration is key beyond the run. We know the body works best at rest in homeostasis and at exercise in steady state. Blood pressure, heart rate, and thermoregulation (body temperature) are all normalized with proper blood volume. Blood volume can only be in homeostasis with proper hydration. If proper hydration is key in keeping some diseases from killing you (Ebola virus, for example) I think we can accept it might help you recover faster from a workout or race and be better for just plain old general health.

You will need to adjust your Effort Dashboard in the heat. Pace will be slower in the heat. You can control the slowing effect by following the tips above and moderating pace early and voluntarily. You will also find HR climbs out of sync with effort with variation in blood distribution and volume. This creates the need to rely more on respiratory rate, muscular tension, and perceived exertion.

Learn to live by faith over the next few months. All of your work does matter and it will pay off with adaption and when the weather breaks. Until then the heat will disguise all positive evidence of progress and your training log may be reason for despair. Rest assured, those that rule in the fall, put in the work during the summer.

Links to my other posts about running and heat.

Living by Faith

Thriving in Heat

Training through the Ridiculous

Ugly yet Effective

Heat & Humidity Finally Show

Summer Vacation

Lucie Mays-Sulewski & Kristina Tabor speeding to the finish of the women’s masters Monumental Mile.

Lucie Mays-Sulewski & Kristina Tabor speeding to the finish of the women’s masters Monumental Mile.

Many of you are wrapping up your marathon & half marathon season and are beginning to think about your plans for fall and exceeding your successes of spring. Before you launch back into training for 26.2 or 13.1, I want to encourage you to take a vacation. No, not that kind. While I do like runners to take a post season week or two of greatly reduced running for mental and physical refreshment, I am not talking about taking the summer off. Rather, I want my runners to get out of a perpetual marathon training mindset for a few months and focus on raising their economy and speed ceilings. Then when they do return to focus on the longer fall races, they are beginning with better high intensity fitness that will translate into faster more marathon specific endurance and stamina training. Perhaps it is counter intuitive to think training at intensity over threshold and faster than 5K pace will help your marathon. Think of it this way. If you are more comfortable at harder and faster running, the demand of marathon pace becomes easier for longer, allowing you to maintain a faster pace for 26.2.

As a refresher from earlier posts, economy is the physiological cost of running a given pace. The higher your economy the easier it is to run faster translating to great options. Run longer at the same pace or run faster for the same distance. Economy benefits can be had from all kinds of running, but the most specific way to push up your running economy is to run shorter harder sustained efforts (~5K-10K racing) or fast intervals (generally 400m to mile repeats). Speed is the ability to go faster for short periods through the conditioning of the neuromuscular system and fast twitch muscle fibers. Aerobic and anaerobic intervals as well as hill repeats can help with speed improvement. Keep in mind, when the hard days get harder, the easy day need to get easier. Maintain your stress and rest balance.

How this looks for you may vary with a number of factors, most importantly when you are done with long racing in the spring and target dates for PR assaults in the fall. Generally, I like to plan a year something like this, though I am all for keeping the races shorter for a full season and not being married to a marathon or even half marathon every spring and fall.

Spring Racing Season ending with your most important marathon or half marathon around May followed with a break of little and light running for 1-2 weeks.

Late Spring and Summer emphasis on economy and speed while maintaining reasonable mileage and long runs to ease the transition back into marathon training. This should also include a schedule of shorter races to show off your new fitness, but also for the training effect itself.

Mid to late Summer be aware of how many weeks to go until marathon day to ensure you have enough time to get in the weekly and long run mileage needed to perform at your best. I overlap workout types in this transition period and have found it results in lining up at the start line with the full bag of tricks and some great racing. Of course, some lingering hot and humid days may hide your new and improved fitness level, but it’s there.

Here are five steps to get you started with this summer vacation from the marathon grind. Step One: Get recovered from your spring races. Step Two: Work back towards your normal training level. Step Three: Add quality with economy and speed workouts in balance with easier mileage and moderate length long runs. Step Four: Join in the fun of the Monumental Mile on June 6th. If you are not close enough to Indy for the Mile, then find up to a 5K race in your area. This will give you an immediate target and checkpoint. Step Five: Join me for the Personal Best Training Speed Sessions on Tuesday nights and get a plan for the rest of the week. These sessions will include a mix of workouts to improve your economy and speed, but also have you ready for a great marathon or half in the fall. Send me an email at for details.

Judgement Day

Wes Doty and crew fighting through some trying conditions.

Wes Doty and crew fighting through some trying conditions.

Because you put a great deal of time and energy into your racing, forsaking other pursuits, it is worthwhile to examine and learn from each time into the fray. Let’s look at some ways you can judge and learn from your racing. The most basic and my favorite way of judging my own races is my feeling as I cross the finish line. If I am thrilled, relieved, or disappointed it usually outweighs time or place. The initial feeling at the end of a race is nearly impossible to fake and usually says much about that day’s effort.

To utilize racing to it’s utmost, let’s go a little deeper with further inspection.

  • Did you race your plan? If so, was it the best plan for that particular race? If not, did your in-race change of plan pay off? The answers here will make for a better plan next time, but also help plan possible contingencies for what may happen in terms of conditions, competition, and how you are feeling that day.

  • Did you accurately evaluate your fitness? I find predicting races from races is more reliable than predicting races from training. However, good training history with key duplicated workouts can be very helpful. This is also a good reason for some low key tune up races before something important rolls around.

  • Were the variables as expected and did you properly account for them? You might very well be in 90 minute half marathon shape, but on a hot, hilly, or windy day, you better be ready to run a few minutes faster to hit 1:30 for 13.1.

