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the experiments: experiment six

Hard to believe the last of my long run experiments was back in May of this year. A fun few months of very different distance training for me, recently derailed by injury and illness. The road to the Dublin Marathon has started though and that means mileage must start to increase too. Despite the enforced hiatus, I really want to get to that start line with as much of my training plan put into action as is possible.

The experiment to kick things off again was by no means a gentle introduction. It wasn’t my idea either; a hat tip is due to Jason who devised this testing 18-miler. We ran a couple of interesting 16-milers over the last two weeks but this was different. Rather than a sub-pace, contiguous block of 10 miles in the middle, this was a ratchet job. A gentle 2 miles of warm-up, followed by 6 miles just above race pace, then step it up to 8 miles very sub-pace, then finally 2 miles to look back and think about what we had done.

All my experiments so far have been solo runs. They have been about finding a point of failure (in a positive way) so that I can work on that threshold and push myself beyond, to realise the ambition of the marathon time I’m chasing. Teaming up with the guys to run an experiment immediately added to the apprehension – don’t let the squad down. It’s funny how your mind takes over so quickly for no reason – the mental fragility I wrote about previously. Luckily the #BVSC crew take no $%&@ from nobody and gave me a stern talking to at the first mention of doubt. It’s easier to suffer than to bring that rebuking upon one’s self! 😄


The Waterford Greenway was again the stage for this next entry in the experiments series. Despite the early self-doubt we settled into the target pace for the first 6-mile segment after warm-up. There were a few dodgy miles when we missed target by a few of seconds. In our defence, we were running into a strong headwind but still we could have perhaps kept a closer eye on the pace. It wasn’t so bad that it negated the effect of that first 6-mile segment though. The legs were still working and being drained of their freshness.

By the time we hit the turn, we were running steady. The next 8-mile section was going to be a little challenging. The target pace zone was 7:15-7:30 per mile but we were running a slightly cool 7:45 for the last 6 miles. Dropping the pace by 15+ seconds a mile would be a big ask on legs that were no longer fresh. Adrenaline and a slight tail wind gave rise to the perfect first mile of 8, a 7:17 to get the legs moving to the right rhythm.

the experiments get underway again with a good test of the status quo and 14 miles of less than easy running
the experiments get underway again with a good test of the status quo and 14 miles of less than easy running

Four miles into the segment though, I could feel the strain. I didn’t glance at the heart rate (keep the mind focussed on running) and I dared not suggest I was struggling but I knew I was under a little pressure. Looking at the charts afterwards, it was at that point my heart rate climbed into the top of Zone 4. I still didn’t hit my aerobic threshold during the run but that wasn’t the point of the run either. Ultimately I need to keep my heart rate where it was for the first 12 miles or marginally above that. A soon as I push past 155bpm I’m fighting against myself too much over distance. The mantra, as always is “get it done”. Good, bad, or indifferent we always try to complete the distance. Afterwards, we go to the drawing board to see what today’s lesson is (view Garmin data).

A lot of crazy things are said when the BVSC running group gets together. Some don’t understand how we can talk so much yet run so far. I confess there were some quiet periods for me in those last 4 sub-pace miles. Still, the Instagram post of the day managed to carry the rather bizarre #SomeManToDragADonkeyHome #CalfCleavage and #TeamShep – you don’t even need to ask! Join the Facebook group, follow the BVSC on Twitter, or on Instagram. Follow the fun and madness and occasionally some learning, as we chase marathon ambitions. The experiments will continue until goals are achieved or we learn that we cannot.

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