Tag Archives: long runs

Checking In 10/2/2021

There won’t be an outdoor run today. The weather was fine, but I clearly needed to sleep in quite a bit, which for me is until about 6:30am, and at that point it’s far too late in the morning to get to starting a long run and not end up in too hot conditions for the run to go fine.

So the plan today and tomorrow is to work on the treadmill at easy pace to marathon pace, by swinging two workouts. Plan A was to do a long run of about 16-18 miles today and an hour of running tomorrow, and in each I’d stop and walk after 2 miles for fluid and fuel, as I will when I run Indy.

Workout 1 is an easy interval style long run, running most of it at an easy, slow pace where every 10 minutes I’d briefly surge to marathon pace, then dial back to easy pace. I’d pause every 20 minutes for fluid and fuel, then resume. Obviously the gym treadmills stop at one hour, so that break would be a bit longer, but I’d restart and get right back at it until I’ve done three hours.

However, if not feeling like death, the 3rd hour would increase 15 minutes in from easy pace running to marathon pace running, with 30 second surges to Easy Interval pace every 10 minutes. Again, I’d stop every 20 minutes for fluid and fuel as before.

Workout 2 is a marathon pace workout that should take about 80-90 minutes, and basically practices the mechanics of race day. I start with marathon pace, then slow to a walk at 2 miles to take fluid and fuel. Once situated I get back to marathon pace until I get to 4 miles, then stop the treadmill outright for fluid and fuel in a more extended break. Once ready, I restart the treadmill and repeat the process, ultimately doing four long marathon intervals of about 2 miles each. The reason I don’t do a full hour ending with a runout is I want to simulate the true mechanics of running between the Indy aid stations, and ending each hour with a shorter run-out screws that up.

I could start on the treadmill today and find it won’t work for my body to go 3 hours today, so then I could pivot to Workout 2 and only do an hour, maybe only do three 2-mile intervals since I’ll have been running a bit by that point, then take it easy the rest of the day and go for the long Workout 1 tomorrow.

However, Workout 1 today and Workout 2 tomorrow is the plan for now, and I believe that can work just fine. If I get through this weekend with both completed as planned, I’m in very good shape for Indy given where I was a month ago.

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Checking In 8/29/2021 from Flagstaff

One more post from Flagstaff before I once again head back to the Vegas oven.

I’d like to say I had a relaxing afternoon after yesterday’s lengthy forest run, but in reality I went on a fruitless drive in some unusually heavy Flagstaff traffic for lunch, then went to their Planet Fitness for the first time to do some strength training and a bit of spin bike (which both felt good), then rested just a bit before taking a long walk Downtown to eat at a pizza place and then walk some of it off with the sunset before heading back and turning in early.

Garmin informs me that yesterday was my first 30,000+ step day since getting my first Garmin two years ago. It’s a testament to how much less active I’ve been since leaving Chicago, as I had plenty of 30,000 step days with my Fitbit in Chicago.

I also quickly dropped 2 pounds this weekend, in large part due to the Saturday workout(s) but I also didn’t eat particularly much yesterday for the volume of what I did. I felt fine and aside from a breakfast burrito and that pizza I didn’t feel like eating, so I didn’t. I’ve drank a lot of water in the interim.

While I’m wary of DOMS kicking in Monday, I don’t feel too bad this morning except for the typical soreness in my hamstring that’s been hanging around for several days. I still woke up far too early this morning, as I’ve done several times this week, and likely due to hunger after last night’s dinner digested and absorbed too quickly. But if it’s any consolation, this may prepare me for waking up early next weekend two hours ahead in Central Daylight Time for the half marathon.

I’m planning not to run at all today and tomorrow, and don’t plan to train too hard either of these days. Today in particular I obviously have some driving to do so I won’t be walking much at all. I may head to the gym today once I’m back in town for a bit of elliptical work. I might strength train again if I’m up to it.

Tomorrow was always intended as a full day off from training. If Tuesday’s got to be another shutdown day, that’s fine. Saturday was meant to be the final stop for training until the half next weekend. Now it’s about healing up and loading up for that event. Any training from now to then is about staying sharp, generating hormone production, and keeping fat oxidation consistently activated.


