Saturday’s 12-Mile Training Run

Training runs are a necessary evil, evil because of the inflexibility associated with them. Well, you may say, isn’t it on the runner to decide if, when and where to run? And you’re right of course, it is, but is there really a choice at the point when it was already a forgone conclusion at the onset of training. See, the plan is in place so that a particular goal can be achieved, which necessitates the “evil” training run. This training run must then happen regardless of the weather, one’s feelings, and generally despite every circumstance save death and illness and even then if it’s not your own.

The New Jersey Skyline

In this vein, my training runs are in full swing and I have designated Saturdays as “evil Saturdays.” Of course I’m kidding, mostly anyway. I happen to enjoy running in nice weather and I love Saturdays so there’s not much evil there. However, when faced with unfriendly conditions things can become a bit dicey pretty quickly as was the case this past weekend.

View over the Hudson River

I got up this past Saturday morning to overcast skies and, what I felt was, perfect running conditions. Sadly, I couldn’t head right off to run as I had a volunteer gig early that morning. It took all of 10 minutes into volunteering to realize it wasn’t only overcast but windy and chilly as well. That didn’t stop droves of people from taking over the streets as usual and it didn’t stop me from running. Up till then I was undecided about where I would run, but as it happened I was on the lower west side and decided then and there that along the west side highway would make for a perfect run sans sunshine. I started off at W 30th street and soon realized that many runners had the same idea; thus, I wasn’t wanting for company only for the wind to chill. I ended up running up to Harlem and stopped beneath the George Washington Bridge around W 178th Street. A cool 10 miles or thereabout and took it about 2 miles back. One of the bad or good things about the “evil” training run is that despite the wind, and the fact that it tried its darndest to bring my pace to a crawl, which resulted in an 8:15/min/mile, I was heavily invested with sacrificing my time, effort, and sleep, therefore I was bound to prevail.

Side view of the George Washington Bridge

Nevertheless, I did better than prevail, I was able to run a negative split (a faster second half) and felt pretty good upon reaching the bridge and even stopped for a few pictures as the view over the water against the backdrop of New Jersey, the Palisades and the ominous skies was gorgeous.

I did it!

As it was, I finished in better spirits than when I started and so remain totally committed to my training runs. There is a bit of a cliché lesson here: things are definitely not always what they seem and if we but have the gumption to stick it out, we can come out better for it. And I’m not even talking my PR goal yet, we’ll get there.

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Training Day: long-run Saturdays


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For the past four weeks or so, I’ve been in training mode preparing for the Boston Marathon in April. Seems I’m always in-training these days, though I did have a few weeks off last November. No matter, the important thing is to get it in so as to be up and ready when the big day comes. To this end, I’ve been paying mind to the necessary components of a good training plan, particularly the long run aspect. I should stress that all parts of a plan are important; however the long-run, for me, is of great significance because of two things: the opportunity to develop strength and endurance and, in the latter phase of training, the opportunity it presents to simulate your race day strategy.

Developing strength and endurance happens over time, it involves steadily increasing mileage and alternating workouts to encompass building speed, stamina aka endurance and running efficiency. Any good training plan, for the average runner concerned with running a marathon goal time, will include speedwork: interval training, some hill work, tempo runs and long runs and rest days. The long run builds slowly over weeks (between 16-22 weeks) of training up to two weeks before race day. During this period, the focus is on building endurance through getting the body accustomed to running for longer periods each week, gradually increasing mileage to the point where one can confidently and comfortably complete 20-22 miles. For example, in my training, my long runs may start at around week 8 with 12-13 miles (which is really a bit of a medium-long run) to which I will add-on a couple of miles each week.

From early on, it’s important to plan these days and decide on which works best for you. Turns out Saturdays are ideal for my long runs as I’m mostly off from work and I can choose to either rest longer in the am ( during winter anyhow) and run later in the day or get it in early and have the rest of the day off. Usually, I try to get to bed at a decent hour the night before so I’ll wake up rested and ready to go. Also, I try to eat my carbs and hydrate well leading up to Saturday; this is all to make sure I’m in the best place to accomplish my mileage without killing myself. Most times it works out great, I clear my schedule and leave my day open for running and I’m able to do just that.

As it gets closer to crunch time – by then I will have racked up the necessary mileage and developed the level of endurance I need – I’m able to use my remaining long runs to simulate race day. On these runs, the focus is on running efficiency: pace, hydration and strategy. The idea is to perfect a plan based on the above in as near to similar conditions as race day to help project performance on that day; this will help to build confidence and race preparedness. I’m under no illusion that mastering the long-run will ensure stellar performance on race day. On the contrary, there are no guarantees in running as so much is particular to that run and that day. What your training long-runs do is give you the ability to control what you can and give you the confidence – ammunition if you will –  to go out there on race day and do the best you can.

The Tempo Run: the key to your fastest marathon

Source: strengthrunning.com

Source: strengthrunning.com

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably asked yourself a time or few what you need to do to improve your time – your 26.2 time that is – and if you have, chances are you’ve tried a thing or two and it has either worked or not-so-much. Well, since we’re always on the look-out for new and improved ways to up our running game I figure this is a must share. Elite and competitive athletes and coaches agree that the tempo run is the best indicator of your marathon time. For my part, I swear by it as a significant if not the most important aspect of half marathon and marathon training. While the long run is essential to build endurance, the tempo run is critical to racing success as it trains your body to sustain speed over distance (Former Elite Athlete and Coach, Toby Tanser)

A tempo run is a faster paced run also known as lactate-threshold (the point at which your body fatigues at a certain pace ), LT or threshold run. It is running at a hard but somewhat comfortable pace where you you can answer a question but conversing would be difficult. A classic tempo run would be running at this sustained pace for about 2-4 miles. The idea is to run hard but not going all out as though racing, you can go this way for a while but you would be happy to slow down the pace as well.

Tempo runs improve our metabolic fitness by teaching the body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently by increasing your lactate-threshold. Carwyn Sharp, Ph.D., an exercise scientist and marathoner claims that lactate and hydrogen ions, which are by-products of metabolism, are released into the muscles during tempo runs. These ions make the muscles acidic, leading to fatigue. It follows that the better trained you are, the higher your threshold as your muscles become better at using lactate and hydrogen ions resulting in less acid in your muscles, which keep on contracting thus allowing you to run faster.

The tempo run will vary for different runners with varying goals and differing thresholds. But the result will remain the same, a definite increase in your ability to maintain your speed over longer distances. While it seems then that the tempo run is beneficial primarily for longer runs such as a 10 miler to the marathon, as it is run somewhere between 15k and half marathon pace, the 5k runner too can benefit to a smaller degree. The key here for runners is consistency and intensity; running regularly as often as once per week during peak training time and at a consistent pace (your threshold) will improve your running and put you in the best position to run your fastest marathon.

This is going to be a key component of my training for Boston 2016. I’ve discovered in my running that boundaries are there to be pushed, obstacles to overcome and benchmarks to be reached. We will only ever know what we are capable of when we push ourselves beyond our perceived limits. I figure the tempo run is one way of discovering the dormant Kenyan in me. LOL

Reference: runnersworld.com

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