the experiments: experiment nine

experiment nine – original image © https://pixabay.com/photos/drop-splash-drip-water-liquid-wet-3698073/

It feels like it has been forever since I ran with any purpose over distance let alone experiment. Yes, there have been a couple of interesting, fun time trials during ‘Lockdown’ but only short-distance efforts (5km and 1-mile). Nothing really compares to lacing your shoes ahead of a proper distance run, be it training or a real race.

Since lockdown began the furthest distance covered was 18 miles (on the treadmill!). Following the start of emergence, I have not ventured even to 13 miles on the road; most runs hovering around the 10-mile mark. This weekend, I decided it was time for things to change. Nothing crazy but something longer and naturally, with a little curiosity thrown in.

A rather tame experiment by past standards but something to pique a little interest nonetheless. A 14-mile route picked, a pacing strategy chosen, off we go.

analysis

Fourteen miles doesn’t really present many ways of breaking up a distance experiment. However, since getting back on the road, my focus has been on slightly faster running than usual. I have neglected the traditional recovery miles for the most part and kept the tempo up over distance. Not a huge shift but enough to make me work a little harder.

For this 14-miler, the concept was start fast (as is the new norm). A total of 4 miles at marathon pace (roughly) then up the tempo by 20s/mile for a further 2 miles. Then comes a 4-mile easy effort. Following that, another 2-mile block at 20s/mile below marathon pace. Finally, jog the last 2 miles slowly.

always nice to see the splits of a new experiment reflect the ambition
always nice to see the splits of a new experiment reflect the ambition

The good news from this piece of whacky misadventure is that my feel for pace has certainly returned. Very little watch-watching took place during the run. Most of the splits are within a couple of seconds of the target. Mile 9 cost me time because it was just one big, long drag but other than that, everything looking good.

no flat tops here – splits really hide a lot of irregular behaviour
no flat tops here – splits really hide a lot of irregular behaviour

On the charts are moments of exuberance and tiredness, which cannot be attributed to elevation alone. Perhaps my feel for pace is not exactly as I imagined in spite of the uniform splits? Heart rate follows a decent pattern, with good drops between efforts and hills accounting for the unexpected peaks. I am happy with the overall average of 145bpm for the run but the breakdown in zones gives a different picture.

as an experiment I'll take it but that's more Zone 4 than I hoped for in a calculable way
as an experiment I’ll take it but that’s more Zone 4 than I hoped for in a calculable way

Here we have the truest picture of my effort. Over this 14-mile effort, I ran a total of 8 miles at any notable pace. Of those 8, only 4 had a real push about them. As such, I would rather have seen (4 * 7mins 20secs) 29-30mins in Zone 4 instead of the 46 mins I posted (view Garmin data).

experiment conclusions

Yet another instalment in my weird and whacky experiment catalogue. They don’t all have to be winners. The important thing is and always has been, to observe how I react to different challenges, changes in pace, and ability to cycle between pace targets over distance. There is always a lesson to be learned, even if the run itself, in isolation (no Lockdown pun intended) is just plain absurd.

I may be a little hard in my analysis of my heart rate here. It’s 16 minutes of effort I wished was lower intensity. Some can be explained by steep hills at a slower pace. Still, I would like to aim for a more linear and reflective chart. I definitely worked a bit harder than required for some of those 7:20s and probably because my pace was too fast in places and not steady enough throughout.

The lesson to take from this run is that my new preference of running ‘hard’ from the off isn’t negatively impacting me over this distance. Normally I take an easy 3-mile lead into a long run before aiming for pace targets but here, I managed it almost without issue. It has me thinking that I may be able to scale this. Perhaps I can bring this to a 20-miler? Perhaps I can raise that foundation so that marathon pace is the new “easy miles” during a focussed training run? There is work to be done. My CV fitness is still not where it should be but there are signs of potential and also possible improvement in my capacity of faster long miles. We keep trying!

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