Flagstaff as a weekend long training stop works well for me for training sessions in the 90 minute to 2 hour range. The surrounding trails, paths, and roadways appear to best accommodate 6-12 mile workouts. I can see why the elites go out of town for their long(er) workouts, though I’m not ready to go out to rural roads for 20 milers, nor is this area the best place for my longest workouts. The roads and trails can give you enough real estate for medium/long runs, and the outskirts are just a bit too rocky and mountainous unless the extra challenge of the terrain is needed for some sort of secondary development. In my case this time it ended up being helpful since I was not in a position to go much farther than I ended up running.

Though it’s a tougher place for lodging, Big Bear Lake works much better for my longer workouts. The 11 miler I last ran there fit real well in its hilly lakeside neighborhoods, and there was still a lot of other useful real estate I could have ran through if the run were longer. I can easily fit a 16 miler through Boulder Bay and the heart of Big Bear before I even venture into the Moonridge area, and if I did it could easily give me 20 miles if I wanted. It’s also a shorter trip and easier to get to, even if lodging’s a problem and I have to stay in nearby Barstow.

Until it cools off in Vegas, these situations will be my best options for long runs on this training cycle. I have suitable routes in Vegas but until mornings get back to 70 degrees and below that’s not going to work for now. Either way, any additional training on the roads in Vegas and beyond will have to wait until after Labor Day weekend, and depending on how the half goes I may need to take more time after that before I’m recovered and ready to stretch out further.

Back home, injury problems aside, the heat aside, my biggest hurdle to running in Vegas has been two things:

One: Both my injury issues in the last couple years have one correlative factor: I was running on the treadmill with some frequency. Even though this last issue emerged while outdoors, I had recently done my longest treadmill run to date the weekend before. I’m starting to think that I need to minimize or avoid treadmill workouts.

I have used it in the past without issues, but I had used it for shorter durations, in cycles here and there rather than throughout training, and for specific non-long-run reasons, like ingraining longer race tempo. I can consider this whole hamstring saga a lesson (re)learned, and stop using the treadmill.

My growth on the elliptical has shown me that I can get quality medium/long easy aerobic sessions through that without having to run, and that I should save outdoor running for quick recovery sessions, focused tempo/speedwork sessions, and of course long runs. Basically, if I operated on a modified FIRST sort of plan, doing all other aerobic training on the elliptical between quality and long run sessions, that would suit me best at this point.

As for my work break runs, provided they run and feel like quick-burst recovery sessions, they’re fine. Lately, they have been more of a challenge, and I’m better off walking when they feel like that. Instead of doing them compulsively, I’ve been doing more instances of one break run in the morning, maybe an afternoon run or a lunch break session if I’m feeling good, but otherwise just walking on breaks instead. The circulation flows, the calories get burned, and I don’t overstress myself.

In fact, because my stress and heart rate variability has stayed low when I walk in the mornings instead of run, when I eat light or not at all in the morning… perhaps I should just walk off all these work breaks for now, at least until it finally cools down for autumn/fall. I’m getting home with my body battery long since completely tapped everyday, and perhaps that’s a factor in my issues lately. Now that I’m using the elliptical effectively, mileage is no longer as big a deal as it was beforehand. I’m not one to label running as junk mileage, but if the work break runs are not serving me the way they need to, then they’re junk mileage and I need to walk instead.

Two: Aside from the Vegas heat, smoke from California wildfires combined with typical smog has made the Vegas air quality very bad. I should not be running in that for more than a few minutes, and it’s deterred me from any forays back into morning running (the heat is still too high to even consider post-work runs). Maybe given my hamstring issues that’s been a blessing in disguise, but the bad air has stuck around a while and could be some time before the air’s consistently suitable for any outdoor running.

Flagstaff and Big Bear have been nice, among other reasons, in that the air quality’s been much better overall (I’ve consistently dodged their wildfire smoke issues; Big Bear in particular had downwind fire smoke this weekend). Yes, the air’s thinner in high altitude, but for the most part that hasn’t been a problem for me (do I have handed down Denisovan genes? I don’t know, but altitude mostly hasn’t been a problem for me on runs unless I’m climbing a steep grade). It’s allowed me to run without the air quality problems in Vegas.

