Friday, September 26, 2008

Back To Back

We’re having the nicest spell of sunny weather since probably the start of the year, but it’s also getting really cold during my runs. The temperatures were about 5C/40F over the last few mornings, and that feels really cold, especially at the start of the run when I'm not warmed up yet. I’m sure I will get used to it quickly enough.

I also saw the stars for the first time in a long, long time. Throughout the summer it was cloudy every single morning. At least I think it was every single morning – I genuinely cannot remember when I last saw a brilliant night sky, until this week that is.

I took it easy on Wednesday, but I think the low temperatures made me run a bit faster than I otherwise would have. My fingers felt like falling off, and the first thing I did on my return was to dig into my winter clothes until I found my light gloves. I wanted to make sure that I would not leave the gloves behind for another day. This turned out to be a good move.

As I was already making changes to this week’s schedule, I fiddled with the workouts a bit more. Over the last few weeks I have done tempo runs on Thursday followed by a long run on Friday, with the exception of the race week, of course. Yesterday I decided to run a marathon pace run instead, followed by a long run today, which is the "classic" back-to-back workout that had been proposed by Mike’s Mystery Coach.

Out I went on Thursday for 10 miles, with 7 at marathon pace, which should have been 6:52, but, like almost all training runs of that kind, ended up being closer to 7:00. At least I managed to run 6:56 this time round, which is the fastest “marathon pace” run I’ve done so far. Of course my true marathon pace will not be revealed until the end of October, but that’s a different issue. In any case, I was reasonably pleased with the run. I felt ok, and I was reasonably confident that the effort level had been correct.

For today’s long run I decided to wear my racing shoes. This was the first time I have worn that pair outside a race for the entire training cycle. My problems with PF had stopped me from wearing them for any training runs, but since that has been improving ever since I started massaging my left foot twice a day I decided I could risk it. The hope was, of course, that the lighter shoes would enable me to run fast enough to hit the proper pace for a change. In fact, I was quite looking forward to the run, even though I knew it would be a tough workout. The plan was to run 10 miles at 91% of marathon pace (7:30) and 10 miles at marathon pace (6:52).

I started out really well. Normally it takes me about 2 miles to get warmed up properly, and that’s when I start hitting the correct pace. Not so today, within half a mile I was doing 7:30, and for the next few miles I continually had to slow myself down whenever I glanced at the Garmin because the figures kept being around 7:00-7:20 more often than not. I eventually turned off the backlight of the watch and decided to run purely by feel. I must have slowed down towards the end of that loop, which was unsurprising because it starts getting hilly at that stage, with mile 8-9 sporting a 100-feet raise in elevation. I turned the light back on when I got close to our driveway, and the pace was almost spot on at 7:29. After having a drink (and subsequently feeling too full for a few minutes afterwards) I set out for the second half of that run. Initially I almost hit the pace, but eventually things started to go downhill, and not just from an elevation point of view. Try as you might, 6:52 was as elusive as ever, and the figures seemed to gather around the 6:58 mark. By mile 15 I definitely started to tire, and my mile 17 I was suffering, though that coincided with a return of the hills, which definitely contributed to that feeling. The Dublin marathon sports a few hills from the halfway point to the 20-mile mark, and my route today resembled that fairly closely, so it should have been a fairly specific workout. Mile 18-19 sported the same nasty climb again, and even a stronger last mile didn’t get me under the 7:00 pace mark for that loop. On the plus side, I felt ok afterwards. My endurance is there; in fact I'm sure it was there all along. I could have run a marathon on pretty much any day in the summer; however, racing a marathon is an entirely different task altogether.

I should take solace from the fact that despite not hitting the desired paces I’m still in my best shape ever. On 15 May I had run 17 miles with 15 miles at (then) marathon pace of 7:10 and was ecstatic afterwards, because it showed me that I was in shape to run 3:10 in Cork, which subsequently happened. Today’s run was better than that, and a new PR is pretty much a given unless I get ill or injured (and/or do something truly stupid). However, my target is more ambitious than that, possibly over-ambitious this time round. Of course there will be more marathons to come, and if I can keep on improving for a little bit longer then the 3 hours barrier will fall sooner or later. Distance running is a long game in more than one sense. I’ll try and keep that in mind.

24 Sep
9 miles, 1:10:50, 7:52 pace, HR 139
25 Sep
10 mile, 1:11:59, 7:12 pace, HR 156
incl. 7 miles @ 6:56
26 Sep
20 miles, 2:25:04, 7:15 pace, HR 152
with 10 miles @ 7:29, 10 miles @ 7:01


  1. That 20 miler with the last 10 miles @ MP is certainly a tough workout and very difficult to achieve especiallty given the 7 hard miles the day before. Certainly great training for Dublin.

    The mornings are certainly colder this week.

  2. Like Grellan says, these can be tough runs. When I'm doing these it seems that the first run is a good barometer for the second run, so if the pace isn't coming easily on Saturday I don't expect the same pace to feel any more manageable on Sunday. In fact, all of my back to backs so far have had slower paces prescribed on Sunday (when compared to Saturday), and I still haven't done a Saturday/Sunday this cycle at my goal marathon pace.

    This is a long way of saying "don't sweat it too much".

  3. That's a formidable workout all on your own like that. As you say, you're in even better shape this time around so good things are in store. Take care.

  4. its always great to see a steady improvement,and that was a good strong long run you put in, but tell me whats the reason for moving away a bit from the brain training programme, do you find it to intensive!

  5. Hi Thomas,

    I never thought it is doable to get up to put a long run in before work.

    I do enjoy the night and the sun rise.