Yesterday I wrote about Discipline – how my lack of it at key times may have cost me my goal in my last marathon.
Our race day performances are, more times than not, a reflection of the training we have put in over the course of weeks and months. My training cycle leading into Boston felt great. My workouts were fast (for me). Except for the recovery runs, they were all fast. That isn’t a huge problem when you’re running tempo or VO2Max runs, but it is a problem when you are doing your medium-long and long runs.
There is a physiological purpose to the long, slow distance:
Pure endurance training stimulates [your ability to store glycogen and use fat for fuel] and increases the capillarization of your muscles…the primary type of training to stimulate these adaptations is runs of 90 minutes or longer…long runs are the bread and butter of marathoners…the most beneficial intensity range for most of your long runs is 10 to 20 percent slower than your goal marathon race pace.
My issue was that once I was out there on Sundays I would get sucked in by how good I felt. Almost every time I was out on the road, I would realize early on that my splits were faster than the prescribed training. My goal of a sub-3:15 marathon called for me to run the marathon at about a 7:24/mile pace. According to Pfitzinger, I should have been running my long runs 10% – 20% slower than marathon pace. That means I should have been running my long runs between 8:08 and 8:52 per mile pace. It is at these speeds that the physiological changes occur to increase one’s endurance. Looking back, my long run would start in the mid to low 8′s and ultimately end up in the mid to low 7′s.
Well, Luau, if you could run faster at those distances, isn’t that a good thing?
Here’s the thing – all those run simply proved was that I could run those distances (12 – 20 miles) at or near marathon pace. They did not in fact do what the long run is designed to do, which is improve endurance.
So why didn’t you slow down?
That’s a damned good question. Logically, that’s what I should have done. I could see the splits on my watch. I knew that I was running too fast. But here’s the problem – I’m a mildly competitive person, not necessarily with others, but with myself. I had a hard time slowing down. Mentally I just couldn’t do it.
So what to do?
Obviously knowing my mile splits didn’t do it for me. I felt good so I kept at the pace. My legs didn’t feel like they were working too hard, and I was able to convince myself that if I felt good I could and should keep going.
I could fool my legs, I could fool my brain, but there is one part of the body I cannot fool – my heart.
One of the purest ways to determine how hard you are working is by listening to your heart. The harder you work, the faster it beats. It’s pretty simple. When I trained under the Pfitzinger plans for both Smuttynose and Boston, I trained during the week solely based on time, or what I perceived my various levels (Recovery, General Aerobic, Long Run, Marathon Pace, Lactate Threshold and VO2Max) to be. I determined my times based on past races. The only problem is that some race results indicated that I could run a 3:07 marathon, while others indicated a 3:17. 10 minutes may not seem like a lot to a non-marathoner, but believe me, it is.
Guess which indicators I chose to believe?
As runners, we hear over and over again, train at the fitness level that you are at, NOT at the level you want to be. Training where you are allows you to get better and improve; while training where you want to be, though exciting, can lead to undue injury and, possibly in my case, missing the point of certain runs all together.
So over the past week, I have dusted off the old heart monitor (I think it actually belongs to the wife), and decided I would let me heart lead my workouts. Yes, I will literally allow my heart to dictate what the pace of the day (based on the prescribed workouts) will be. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that my heart rate remains relatively low when it comes to my Recovery and General Aerobic runs. It may all be an indication that I was previously running too slow during the week and too fast over the weekends.
We shall see…stay tuned!
Now, if I could only get Garmin to send me the new Forerunner 610, I’d be all set!