Exceptional racing requires the right mix and timing of patience, aggression, and toughness. The wrong timing or a missing ingredient will lead to the charred ruin of solid training and high hopes somewhere between the start and finish lines. We can sugar coat and speak philosophically about racing, but it will always come down to pain tolerance. This is the sport we have chosen.

There are times I have a runner finish with disappointment which often warrants further investigation of their result. Here is the quick checklist I like to run through with a disappointed runner that seemed to get the mix right, but still had unsatisfying results.

  • Was the course as expected?

  • Were the conditions as expected?

  • If not, were either or both of these accounted for in your post race expectations?

  • Taking a look at the race results may prove helpful by looking how you fared against other known competitors. Did you get beat by people that don’t normally finish in front of you or did you finish before others that are usually faster?

  • How are the time gaps if the order of finish was normal? Were you closer or further back? If time or place against competition is in your favor, it may just not have been a day to run fast. If these are not in your favor, you may be justified in being bummed about your performance. Occasionally, you can be happy when you cross the line only to find people ran out of their minds fast and you were just average, so this can cut both ways.

  • Did you give in when doubt set in or when the race got difficult? Were you able to overcome the rough spots that tend to come and go even on great days?

When it comes to that last question, I cannot fully convey how important it is to keep fighting hard through a race. Racing is not simply about fitness, but also about the skill of racing. Knowing how to plan, adjust, and give your best are skills that will reward all the training miles and effort. We get good at what we train, and if you allow yourself to give in when races go sideways, you get good at giving up and this becomes your default race setting. Sure there are times when it’s smart to pull the plug, but they are few and far between. The skills of running are highly underrated. True breakthroughs in running are very rarely about undiscovered fitness. Almost always they are about racing skill meeting the right set of conditions.

Upon further review if you had a great race take it as confirmation you are doing the right things in the right way. If you had a not so great day, evaluate and figure out what went wrong. Bad days happen, but if bad days become a trend it’s time to make training adjustments or work on specific racing skills for happier finish lines.

Spring Forward?

Perfect running moments don’t always need perfect training.

Perfect running moments don’t always need perfect training.

If your last few months of running have been smooth sailing without injury, illness, weather interruption, or work or personal conflict, you can skip this post and file it for later. If one or more of the aforementioned have taken their toll on what was once a grand plan for a great spring racing season, then the following advice is for you.

If your training has been hit & miss…

If your training has been a little more hit and miss than you would like, there are some good things to keep in mind. Your head will decondition much faster than your body. The most common occurrence of this phenomenon is when you go from a great workout or race to one just a few days later that is disappointing. It seems all is lost but really we know you never gain or lose fitness that fast. Keep in mind a great performance proves you are in great shape. A bad day simply proves you had a bad day.

When you have not been able to check off every mile and every workout, do not underestimate the value of lifetime base and toughness. Of course, being talented also really helps smooth over spots of missed training.

But if you think you are beyond mental deconditioning and it’s going to take more than zippy mental tricks to get you back in racing mode, then it is time for a reality check. Pulling a workout staple with a long history or a short race will put your current state of disrepair into perspective. Maybe you’ve been doing a mile repeat workout, or threshold run for a number of years. Controlling the variables such as conditions, course, rest intervals, etc will give you a look at how you stack up historically. Then you can see how you’ve done after similar workouts. A short race will help you predict race performance from race performance which tends to be more reliable. If the news is good and you are not that far off course, pick up the plan with a few needed adjustments and resume your season. If the news confirms your fears of lost fitness, it’s time to reset.

Reevaluate & Reset

The first step is to reevaluate your goals for the next few months. You might need to adjust, reset or drop them. We do know that trying to make up for lost training in a compressed time frame is a sure bet to set yourself back even further with injury. The lesson I’ve had to learn more than once that is very valuable when rebuilding fitness is to just run the workouts at the appropriate effort level and let pace take care of itself. I’ve been amazed at how much faster fitness builds when overrunning the workout is avoided. Just run the workout and let your body work it’s magic.

How to Rebuild

If you do have significant rebuilding to do, following these steps should help you get there asap without undue injury risk. One, reestablish consistent running. Two, pick a day or two each week to push your aerobic limits. Ease into the run and then increase to high end aerobic running and stay there a little longer each week. At first you will find rapid improvement, but when this begins to plateau much of your basic fitness has returned. Along the way with steps one and two you can reestablish your long run without hurry to get to a big number. Just go long enough you are tired at the end. Step three is to add some aerobic intervals like 30 seconds fast and 60 seconds jog. Just get used to running faster than you can maintain. When this feels coordinated and comfortable, you have put together the pieces you need to resume full intensity training. This general approach is important because legs, lungs, and nervous system adapt at different speeds. Getting these back in balance is an important safeguard to keep you healthy and improving.

Silver Lining Skill

Let’s look at the silver lining of a training buildup gone wrong. Fitness gets so much focus, the skills of racing are often overlooked. Racing skills are what help you maximize your training. If the initial goals are now gone, you can still make this season count by learning an incredibly valuable skill. Rarely do a string of months go 100% according to plan. Learning to race up to your actual fitness through running peaks and valleys may end up yielding more in the long run than a beautiful training log.

Treadmill Peace

Kipchoge treadmill.jpg

We have already had a few waves of bad weather that resulted in missed or sub par runs and in some cases injury from not sticking the landing after being launched by a misstep on snow or ice. I am betting we have not seen the last of rough running weather (it’s warm and beautiful outside as I write this) so it is a good time to make peace with the treadmill. The following are some things to help you make the most of your treadmill time.

