Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Eighteen Saturdays: Canton Marathon 2012, Week Eight

Without any pace runs scheduled, this looked to be a good week. Turned out kind of odd.

Started out OK on Tuesday. With four miles on the calendar, I thought I’d work on maintaining a steady pace, trying to keep things as constant as possible. I altered the Garmin display to show my current pace as well as my average pace, and tried to make an effort to push a little bit harder if I saw the current pace regularly displaying above 8:40. (The current pace stat can be a bit maddening, since it lags slightly, and since it occasionally spikes or drops off by a jarring 30-seconds-per-mile without me feeling like I’d changed pace at all.)

I didn’t really brake myself on steep downhills – that’s just wasted energy – but I tried to conserve energy on the more level stretches so that the steeper climbs wouldn’t hit me as hard. And I was pretty happy with the results. The miles looked like this: 8:11, 8:20, 8:27, and 8:10. Overall, that’s 8:18 per mile, slightly ahead of my race pace goal, and I felt really good afterward.

Wednesday and Thursday weren’t that enjoyable, really: It was sunny and breezy both days, and chillier than it had been in awhile, so the wind kind of made things feel raw. With no pacing to worry about, I just tried my best to put in the miles and appreciate the sun and the time and the landscape.

Then came Saturday.

I was expecting a rough run, of course: 15 miles on the schedule. When I did my first marathon, I remember the 15-miler as a really significant challenge, and even though we did 14 last week, I found myself dreading this one.

The sun was up, but it was freezing outside at 8 a.m. Technically, just below freezing, at about 30 degrees. I knew the high for the day was only in the low 50s, so while I had been counting on wearing my hat and gloves to ward off the wind anyway, I followed Adam’s lead and wore a sweatshirt over my short-sleeved running shirt.

While it was a nice morning (if chilly), and I like my brother’s company fine, especially on these long runs, both of us admitted afterward that we were surprised how early on this run just turned into a slog. And seriously: Nothing makes a run pass more slowly than when realize you’re already counting miles less than a quarter of the way in.

My lungs were fine, really – but my legs just felt shredded by the fifth mile, and I was really struggling to keep my energy level up.

Maybe it’s being a couple years older than the last time I did this, but I really found myself questioning and doubting and wondering whether, in fact, I am actually up to running another marathon.

So I’m thinking of trying out an adjustment in my training, something I avoided back in 2009, but which seems like it might not be such a bad idea this time around: incorporating brief walking breaks into the long runs. Although I’ve always figured that for me, walking would only make it harder to resume running again, Hal Higdon himself writes:

Walking is a perfectly acceptable strategy in trying to finish a marathon. It works during training runs too. While some coaches recommend walking 1 minute out of every 10, or even alternating running and walking as frequently as every 30 seconds, I teach runners to walk when they come to an aid station. This serves a double function: 1) you can drink more easily while walking as opposed to running, and 2) since many other runners slow or walk through aid stations, you’ll be less likely to block those behind. It’s a good idea to follow this strategy in training as well. You will lose less time walking than you think. … Walking gives your body a chance to rest, and you’ll be able to continue running more comfortably. It’s best to walk when you want to, not when your (fatigued) body forces you too.

The thing is, I never want to walk. When I did the Towpath Marathon, not walking during the final five miles was the hardest mental and physical battle I’ve ever fought, and not stopping or walking was a big part of my goal.

But if walking needs to be part of a strategy, since I’m actually trying to hit a specific time in the Canton Marathon, well, maybe I need to see how it affects me.

I wish I could say that I was being logical and strategic on Saturday around mile eight when I called ahead to Adam and asked him to hold up. I kept running, and when I caught him, I said, “Gotta walk. Just for one minute. Then I’m good to go.” I can’t even say I felt like I was giving up, because honestly, it felt so good just to be walking and sipping some water and trying to recharge even for those all-too-quickly-passing seconds.

Looking back at the route stats, it looks like it was about 90 seconds, during which my pace went from 9:23 to 14:10 and then back up to 9:10, and this was about a third of the way into our ninth mile. When I consumed my second gel and washed it down at about the 10.25-mile mark, I took Hal’s advice and walked while I did so, this time slowing for about 1 minute and 15 seconds.

Miles 12-14 were, without question, the most difficult I’ve done in quite awhile, and I felt pretty miserable. The sun was fully up, and though it was still probably only 40 degrees or so, I was feeling too warm in my sweatshirt, and I removed my hat and gloves. But having stopped to walk twice, I wanted to push through the rest of the way.

We reached Adam’s driveway more than two-and-a-quarter hours after we’d set out, and I was completely spent.

Still, what I learned later, crunching the numbers, was encouraging. Even with my two walking breaks, I had managed an overall pace of 9:03 per mile – 15 seconds faster per mile than I’d run 14 nonstop miles on the previous Saturday. Maybe I can make this a strategy for improvement after all.

By the numbers:

  • Tuesday,  April 3 – Schedule: 4 miles. Actual: 4 miles. Time: 33:10. Pace: 8:18/mi.
  • Wednesday, April 4 – Schedule: 7 miles. Actual: 7.18 miles. Time: 1:01:52. Pace: 8:37/mi.
  • Thursday,  April 5 – Schedule: 4 miles. Actual: 4 miles. Time: 34:24. Pace: 8:36/mi.
  • Saturday, March 31 – Schedule: 15 miles. Actual: 15.05 miles. Time: 2:16:11. Pace: 9:03/mi.

April 9, 2012 - Posted by | Ohio, running, Sports | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. And who were your parents?? Must have been switched in that Air Force Base nursery……

    Comment by Mom | April 9, 2012 | Reply

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