I’m no fool and realize this is going to remain a problem in future years. I should be able to do some long training in Vegas in the final few weeks before Indy, but going forward training for summer marathons in Vegas will remain a potentially unworkable problem.

That said, I have plans for 2022 that may render that moot. I don’t plan to leave Vegas, but I have other training goals and I may not run a marathon in 2022. The current Coronavirus situation certainly will continue making that hard in at least early 2022, but it won’t matter either way. I’ll have more on this as I finish up with Indy, recover, and move ahead from there.

In any case, I have errands to run and a lot of driving to do, so that’s enough for now. More on all of this to come.

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Checking In 7/25/2021 (+ a long-treadmill-run recap)

I ran 12 miles on the treadmill yesterday, easily the farthest I’ve gone on the human hamster wheel in one session, let alone without a real rest break.

I knew inevitably I’d have to do a long run on the turbo. Vegas was simply too hot in the mornings for a quality long run outdoors even before the sunrise. And as much as I’d love to, I can’t afford to drive out of town every weekend and run in a cooler, practical high-altitude locale. Even though my current gym has good air conditioning, you can still get hot and humid running on a treadmill for any extended period of time.

This weekend was a good window to try, with a 12 miler scheduled and between planned trips. (Plus, it turns out weather wasn’t great in any potential weekend destinations anyway)

One issue: Gym treadmills are designed to let you run for 60 minutes maximum plus a 5 minute cooldown.

Thankfully, my gym isn’t anywhere close to crowded enough where I need to get out at 60 minutes, so I can restart the machine and keep going. But, to minimize the break (because I want this to be a continuous run, not two 60 minute easy running repeats with a 1+ minute rest), I have to make sure to restart the machine and get it back up to speed as soon as possible once stopped.

I started the morning relaxing with coffee and a croissant, and ate a sandwich at Starbucks right before heading into the gym armed with only my 17 oz water bottle. I made sure to treat the morning more like a pre-race routine because I knew this task was going to demand a lot from me. The longest I’d recently run without a break on the treadmill was 50 minutes, and 12 continuous miles was going to demand a lot more than 50 minutes of running. I’ve gone over how challenging I find running on the turbo for extended time.

I’ve played around with pacing on recent treadmill runs, but made sure to keep a consistent moderate but sustainable pace for this extended run. I’ve also experimented with running without my glasses to minimize distractions, and ran most of this run without mine on this time. I also made sure to sip water on schedule every 10 minutes. How much is a sip? The bottle only ran out after 2 hours of running, that’s how much. I did pick up the pacing at 60 minutes to more of a marathon-pace effort for about 3 minutes, before the shutdown and restart.

I hit stop on the machine, and powered past the slightly dragged out shutdown sequence by jamming the button until the display went completely off, then jammed the go button until the display came up again and showed the starting countdown. Once the machine started I immediately restored my original running pace.

As complex as this sounds, it took about 45-50 seconds. During this time, the belt kept moving as it decelerated to zero, so I still was able to log a tiny bit of distance before it stopped. I did take more than a sip of water as the machine worked to restart. But if this was any sort of rest break, it wasn’t more than a few seconds, akin to stopping to tie your shoes or fidget with fluid at an aid station. I certainly didn’t feel like I was recovering.

Into the 2nd hour, I finally started to truly battle fatigue at around the 80 minute mark. Again, I had the pace set to a more moderate effort and certainly faster than I usually run long outside, so this didn’t surprise me.

At around 100 minutes the lactic feeling was rich in my legs and maintaining my pace was starting to feel too arduous to continue for another 20 minutes. So I went to an old trick I’ve seen coaches recommend: I threw in some pickups, kicking the pace up to threshold/10K pace for 60 seconds. Then I’d pull way back to an easier pace than I was originally doing for about a minute, to get my legs back, before resuming my moderate pace.