Let’s first address the differences between outdoor and treadmill running. The major factors are related to impact and overcoming air resistance. The brain and body become very efficient at processing information to attenuate shock rather than slamming the foot down on the ground. Too much treadmill running tends to change how one lands because most treadmills are much more forgiving. Returning to a harder surface require a little time to re-learn how to land softly. The other issue is that your backside (glutes, hamstrings, and calves) are not used as much or in the same way during treadmill running as they are outside.  This is magnified at faster speeds. Maintaining strength training and easing into fast speed work outside after a prolonged break from fast outdoor running will keep your injury risk low. Balancing in and outdoor running will also mitigate these effects. There is no standardization among treadmills, but there are general rules. To make up for the absence of having to overcome air resistance, using an incline of 1-2% helps equate the treadmill to outdoor effort.

You may also notice a higher heart rate on a treadmill than outdoors at the same speed.  Because you are not being cooled by moving air, heart rate tends to elevate and stay higher on a treadmill. Simply using a fan to cool you and minimize heat buildup can help solve this problem. By doing this you can also begin to judge the quality of the treadmill pace. Initially, most runners will find pace to feel alarmingly fast on the treadmill, but with a slower warmup and a conscious effort to relax, eventually the benefits of perfect pacing become apparent. Of course, under-powered treadmills can lag when changing speeds or inclines. Adapt workouts as needed for your equipment, but there is not much you cannot satisfactorily replicate on a treadmill.

Then there is the problem of the clock seemingly turning backwards on the treadmill. As is the case outdoors, you can either focus or disassociate. The best way to focus is to play games with time, speed, and incline. This is why often hard workouts seem to go faster on the treadmill than shorter easier runs. Systematically changing speeds or incline break the run into smaller more manageable blocks of time. Even with easy running you can increase these elements until you get to the top of the appropriate effort and then back down the effort and bounce back and forth. One of the most simple and effective treadmill workouts is the progression run. Start nice and slow and increase your speed (or incline) by .1 mph at a predetermined time interval. This interval might change as the speed become more challenging. If you get to a speed that you cannot maintain while still having time or miles to kill, just back off at the same interval until you have recovered enough to go back up until backing off for the cool-down. Of course, under-powered treadmills can lag when changing speeds or inclines. Adapt workouts as needed for your equipment, but there is not much you cannot satisfactorily replicate on a treadmill. Music, video, podcasts, recorded books, running meditation (letting you mind wander where it will) and people watching at the gym are all ways to disassociate.

Keep in mind watches cannot really measure treadmill distance.  They can be somewhat close at a consistent speed, but once you start changing speeds the measurement becomes far less accurate. You can “teach to the test” and calibrate after a run, but once you begin to do intervals you will see the technology is not really there yet.  Manual splits based on the treadmill distance will solve this problem. I do recommend learning how to use your manual split button before starting the workout. The danger of landing on your chin and flying off the back is not worth a neat training log entry.

Making peace with a treadmill can help you balance getting in the quality that might be missed in bad weather with the mental toughness that comes from getting outdoors when common sense urges otherwise. Both will have you fit and ready when the weather breaks.

Bonus Tip:

You may be convinced your treadmill is faster than the speed indicates. It is possible, especially on models intended for home use. Some will have calibration procedures in the manual. If not, and it matters enough for the following project you can test it. Make a mark with tape that is easily visible so you can count belt revolutions. Then after setting a normal running speed, count how many revolutions occurred in a minute and then get ready to do some math. Multiply the number of revolutions in 1 minute x belt length (this will be 2 times the deck length + a few inches) = distance the belt traveled in 1 minute. Multiply this number by 60 to find how far it would go in an hour. Divide that number by 5,280 (if you measure the belt in feet or inches) and you can find the miles per hour. If this math comes out the the mph that equates to your pace, it’s on. If not, look into calibration options.

One Month to Go Checklist

IMM medals.jpg

A month to go before your marathon or half marathon is a great time to check off the things that will best help you get the most from all the work you have done. Here is a list of some things to consider between now and race day.

Have Faith in your training and resist looking for signs of fitness. A race or maybe two should tell you what you need to know. When workouts go from improving fitness to proving fitness, injury risk goes up. You also want to avoid having a training day better than your race.

Race to get a fitness test. I prefer to predict races from races and not training runs. Now that the temperature is heading to more like what we expect on race day, it is a good time for a final pretest.

Plan Your Race, Race Your Plan by being a true geek and actually writing out your plan with contingencies for things that could go sideways. Put at least as much focus on how you want to feel at points along the way as the splits you want to run.

Fuel the Fire with the proper amount of hydration and calories. Have your nutrition plan dialed in for race weekend. Show up at the start fully hydrated and fueled and follow your plan during the race to finish strong.

Know Your Logistics by reading the information provided about the race and plan your weekend. This will make sure something silly does not take a big bite out of the energy best used for racing. Mentally walk through at least the day before and through the race.

Break the Chronic Fatigue you have been training through by allowing more recovery between workouts and long runs. This allows full adaption to training and will have you at your best in a few weeks.

Be Kind to your body by paying attention and tending to any aches or pains that you have been dragging along through the last few weeks or even months. Be kind to your body and it will do amazing things for you on race day.

Meet ME at the Monumental Marathon Expo on Friday at 12:30 to go over the most common race day fails and how to avoid them the next day. We will also talk about the pace team.

How to Use Your Pacer

Get in line and work together for faster times.

Get in line and work together for faster times.

