Monday, April 15, 2013

VCM Training Week 8: Lessons in Intensity

Week 8 (3.18.13 to 3.24.13):

Monday:  40 minutes weights (weights)
Tuesday:  4.15 miles at 8:01 pace (4 miles)
Wednesday:  Hill repeats: 8 x 240 meter uphill sprints- walks downhill between each (CT cardio)
Thursday: 4 miles tempo with .5 miles at 8:49, 8:19, 7:35, 6:53 and back (4 miles)
Friday: rest (rest)
Saturday: 14.21 miles at 9:30 pace (14 mile long run)
Sunday: 45 minutes frisbee (3 miles/frisbee)
Total:  28.06 miles of running

At the beginning of week 8, I found myself googling hill workouts and learned a valuable lesson on the intensity of various runs during marathon training. The main take-away was something that I remember reading in Born to Run last year: that most people do their slow runs too fast and their fast runs too slow. According to Hal Higdon, long runs should be done 30 to 90 seconds or more per mile than their marathon pace. The problem with this, for me, was that I had no idea what my marathon goal pace should be. But I knew it certainly wouldn't be a 9:00 minute mile or faster, which I had been maintaining on most of my long runs.

So I started off the week with a more specific plan. I pushed myself harder than I had been on all three shorter runs and I did my first set of hill repeats. I hadn't done these since my high school soccer days but doing them by myself on a concrete sidewalk was very different than doing them surrounded by my team on a grassy hill in cleats. They were hard and I felt like I might vomit at the end of each. But I felt strong and ready to do another by the time I had walked down the hill to my starting point. I ended up doing 8 repeats of 240 meters/.15 miles with a one mile warm up and a half mile cool down.

The best part of this whole "intensity" lesson was what it did for me mentally. Alleviating the pressure to push myself and do my long runs as fast as possible made them much less scary. This couldn't have come at a better time, as week 8's long run began a series of "longest runs I've ever done" which were very scary for me. I incorporated a fair amount of rolling hills into my long run, something I'm aiming to do in anticipation of Vermont's mountains, and finished 14.21 miles at a 9:30 pace. I still think this is faster than my marathon pace (I would be shocked to be able to keep such a pace on race day) but it was still significantly slower than I've done my short runs so it seemed like a compromise.

I finished this 14 miler the happiest I've been at the end of any long run. Something about the fact that it was the longest run I'd ever done (and was the first of these) made it very emotional. I finished 14.2 miles on a sunny Saturday morning with many people walking around my neighborhood and I felt like I would cry happy tears. I was on some kind of runner's high and it felt wonderful.

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