I did this surge bit at 1:41-1:43 (38:00-40:00 on the previously restarted display) and it worked like such a charm I wished I had thought to do it sooner. I did it again at 1:51-1:53 (48:00-50:00) with an even faster surge and again it worked great for making the moderate pace feel more do-able. Once I got to 2:03 and the machine once again demanded a cooldown I kicked the pace up to marathon-effort again and made sure I got to 12 miles before shutting everything down at about 2:07.

This was the first long run in a long while where I felt sore after the run, and it’s also the hardest I’ve pushed on a sustained run since… probably since the 2018 Chicago Marathon (even Vancouver 2019 was more of a sustained easy run out of circumstance).

Something I never really did in prior marathon training cycles was steady-pace long runs. All were usually run as easy as necessary to cover the distance and that was it. And while that’s still valuable and I obviously still intend to run long runs like that, I also want to do long runs of 2 hours, possibly more, at a faster moderate pace. This one went remarkably well, and the soreness plus the completion of the entire planned workout as intended tells me this was a significant breakthrough.

Then, after slamming a bottle of Gatorade, I went and did some lower body strength training, which certainly didn’t help with the soreness but felt good to limber up with after the extended running. I left and got a steak burrito before heading home and taking a nap.

Sitting here the following morning with coffee, I’m still sore but it’s more a lingering soreness than an intense soreness. It’s certainly not delayed onset muscle soreness because there was no delay in feeling it following the workout.

I’ll probably ride the spin bike today (we got back together recently) to circulate things a bit, but otherwise take it easy before a big training week next week. The plan’s to train all five weekdays next week before another travel weekend and remote long run. How easy Monday’s training will be depends on how sore I’m feeling tomorrow morning.

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A Long Workout With Less Stress Than A Long Run

I didn’t schedule a long run for this weekend, planning rest days on Saturday and Monday.

I did originally plan an easy workout for Sunday, but after having to cut short Thursday’s speed workout (five 2 minute repeats) due to fatigue from poor sleep, I decided to re-attempt the workout Sunday in place of the easy workout.

I also had a 3 mile walk booked for a Garmin weekend badge on Saturday, but had other plans come along and couldn’t do it before the weather got hot. Still wanting to badge-chase, I decided Saturday that I’d do the long walk on Sunday morning right after finishing the speed workout.

The repeats went just fine (that whole speed workout only took about half an hour), and once done with the timed cooldown I began the walk by heading back to base (I was only 1/4 mile away), getting a protein drink, and continuing the walk with the drink as I did some exploring: With some neighborhood construction done, I wanted to check out the mileage on a couple of new potential running routes.

After exploring the first loop while re-fueling, I returned to the ranch, recycled the bottle plus had more water, the continued the walk farther out to examine the 2nd new loop. (While not the main topic of this post, both routes are promising)

I returned after about 6 kilometers (3.72 miles), 80 minutes, of total walking (… and a brief running segment, as part of the 2nd route was in direct sun and I felt like getting out of it as soon as possible), to end the walk and the full workout session around 7am.

Between the speed workout and the extended walk, I was outside Sunday for close to 2 hours. Only about 35-40 minutes of that time I spent running, and the early repeats were the only truly challenging part. Most of that time I walked at fairly low intensity and that last 80 minutes was basically an extended cooldown.


This was in a strange way a long-run level workout, even though it clearly was not a long run. I spent 2 hours of my feet, though only covered about 7 total miles. My body had to operate aerobically (however mild in effort) for close to 2 hours, and while the intensity was not that of a 2 hour run, it still had to absorb the stress of two hours of total effort.

This is akin to the notion that your time to bonking in a marathon isn’t necessarily a function of your distance traveled, but your time spent at a given level of effort. Most runners can go about 2 hours at the typical 80-85% max effort most run the marathon before their natural glycogen stores tap out. How far they travel before this happens is a function of their fitness, the conditions, and all sorts of other variables, but most without fuel can give about 2 hours on their own.

That’s not why I did this, however. I just wanted to get a planned long walk in after a shorter, easier workout, before the Vegas sun got too hot. That I got this benefit was a welcome, inadvertent side effect that I only discovered in hindsight.

Still, this approach can be a fine hedge if you need a bit of a break on a long run day, or you want to maintain fitness and development on a down week.