If you take a look at world records and the PR's of average runners, it does not take long to recognize the common denominator is good pacing.  That is why when world records and PR's are attempted skilled pacers and employed.  We know that the best way to run fast is to run even or slightly negative splits (faster at the end).  You can visualize setting a treadmill to the fastest pace you can maintain and then speed up at the end to make sure your legs and lungs have been maxed.  Applying those conditions in the real world on the road or track is more challenging, but it is the goal.  The real trick comes when the pacing is not as smooth as desired or you hit a rough patch and need to back off a little to get back under control.  Using our treadmill visual, what happens when you hit a hill on a road course?  If you are not racing on the track it is unrealistic to think every split should be the same.  The elevation changes and even the turns of the course along with the wind and the timing of aid stations will dictate some splits will be faster than others.  Otherwise, to maintain that nice even pacing you will have to spike your effort and unless you are very close to the end, you have to slow to recover.  If you could do all of that without changing speed, then the overall speed is slower than your maximum maintainable speed.  You will have to make decisions along the way of when to slow and when to speed to net a even pace.  Perhaps you watched the Breaking 2:00 documentary and saw the lighted pace line.  It would be great to have one of those so after each slower segment you had a clear goal of the line to pull back.  

Not many things that have ruined more races than being committed to a pace at all cost.  Pace is simply a measurement of effort.  We all know that some days are better than others in how we feel or in the conditions.  Yet, it seems on race day many will ignore this knowledge and go full speed ahead with goal pace despite suspecting and then knowing it is not going to be an A+ day.  This is the easiest way to go from missing a goal by a small margin to a full blown crash and burn.  Amazingly enough there are many days when backing off a little early allows your body to come around to having a great day after all.  You know this happens during training so you know it can happen on race day.

So let’s figure out the best way to use a pace group to help you give your best effort on race day.  Remember there is no rule that you must start or even finish with you chosen pace group.  Use it for the part of the race you need.  You might just need help holding back the first couple of miles or need someone to chase and pass towards the end of the race.  When in doubt about the pace stay relaxed and keep putting miles in the bank.   A few more miles into the race and you may now be confident your legs feel good enough and you have enough fuel to speed up and make it to the finish.

Most pacers are running significantly slower than they race so it may take a mile or two for them to get in the right rhythm.  Trust yourself if it feels too fast and sit back and keep them in sight until the pace settles down.  Avoid any big moves to catch the group.  A comfortable pace is no longer comfortable after a big surge to catch up.

Remember you alone are responsible for your pace.  If it is too fast or too slow you need to adjust on your own don’t let anyone else determine your race.  It will be no consolation to have someone to blame if your race heads south because of bad pacing.  Run smart and run hard and good things happen! 

This year’s Indy Half Marathon, Monumental Marathon & Half Marathon Pace Teams are almost set.  There are perks for being a pacer and even bigger ones for pacing an Olympic Trials standard.  Please apply at Pacers Wanted if you are interested in learning more.

Go Long: How Far, How Fast, & How to Fuel.

Long run density and fueling will have you feeling strong to the end.

Long run density and fueling will have you feeling strong to the end.

The long run is the most basic and important element of marathon training.  However, as you progress as a runner the details shift to maintain it's effectiveness and impact on performance.  Much more can be written about long runs than we are going to tackle in this post.  I am going to focus on the crucial questions of how far, how fast, and how to fuel your long runs.

How far?  The initial purpose of the long run is to extend the duration you can run (duh!).  This has nothing to do with speed.  It is pure endurance, the ability to go right, left, right left, many times.  When you decide to take on the marathon, you need enough endurance to be able to continue to run for 26.2 miles.  Thankfully, the best principle in exercise physiology is on your side for this one.  Your body not only adapts to training, it overcompensates to training. You know this because you have run longer and/or faster than ever before on several occasions.  Every time you have either run your longest distance or set a PR you prove this principle.  The obvious benefit for the long run is that you do not need to run 26.2 miles to run 26.2 miles on marathon day.  Remember, this has nothing to do with speed, simply finishing.  It seems in rough terms, endurance has about a 25% overcompensation effect.  So if you can get to the 20 mile neighborhood, you should be able to finish.

I used to have more interest in the discussion about the ideal longest run for a marathon.  While I still think 20-22 is a good answer to that question (20 is fine for your body, but 22 is better for your head), I am now much more interested in the density of long runs.  I know averaging a runner's 5 longest runs leading up to race day is a better predictor of a good marathon than their longest run.  

How fast?  My quick answer to this question is slow enough to make it the entire distance.  Here is where the shift kicks in for your long runs.  If the objective is to finish and live to tell the story, jogging long runs is fine.  The moment you start thinking if you can break 4 hours, or qualify for Boston, or win the thing, jogging your long runs will no longer do. 

Your most limiting factor on race day is how much muscular tension you can maintain for 26.2 miles.  Jogging, at least for those beyond the beginner stage, will not produce enough muscular tension to be able to maintain a faster pace to the finish.  You either have to run longer and longer or faster.  As with anything in training, this can be overdone.  The guideline I give my runners once they are able to cover a distance without concern, is to run it faster as long as they can maintain it without a crash and they are able to recover in time for the next quality workout.

How to fuel?  I like thinking about marathon fueling as an IV of sugar, salt, and water.  If you can keep these levels relatively constant and prevent any of them from dropping beyond a critical point, marathon running is a much easier game.  We expect you will be low on all 3 of these at the finish, it is your challenge to keep the levels as high as possible. 

Most people can store about 20 miles of fuel.  Thus the whole "wall" concept.  If you can take in another 500-600 calories during the run, you've added enough to get to the finish without crashing and slowing enough to live the cautionary tale.  Pick you favorite method of getting in this amount of carbohydrate, but gels are hard to beat for efficiency.  

