the long runs: second twenty
Last week’s foray back into the 20-mile zone of the long runs went well. It went very well; I could not have been happier about it. Since my school days, I have regularly used a phrase that I first heard one of my English teachers say. It’s attributed to French author/philosopher Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle: “from the sublime to the ridiculous”. I can think of no other quote that I could use to best illustrate that run, followed by this week’s repeat of the same 20 miles.
This weekend, Storm Dennis hit Ireland. Just one of the 453 storms we now seem to enjoy each year! Rain has never been my biggest bugbear but wind; oh wind, how I despise thee! So, with the advent of Storm Dennis, a nice gusty weekend lay in store for the long runs. Lovely!
Accompanied for the duration by the only other person mad enough to endure such weather, James (still enjoying off-season) acted as the model rabbit for the entire run. Staying ahead on the fast sets and giving me something to chase. I won’t lie, I was struggling early on into that wind. The weather forecast for our time slot this morning is below. A steady 56km/h headwind for the first 10 miles with gusts of up to 70km/h. I don’t disbelieve that it is accurate.
Just one mile into the first set of 4 at pace and I was querying my heart rate. It felt like I was working like hell. Checking my watch, changing the data screen, I accidentally hit the split button. Oh how that annoyed me. I reset the lap interval again after 7 miles as I couldn’t live with off-zero beeps. Thus I have a wonderful 21 real splits to show for a 20-mile run!
Thanks to the split button error, the initial set of 4 at pace is best judged by the average pace per lap. A range of 7:28 to 7:40 into that headwind, resulting in 3 missed split targets. I honestly couldn’t do anything about it. I think the heart rate belies just how hard I felt it.
Looking at the charts – ah yeah, all is grand!! Nice smooth pace blocks with sensible recovery miles at the designated times. Perfect. Absolutely not! The first set of 4 at pace was a write-off. The first recovery mile between sets was a struggle to register a 9min/mile effort.
The time in zones chart confuses me somewhat. Why? Well, compared to last week’s chart I spent 22 minutes less in Zone 4 this week. That’s 22 minutes of freedom despite feeling like I had just moved all the blocks for the Pharaoh’s new pyramid to get into his good books. I really don’t understand – was the wind literally just taking my breath away and knocking me about a little without my effort going up but making it feel that way? It’s best that we should not dwell on it but I’m scratching my head right now (view Garmin data). Perhaps it’s because I didn’t wear my chest strap? Maybe the heart rate isn’t accurate despite the charts looking convincing enough?
From the sublime to the ridiculous. That’s it in a nutshell. I don’t believe in calling off a run just for the weather. There’s always a chance it can get worse. You can only be so wet and as my mate Peter says, “you can only get wet once”. The mantra of “you never regret doing a run” still holds true.
There are some things I have to say about this run though. I may have mentioned the wind already (did I?) but I have to come back to it again. We didn’t imagine it. Around 9.5 miles into the run before the turn home, we crossed an opening, exposed to the full brunt of the gale. I could see James ahead of me moving to the right slightly. I thought he was just positioning himself on the path – I was wrong. When I reached the gap, I nearly tripped over myself. The gusts were blowing my raised foot into the calf of my planted leg. Honestly, I have never experienced anything like it.
The wind at our backs slightly (all runners know when you’ve put in the hard yards against the wind, it never repays the favour when you turn your back on it) on the way home did make life a lot easier. It’s evident from the splits. All 6 miles at pace on the way home were between 7:16 and 7:22 pace. Back to the split times of the sublime from last week.
I have another thing to confess also. This run was planned as a 23-mile effort in the lineup of the long runs for Tralee. I made the decision midweek to run a repeat of last week’s run instead. Not because of the incoming storm but I’m just not feeling the recovery at the moment since the turn of the year. I’m not bouncing back as quickly as I was. As to what’s to blame for this I’m not sure but I’m currently revising my run-in to Tralee and contemplating less weekly mileage for a while. There’s no point showing up in Tralee ready to sleep! I’ll post the updated plan when I have finished it.