It’s similar to Jeff Galloway’s Run Walk method, though Galloway would still expect you to run most of a given distance, while here you would just do a shorter, do-able workout and then chase it with a much longer, slower walk.

You could also take a page from IronFit‘s cross training plans, and swap the walk with low intensity cross training… though the idea of what I discovered is more about spending all your time on your feet and better neuromuscularly working your lower body.

I just wanted to share what I found after Sunday’s extended session. This is not necessarily something I’d make the key component of a training plan. It’s just an option for certain situations where you might want to dial back the intensity on a non-crucial long run day, or on a stepback or lighter weekend.

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The Marathon Training Mistake People Make In Organized 20 Mile Runs

CARAready2run

Logo for the Chicago Area Runner’s Association’s annual Ready To Run 20 Miler, held about 3-4 weeks before the annual Chicago Marathon.

In many major cities with major marathons, organizations will hold an official pay-to-play 20 mile run 3-4 weeks before the marathon, to coincide with most participants’ final planned long run before their taper. The official events mark out a course and provide aid stations every 3K or so, much like an actual race.

 

Though these events are technically held and run like an official race, the clear idea is that participants will do this as their longest training run before the marathon, since most training plans typically ask for runners to peak with a 20 mile long run a few weeks before the race. The idea is not just so runners can do their long run with a like minded group of runners, but that they get support along the way with water and electrolyte sugar fluid every 3K or so, as well as the usual commemorative gear like a bib number and race shirt.

While I totally support the staging and usage of official 20 miler runs for marathon preparation (provided your training plan calls for said 20 mile run), there is a significant mistake most runners make when doing the 20 miler.

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The Overload Principle: The training value of runners training tired

Human nature leads us to take it easy when we’re sore or tired. Obviously, we don’t feel good, so our nature tells us to rest until we feel better.

Many training plans for runners will ask you to run a high volume of miles, even though often times you are tired from the prior workouts. Many novice runners will make the mistake of skipping or curtailing the easier workouts because they are tired. They don’t realize their being tired is part of the training stimulus for those workouts!

In fitness training we have a concept called the Overload Principle. The principle is that your training stimulus has got to exceed your current capabilities to elicit optimal adaptions from that training.

For a beginning runner who doesn’t run much, the simple act of running in itself kicks in the overload principle. A beginner’s current capability is they aren’t yet comfortable running a lot. So running in itself already exceeds their current capabilities. A simple run will for them elicit those optimal adaptions.

Separately, consider strength training through weight lifting with heavy, challenging weights. Done with a suitable intensity (i.e. sufficient weight, capable but challenging form), lifting weights can exceed anyone’s current capabilities as long as the weight and/or exercise itself is more challenging that the trainee is generally used to. Even if a trainee gets comfortable with a given weight/exercise, adding weight or progressing the exercise into a more challenging form can once again exceed the trainee’s capabilities and elicit those optimal adaptions.

However, if the trainee were to maintain the current intensity as they got comfortable with it, the exercise while still beneficial would produce lesser adaptions and results. This is often why people hit a plateau when training.

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Applied practice of fueling and hydration on long training runs

sunset men sunrise jogging

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some will argue that you should do your long runs in marathon training on an empty stomach, to practice depleting your body of glycogen, not just to prepare for the experience of doing the same in the longest run itself but to also prime your glycogen stores to hyper-compensate and hopefully store more glycogen than before.

Some will argue that you should eat a good meal before long runs and stay completely fueled, in order to maximize your performance on these runs, avoid bonking, and maximize the potential physiological hypertrophy (growth) from these long runs.

Some will argue that you should practice doing it both ways, that both approaches have their respective benefits and that doing both will maximize your development prior to the taper and the longest run itself.

What is my point of view? I’ll be honest: My point of view has gone back and forth. I have trained with long runs on nothing more than a small meal beforehand, to push myself to the limit otherwise cold turkey. I have eaten a full breakfast, then brought 2 liters of Gatorade in a hydration pack and fueled religiously throughout the run, even stopping to eat or drink during the workout as needed.

But now, when it comes to the best way to do marathon training long runs, I come back to a semi-rhetorical question:

What is the primary goal of a marathon training long run?

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