Sweat rates and therefore fluid intake rates will vary with individuals and conditions.  Practice drinking with a beginning target of 6 ounces per 20:00 of running.  With practice you will be able to take in even more.  A little, more often, is tolerated much better than 18 ounces at once every hour.  Think IV drip!  When conditions are such that you cannot absorb enough fluid it is time to add sodium to the mix to aid in absorption.  There is no substitute for practice and paying attention to conditions, intake, and how you feel.

With the time remaining before marathon day continue to bank long runs at a distance and effort that challenge you, but allow you to stay healthy and enthusiastic about running.  Additionally, practice and train you body for your race day IV drip.  The combination will have you ready to be at your best when it matters most.

Living By Faith

Tracy Green knows drinking early and often helps level the playing the field against heat & humidity.

Tracy Green knows drinking early and often helps level the playing the field against heat & humidity.

How was your running last week?  I thought so.  It's hard to believe how much fitness you've lost over the last few weeks after a good spring of racing.  Before you give up and take up another sport, possibly something of the indoor variety, let's talk about how you've been feeling.  In addition to the loss of fitness, have you also lost confidence and wonder if your watch needs a battery change because it seems to be running slow, especially on the hard days?  If so, let me invite you to join me in living by faith for the next month or two.  

Last Saturday's long run was a great test of my faith.  I started plenty slow and made a point to drink at least 6-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes and felt fine for about an hour.  At that point, without a increase in pace, the effort went up and I wisely decided to back off voluntarily to make sure I would get through the distance.  A few more miles went by and then I slowed down some more, this time involuntarily.  I had to remind myself that this was not my first summer of running and though I was running an effort that should have been a minute or more per mile faster, I was still getting the training effect.  It's not just you and me.  My smartest, toughest, and fastest runners are suffering the same symptoms.  Take heart that there is a crowd of good company in our boat.

Let's take a closer look at what the heat is doing to us.  Most information on the effects of heat on running performance use dew point as the primary factor.  If you don't know the dew point you can find it with this calculator.  A brief summary is that the following dew points result in the corresponding drops in performance.  60° = 2%, 65° = 3%, 70° = 5%, 75° = 12%, 80° = 15%.  Note the accelerating decline as it gets warmer.  Remember these are dew points and not simple air temperatures.  Add the rule of thumb that you will slow down by 2% for every 1% in body weight loss due to dehydration and you are fighting a losing battle.  There are several other factors including acclimatization (generally takes 2 solid weeks) and individual heat tolerance.

Let's say the dew point is 75° and you have lost 3% of your body weight in sweat loss.  If you would normally run 7:30 pace or 450 seconds per mile, the total of 18% loss of speed (12% for 75° dew point and 6% for the 3% dehydration loss) you could expect to slow down by 81 seconds per mile.  So now instead of cruising along at 7:30's, you are now feeling lousy and running 8:51 pace.  It's physiology.  You might be tough and might tolerate heat better than most, but you will be working much harder to be remotely close to your normal pace.

Calculating the dew point can help adjust expectations in heat and humidity.

Calculating the dew point can help adjust expectations in heat and humidity.

There are a few other things you can do along with living by faith until the weather cools again.  Train consistently for adaptation and adjust expectations.  Stay hydrated using salt tablets when necessary.  Use your respiratory rate and perceived exertion as your primary measures of effort.  Pace and HR will be affected to a degree that their reliability is no longer as helpful.  Continue to rely on Run Smart, Run Hard.  Heat will require you to emphasize the smart, the hard just happens.

I'll look forward to seeing you again on the other side of summer when we are all running faster again!

Last Call - Mile Run!

Monumental Mile.jpg

If your running started in school it is very likely one of your first races was the mile.  You have also probably wondered periodically what you could run for that distance now.  Maybe you could run faster or maybe not.  However, there just are not too many opportunities to race the mile.  There is now!

If you are an adult onset runner, especially in recent years, you may have never thought about racing a mile.  After all, why would someone pay to run one mile?  Good question.  Let's see if I can give you a few reasons to race the Monumental Mile.

1) It is one mile straight down Meridian Street finishing at the circle.  Traffic is shut down on what could be considered the main street of Indianapolis, so you can see how fast you can run one mile.  How cool is that?

2) There is a race for everyone.  There is a race for kids, masters, open, and even a community mile for the whole family.  And then the races are topped of with an elite mile.

3) You will recover much faster from a mile than a half marathon allowing you to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the circle on a beautiful June evening.

4) It is an easy measuring stick to duplicate to test your fitness.

5) The Mile is a great symbolic kick off to your training for other fall races.

Monumental Mile Details.

What Just Happened? Part 2 Lessons from Boston & London

Take what the day offers!

Take what the day offers!

Boston Take What the Day Offers.  You have to love hearing Desiree Linden talk about her thoughts of dropping out in the early miles.  It was not her day and she was willing to adjust.  As the miles accumulated she started feeling better while the other contenders were going from good to bad to DNF.  The longer the race the more likely your fortunes can change, and maybe more than once.  Stick with it and see what happens.  If at the elite meeting on Sunday, it was announced that 2:15:58 and 2:39:54 would be the winning times, there would have been a massive shift in race strategies.  You just don't know until you see how the race unfolds.

Boston Opportunity  Look for the opportunity in difficulty.  Some of the top finishers in Boston would have never been there under good conditions.  If you can wake up to a rough race day and see the opportunity for those that run hard and run smart you might just surprise yourself at the end.

