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the experiments: experiment seven

The Dublin Marathon is getting close now which means that the experiments have to become more focussed. A lot of time and effort went into the early months of this year. Time taken to find failure points and identify limits. The last number of weeks served to regain fitness and strength. This week was about focus and absolutely nailing a long distance run with lots of quality sub-pace running.

The group has run some great sessions over the last number of weeks to help me get back into some sort of shape again. When thinking about the structure for this entry in the experiments, I went to the back catalogue. I have tested a variety of sub-pace intervals in my long run experiments and some have broken me more than others. Few have truly left me with a great sense of positivity. Experiment five was one of those few. It was a 22-mile run with a 3/4, 2/4, 2/4, 3 breakdown (the 4s at sub-pace).

While Experiment Five didn’t leave me skipping around, fresh as a daisy, it did help me mentally. It was a run where I took a lesson from one of the other experiments and listened to the changes I needed to make. I missed splits and failed on consistency but I did get my goal average for each interval. I was keen to apply this format to a shorter 20-mile run – so we did. The breakdown was a 3/4, 1/4, 1/4, 3. The 4s were run sub-pace with everything else prescribed as easy pace.


The immediate difference for this run compared with Experiment Five was the shorter recovery intervals. Keeping us honest as some would say. I did warn the others that the second 1-mile recovery was going to be a subconscious question. Past experience told me the body would tire at this point. It’s easier to spin back up to target pace by running quicker rather than hitting a slower recovery pace.

perfect, consistent splits, the best of the experiments so far
perfect, consistent splits, the best of the experiments so far

I really could not be happier with the splits above. That’s just about as close to perfection as I could have hoped for. Not one split missed the target pace zone (7:15–7:30/mile). There were no wild pace changes either that could not be attributed to downhill sections.

We paced it precisely. One 250ml bottle of water with electrolyte mix carried from the start and nothing else. Cool down felt comfortable. Heart rate responded to the drop in pace without much delay.

nice charts, reflecting controlled running and no wayward heart rate
nice charts, reflecting controlled running and no wayward heart rate

Then of course there is mile 13. The second 1-mile recovery interval. As expected, without trying, the pace hovered between recovery and target, nowhere near as slow as the first 1-mile recovery interval. I couldn’t but smile.

We finished this run as fresh as one could be after 20 miles of strong running. Atop we had just run 12 miles of sub-pace effort giving us a 60:40 split in favour of sub-pace running. This was a confidence building run. This is a great entry in the experiments series (view Garmin data).

Thoughts quickly turned to how this should be adapted to tackle 22 miles. Sets of 6 was my initial thinking but sets of 5 may work better as a stepping stone before we ramp up to 6-mile intervals and 18 miles of sub-pace effort. We will get there though and when we do, 18 miles of sub-pace in the bank before Dublin will have confidence levels at an all-time high.

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