This weekend’s long run was the last of the ‘long’ runs before the Dublin Marathon. Yes, next week will have an 18-miler but 20 miles is really what makes a long run. There have been so many experiments over the last year. I’ve made mistakes – I’ve learned from those mistakes. I’ve taken the learning and applied it to my training to yield verifiably better results. As such, experimentation has now come to an end. This weekend it was all about validating the strategy that we thought would serve us best in Dublin. The pacing plan that would prove we were race ready.
Experiment Seven is the run that stands apart in the catalogue of long run experiments for the year. A distilled version of a longer 22-mile run (Experiment Five). It forced me to confront shorter in-run recovery periods while maintaining significant intervals of focussed effort. This pacing strategy incorporated the most feedback from other sessions. Also, it was the pattern that filled all of us with the most hope for Dublin.
Having run this format only a few weeks back, it was now about validating the belief. Our longer experiment 2 weeks ago with a 5-mile interval sub-pace revealed a breaking point. We had to be sure that 4-mile intervals worked. Absolutely no heroes allowed for this run. Precise execution, running steady sub-pace intervals without trying to reach beyond the goal irrespective of how we felt. We wouldn’t be race ready if we couldn’t control our running to fit the strategy.
Controlling the pace was essential. We already knew that we could successfully run this distance in this format. However, psychologically we needed to finish the run knowing there was more within us. We’re not race ready if we’re all out after 20 miles! No mile below 7:15 pace and equally important no mile flagging greater than 7:30 pace. It was as controlled as it could be, running in the open on rolling terrain. The run took roughly 100 seconds longer than the last time we ran this format. The explanation of the discrepancy is very important though. Looking at the two runs side-by-side below, we can see exactly where the differences occurred. Faster recovery miles contributing the bulk thereof.
My average heart rate was good. Perhaps a little elevated by the end of the 3rd set of 4 miles but certainly within reason to assume that it could be sustained for another 6.2 miles. I would like to see a bit more Zone 3 behaviour in the data but the better news is that there was very little Zone 5 activity.
I believe that I am as race ready as I can be at this stage. So much effort has gone into this over the last year. The guinea pig trial opened my eyes that I needed to do something more to progress. The confidence gained from the introduction of weight training resulted in big mileage. I started to believe that I could go out any weekend and experiment rather than just run the distance. It has been both exciting and educational. I have learned an awful lot about how I function as a runner and also how I can do better.
Three weeks to go before toeing the line in Dublin. It’s the “cotton wool” stage of training. Taper will be made up of fewer weekly miles but the weekend long run will not completely fall off. The next two weeks will see 18 miles with some fun intervals and an easy 16-miler before putting the feet up properly. Dublin should hopefully be just another weekend run. Albeit in the very good company of 22,500 people!