London Reality Check  Let's look at the men's race with a good sized lead pack in the early stages.  These are the projected times at the following checkpoints.  Keep in mind the world record is 2:02:57/4:41 per mile.   5K 1:56:27, 10K 1:59:29, 15K 2:01:10, 20K 2:01:58, 25K 2:02:31, 30K 2:02:56, 35K 2:03:37, 40K 2:04:04, Finish 2:04:17.  The average pace was 4:45 and only 2M in the first half and only 4 in the first 20M were at that pace or slower.  Somebody in that pack might have thought about the carnage to be had if they would have run a more reasonable pace.  The only way that race plan works is if all of your competitors get sucked along into the unrealistic pace.  Being the Olympic Champion and one of the best marathoners ever does not hurt either.  The women's race had fewer on suicide pace, but one dropped out and the other went from 1st to 5th and 5:56 behind the winner.  And she is the women's only world record holder.   Sometimes confidence is pushing harder and other times it is holding back.

Boston Cold Rain is the Worst.  No one likes to run in cold rain.  It's hard to dress for because if you wear too little you freeze and by wearing too much you will freeze when it all gets wet.  The waiting before and after made the running part seem easy.  This leads to...

Boston Train in it All.  As much as we hate extremes you have to train some amount in it all to be ready when it lands on race day.  I don't think you can get acclimated to some extremes like cold rain and wind, but you can know what apparel works best and to have the confidence you've done it before.  Even the elite athletes were unprepared wearing sails for jackets and trapping in sweat and rain under too many clothes.  There was no way to be comfortable in those conditions, but practice does get you closer.

London Train in it All.  It was not hot, but it was warmer than most were ready to handle.  I tend to think 60-70 degrees in the most dangerous in a marathon.  It does not feel hot enough to know you have to change plans until it is too late.  Knowing and practicing race nutrition for such occasions turns such a day into a B+ performance rather than a race best forgotten.

These are a few of the lessons from the last few weeks.  There are many more if you look closer.

Uncontollable variables have no respect for your resume.

Uncontollable variables have no respect for your resume.

What Just Happened? Lessons Learned from Race Day

Learning from both success and failure leads to the next success.

Learning from both success and failure leads to the next success.

Success and failure are both great teachers.  However, we must take the time to reflect on each to find the lessons to either repeat or avoid in the future.  I encourage you after each meaningful race to take the time to find the successful factors to reinforce and the improvements needed to rectify the disappointment.  The following are some of the things to consider.

Pre Race Rest  Were you rested enough or flat from too much rest?  Managing the balance between acute and chronic stress is an art that allows you to simultaneously be building for future races, but ready to go for the next one.

Pre Race Routine  Back up 24-36 hours to examine how sleep, diet, travel, and other logistics affected how you felt between the gun and the finish line.  More immediately, was your warmup adequate to have you ready for the initial demands of race effort?

Race Plan  Race fitness takes a long time to build but can either be cashed in or wasted in a hurry depending on your race plan and execution.  Did you properly plan your pacing and strategy?    If your plan was on target, were you mentally tough and physically fit enough to carry it out?  Did you adequately adjust for course, competition and conditions?  The answers to these questions will help you adjust your training as well as your next race plan.

Grading Scale  Last year after a particularly warm Boston Marathon, I texted one of my runners to congratulate him on a great race.  He texted back about how horrible he performed and questioned the meaning of life and running altogether.  I told him to wait until he saw the results before he beat himself up too much. After further review and grading himself on the curve the conditions required, he realized he did have a good day, after all.  It can be difficult, but try to have more than one measure of success.  Time is only one of them.  Uncontrollable variables can doom your time standards, but that does not mean you cannot have a great race.  The time will just have to wait for more cooperation.  On other days you might find you matched your time hopes but then find out people ran out of their minds on a magical day and you failed to cash in on your share of the magic.  Be open to taking what such a day has to offer by removing the time limits and focusing on the appropriate race effort.

Sure, it's a stretch, but to paraphrase Socrates, an unexamined race in not worth running.  Use the lessons of each race to make the next one better.


Work Wasted

There are no deals, so make your miles count!

There are no deals, so make your miles count!

If you are reading this you most likely take your running seriously.  That means it is not only important to you, but you make choices that cause you to miss out on other things to have the time and energy for training.  That being the case, the ultimate running sin is to do things in training that are actually counterproductive and cause you to waste your work.  I will make an admission up front.  I have committed all of these at one time or another as a runner or as a coach.  I can tell you it hurts to have done the work, but to have done something else to prevent reaping the benefits.  I hope what follows can help you avoid the same mistakes.

Racing Workouts  There is no substitute for hard work in training.  You have to practice digging deep to be able to do it on race day.  However, going too deep, too often in training can also lead to an inability to adapt to your training, breakdown, or flat racing.  Train hard, train consistently, but save the heroic efforts for race day.  While you should take confidence from your training, just wait and see how optimistic you feel after a few great races.

Passing Opportunities  With every interval, mile, and run so measured and often reported through online media and training sites, it is hard to back off training and put up bad numbers.  It is hard to back off to be rested going into a race and to back off to recover from a race when it will hurt your numbers.  Passing up too many racing opportunities to keep you numbers up is the exact definition of losing perspective.  You are training to race better, not training to train better.  I know some of my best fitness was wasted looking past too many opportunities and towards some big race a few months down the road.  Yes, this problem can swing the other way to too much racing so plan thoughtfully to balance training progress with racing results.

Dropping Good Habits  If you have done this welcome to the club that includes every runner ever.  After focusing on getting stronger and more flexible, getting more sleep, eating to maximize health and energy you feel so good, you stop doing these things until you break down.  Write these habits and practices in your training log right alongside the workout and mileage.  They allow you to get the most from the actual running.  Find a level that can be maintained.  Then maintain it!

