Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The last long Run

I have this key workout that has been very effective in previous builds, namely 20 miles with the first 10 at 90% marathon pace and the second 10 at marathon pace. I don’t claim coming up with this myself; like all other training runs I got the idea from someone else, and apparently it is a staple in many marathoners’ programs including Ryan Hall's.

When training for Dublin I had done this as part of a back-to-back double, but this time I wanted to run it on fresh legs (remember last week? I do!) and I ran 7.5 very easy miles on Monday. This should have been 8, but because the clocks had just gone forward it felt too early to get up initially. Incidentally, my heart rate for that run was lower than for any other run in the present training cycle, so a) I really did take it easy and b) I’m still gaining fitness.

I had to get up at 5 am today, which is not the earliest I have ever risen, but my body clock is still on winter time, which meant it was basically 4 in the morning for me. My limbs were shaking as I got out of bed, but I slowly managed to wake up properly. It took me a bit longer than normal to get ready (blame the drowsiness), and I was slightly worried about not having enough time to finish the workout.

When I opened the door the light of my headlamp was reflected back by millions of tiny droplets right in front of me. Not only was it still pitch dark, we had the heaviest fog I can remember. It was so thick that I could barely see the road markings, even with the light set to full strength.

I got into the run straight from the off. Normally I run the first one or two miles at leisurely pace, but this was marathon preparation and I tried to get up to speed from the start. I soon discovered that I was doing better than planned. 90% of marathon pace is about 7:30, and I was easily running 7:15 pace. I did dial the effort down a little bit because I wanted to make sure I would not ruin the more important second half of the run. The coolest moment came at about 6 miles when I was passing a field with about 7 horses that all started to run alongside me. Because of the thick fog and the still forbidden darkness I could only catch a few glimpses of them, but I could hear them very clearly. Sadly, their field was fenced off after half a mile of equine companionship and I had to continue on my own. The third quarter of the loop is the toughest with a few climbs; not big or steep but enough to slow you down. I came back to our driveway after 10 miles at 7:18 pace, and the heart rate had mostly stayed in the low 150s, well below marathon effort.

After a gel and a few sips of water I was out for the second loop, sans headlamp, hoping to run at 6:50 pace. Obviously the effort was a lot stronger now, and when I checked the Garmin after about 2 miles I was rather disappointed to see an average pace of 7:15. I pushed a bit harder to make up the lost time, but when I was well past the 3 mile point of that loop and the average pace was still only around 7:10 I finally caught on to the fact that I was looking at the average pace for the entire run rather than just for that loop! Thomas you idiot!! One button later that was rectified and I gazed at an average loop pace of 6:48, much better and well on target. I passed the same group of horses again, finally being able to see the beautiful creatures properly. I lost a few seconds per mile on the climb again but made up for it on the other side and came home a second time, just under 68 minutes later, average pace 6:48.

I am highly pleased with that effort, and who knows, it might even indicate that I’m in shape for a sub-3 marathon in Boston, something that I had doubted beforehand. I can’t really compare the workout to the one I had done before Dublin because of the rested legs, but I was substantially faster today. At the very least this was a great confidence booster.

And now I guess I’m tapering.

There is a change of plan for the weekend. I got a phone call last night inviting me to join a local running club and to turn up on Sunday for a 5k in Ardfert, which is much closer to home than Cork. I pretty much accepted, and we will probably make this a family day out (I wanted the kids to see Ardfert for quite some time anyway), and I have less worries about a 5k 2 weeks before the marathon than I would have with a 10k. It looks like I will have to wait a bit longer to go under 39 minutes. Ah well.
30 Mar
7.5 miles, 1:04:19 pace, HR 131
31 Mar
20 miles, 2:20:57, 7:03 pace, HR 154
incl. 10 miles @ 7:18, 10 miles @ 6:48

Monthly mileage: 353


  1. Nice gallop Thomas, I will put money on you for the GRAND NATIONAL!

  2. P.S. that must be one of your fastest ever long runs, looking really good!

  3. The decision to do the 5K instead of the 10K sounds sensible. The hardest part about the taper can be feeliing that you should be doing more running. I have been very impressed by the way you have kept your family prominant in your mind during the past 6 months. The next three weeks is the time to enjoy doing even more things with your family.

  4. Nice work Thomas! Freshish legs are great aren't they? Good luck with the race this weekend.

  5. Thomas, I would put money on you going under 3hrs especially as Boston has so many down hills, you can start to really look forward to it now - the hard work is complete and you got to the otherside without injury and in great shape. Good luck. JAB.

  6. 20 miles at 7:03 pace and all at 5 in the morning - Epic. Roll on Boston.

    Don't do anything stoopid now - the work is done. Although I heard that Red Bull have brought out a "Marathon Special Brew" in a variety of flavours, including

  7. Great run Thomas. You have every right to be very confident of breaking 3 in Boston.

    The 5k sounds like the ideal tune-up race. Have fun!

  8. I'm impressed by your early run. I would never be able to that early in the morning. Hope you will go under 3 hours in Boston.

    Please check out my blog about long distance running in Sweden

  9. One day we run like horses... Great effort Thomas!!! Sub 3 in Boston or not? Something tells me you can make IT real.
    P.S. If you put your Boston DVD on eBay or somewhere, I'm buying it.