Losing Balance  With both training and racing it is easy to stick with your strengths.  If you are a 5K runner that loves 12 x 400m, it is easy to never stray far from those.  A long steady state and a 10K-10M race may give you a new training effect to help you maintain a faster pace for the shorter distances.  If you are a marathoner who hates anything shorter than a 5M steady state run and wonder why anyone would pay to race under a half marathon, you could be shocked in a good way to find how easy marathon pace feels after a few 5K's and quarters.  The right balance at the right time is key to optimal training effect.  Staying at one end of the spectrum is a sure way to slow or stop your progress.

Not Listening  You body tells you everything you need to know.  It might start as a whisper, but it will tell you if you are approaching your limit or if you can do more.  Don't make it scream at you because that usually ends in a sports medicine visit.

Fixation on Time  Weather, course, biorhythms, pacing, and motivation only converge near perfectly a few times a year.  Yet, we often grade ourselves exclusively, sometimes pass or fail, on time.  If you fall into the trap of thinking only in terms of times and PR's you are missing many rewards.  Some of your best races may not fall into your top 10 times for a distance.  Learn to appreciate how you do on a particular course, or against frequent competitors to measure your race success.  You can show up and be doomed by one variable that is against you, such as heat.  Learn to embrace it and take the challenge to beat someone faster than you because you are either tougher or smarter or both, and will race better in bad circumstances.

No Deal 91.jpg

Resolution Redo?

How is that resolution working for you?  With one month down it is a good time to revisit your goal setting for 2018.  Many resolutions and goals can be saved with a timely tuneup.  Let's examine your progress and determine where you can adjust to maintain your momentum, get back on track, or get started.

Nothing is better than the moment you know the mission is accomplished!

Nothing is better than the moment you know the mission is accomplished!

Are you still as excited about your goal as when it was set?  It is rare to accomplish anything meaningful without enthusiasm.  If you are not excited not only by your goal, but the process it requires, it is time to either examine and regain your lost excitement or scrap this one on the mountain of unrealized resolutions.

Is your goal still important to you?  Some days you will look forward to your training and others you will be on the auto pilot of habit and commitment.  For the days you pause to ask and ponder, "Why am I doing this?", you better have an answer why this goal is important to you.  Better yet, have a few reasons why it is important because the most meaningful motivations may shift from time to time.

Have you made progress towards your goal?  Consider it a urgent alarm if you have not yet started towards your goal.  If you are still excited and it is still important, the time is now to start doing something to move you closer.  Build some momentum with the investment of time and effort.  If nothing else, careful planning and learning now will prove valuable when it is time to start.

Have you come to terms with imperfection?  Frustration and doubt are likely to creep in at the first sign of a setback or small failure.  They will come flooding in with the second and third.  Expect these along the way.  As a matter of fact, plan for them.  Know your flow-chart for a missed day or aches or pains or the interference of real life.  If there are any guarantees in life, imperfection is one of them.  Don't expect your training to be any different.

Have you accepted non-linear progress?  It sure would be comforting and encouraging if you could chart some measure of progress each week.  But we know some weeks it will come easy and other weeks you will feel you have gone backwards.  It is all part of the process of stress, rest, and adaptation.  Learn to welcome the plateaus and even the valleys because they are just building blocks of the next ascension.

Does your goal still seem reasonable?  Did you learn something you did not know you did not know or have you had a cold dose of reality?  If so, your goal may need a slight adjustment or a complete overhaul.  This should not be confused with failure.  It is simply mixing in the reality of your limitations to make your goal no less challenging, but within your reach.

Is your support team in place?  Do you have someone or a team of people that are helping you stay on track?  They can be a training partner, a coach, a mentor, or just a sounding block.  The important part is that someone else is checking on you and cheering for you. 

Do you need help clarifying your running purpose for 2018?  Contact Coach Matt Ebersole to set up a goal setting or review session today!




R&R Required

Max Williams, 68, on his way to the Monumental Marathon AG record.  Recovery and enthusisam are great anti-aging tools.

Max Williams, 68, on his way to the Monumental Marathon AG record.  Recovery and enthusisam are great anti-aging tools.

You are now in the pleasant valley between your Monumental race and your next big thing.  As nice as it is in this valley right now you know if you stay too long it will become uncomfortable.  Do make sure you stay here long enough to recover and to be ready for your next climb but start planning your next ascent before too much time passes.

After a race that was the focus of your training and maybe a good slice of your real life for a string of months you will need recovery time.  You will need to recover and recharge both physically and emotionally.  The two cannot be separated and many times the emotional recovery takes a bit longer.

How do you know if you need a break?  This is a good time to evaluate your history.  Do you find during long training periods your enthusiasm for the daily work and the big goal wanes and it begins to feel like a job and you just want to be done with the race?  Do you find you tend to drag little aches and pains around that inhibit consistent healthy training?  Are there people or things that have not gotten the time and attention they deserve?  If so, a break to reset mentally, get completely healthy, and to reestablish life balance is a really good idea.

Typically, runners fall into two categories after a big goal race.  Some are so ready for a break that the days turn into weeks and then into months until they have let themselves go so far they have an uphill battle to lose the potato chip weight before they can start actually training again.  Others are searching race calendars before the weekend is out looking for the next one.  As with most things in training and life there is a nice balance in between.

The key is to take a long enough break that when you start building and the mileage and intensity is brought back to a boil, you will not need another break until the new training cycle has been completed.  A good litmus test is that you should be excited about getting back to it.  If not, take some time to examine the reasons why your enthusiasm has abandoned you before forcing yourself back to work.

Running is a sport of passion and enthusiasm and without these in abundance running is simply no fun.  A planned break of a week or two once or twice a year can safeguard against physical breakdown but perhaps more importantly allow for emotional and mental recovery and rejuvenation.  Much like your daily recovery needs these breaks may look a great deal different from person to person.

While the specifics should vary for runners at different levels and psychological make ups, here is a recommendation for your annual or semiannual break.

Week One:         Very little to no running.  Possibly include some light cross-training for exercise and not to replace your run training.  Take most days completely off.

Week Two:         Some light running but nothing you would consider “training”.

Week Three:      Mostly relaxed running bringing your mileage back up to the low end of your normal range.

Week Four:        Add some quality and get back to business.

Health and enthusiasm is a very hard combination to beat.  They may only be a few recovery weeks away.  Enjoy!

All Hope Is Gone

Rob, a few years and miles later.  Thanks for the timeless lesson of good days vs bad days.

Rob, a few years and miles later.  Thanks for the timeless lesson of good days vs bad days.

All hope for a good race is gone, or so it seems.  After months of hard work you are finally getting close to race day, the weather is beginning to cooperate more often, and you are feeling fit.  Then you run a race or one of your few remaining long runs and it's a disaster.  Before you crossed the finish line or ended the long run the big questions storm through your mind.  What was I thinking when I signed up for this race?  Why do I do this to myself?  What is the meaning of life?  

You have invested a significant amount of precious time and energy, let alone heart and soul into your training.  You have tried to temper your expectations, but things were going so well until today.  You might even start thinking about pushing your race back to a later date.  You need more training,  Yes, that is it, you just need more training.

Let's get back to reality.  It was just a bad day.  If you have done the training, run the miles, the long runs, some quality from time to time and you have had many days that tell you that your fitness is there, you are ready to race.  Don't let one day derail you.

Here's what I've figured out.  Get ready, more quantum mechanics from the coach.  A great race or training day tells us you are in great shape.  There is no such thing as lucky in running.  Maybe the variables aligned to make it extra special and it was an A+ day, but it was your body and your mind that ran the time.  A good day means you are in good shape and should expect a good race.  A bad day means, well, that you had a bad day.  Nothing more or less.  Do you best to figure it out and avoid whatever cocktail of circumstances led to your pride swallowing performance.  And then move on to more good days.

One of my favorite stories to tell my runners after a bad race or training day at a critical time is about one of my former training partners, Rob Seymour.  Years ago we used to do a point to point from 146th Street and Meridian to Eagle Creek Park, 22 miles away.  We would transport the runners to the start and their car was waiting a few hours away at the finish line.  This particular year this was the last long run before his goal marathon.  To make sure people did not get lost on their way back I would drive back and forth on the course checking on them.  I came across Rob with about 2 miles to go and to say the least he was hating life.  I don't remember the exact exchange but when I offered him a ride because he was clearly done for the day, I think he said he hated himself, hating running, and probably hated me.  He managed to hike his way back to the finish.  Fast forward two weeks and Rob toed the line of his marathon with a half marathon PR of something in the low 1:30's and a marathon PR of several minutes over 3 hours.  Rob set many personal records that day.  He ran just a little under 1:30 for his first half (Half marathon PR!), he ran low 1:29 for the second half (Half marathon PR #2!) and finished in 2:59:01 (marathon PR!).  Amazing what he would have missed had he given up all hope for a good day after one bad day. 

Ideal Long Run Pace? Well, it depends...

Other than a few adventurous win or die trying types, the first marathon objective is to make it to the finish.  After that is no longer in doubt, the challenge becomes about getting to the finish before the clock strikes your personal midnight.  For many, your personal midnight has been determined by our friends at the Boston Athletic Association.  And then for some it becomes about being faster than the rest.  While there is overlap between how the finishers, pacers, and racers should perform their long runs, we will pretend for the purposes of this post that each prepares in their own way.

Collin Trent finished, paced (his fastest and slowest miles were within 9 seconds, -5/+4 of his average pace), and raced, finishing 20th at Monumental 2016.

Collin Trent finished, paced (his fastest and slowest miles were within 9 seconds, -5/+4 of his average pace), and raced, finishing 20th at Monumental 2016.

Finishers need to focus on, well, finishing their long runs.  Keep moving and show off early at your own peril.  Slower is fine if it allows you to complete gradually increasing longer runs.  For first time marathoners this can be all kinds of fun as you might be running the longest distance you have ever run on a regular basis as you build towards your longest, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 miles, before going 26.2 on race day.  This is pure endurance training done specifically to keep moving without regard to pace.

Pacers have typically already finished a marathon or two or have the resume that leaves little doubt of their ability to do so.  Now thinking about the specific demands on the legs and lungs over the actual last half of the race (10K, not the mathematical half, 13.1M) becomes paramount.  Running slow for 20 miles in training is not an effective way to prepare to run faster for 26.2.  The lungs need to be trained to be working as sub maximally as possible while the legs can handle the tension of a well paced race until the end.  Running faster workouts along with some higher intensity work added to the long runs will prepare the last of the muscle fibers called upon for service to produce the force needed to maintain the stride length necessary to maintain pace.  The ways to recruit the last fibers in training are only limited by imagination but they all include quads and other strategic muscles on the verge of going AWOL often accompanied by heavy breathing.  I have written a related post on goal pace running.

Racing the marathon is a bit different than shorter distances.  In most races it is you versus them.  In the marathon it is you and your teammate, the distance, against them.  Even if you cannot cover the moves of your competitors, the distance itself may finish them off for you.  So simultaneously you will need to be aware of what those around you are doing, but also your own personal very real and unforgiving limits.  True racing not only requires your ability to run a strong pace, but stay in the race after going a little too hard and recovering at that strong pace.  In addition to everything the Pacers will do in their training, races will need to add elements to their long runs that put them just enough over the edge of their limits that they can bring it back again without having to slow or stop.

Clarifying your marathon goal and current fitness will help you determine the right mix for your marathon success.