Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Eighteen Saturdays: Canton Marathon 2012, Week Seventeen

Over the last three weeks, as the scheduled runs have gotten shorter, the last few months of training have resulted in some long-sought personal goals over the mid-range: My first sub-40-minute five-mile run, followed a week later by a four-miler at a personal best 30:19. These have significance to me because as I’ve run more, I’ve come to know pretty well where my physical limits lie.

My fastest Hall of Fame two-miler was around 15:03 (I ran the North Canton two-miler once in a fluke 13:46, but a) I was younger then, and b) it’s almost a completely flat course, compared to the Hall of Fame’s route, which has a couple climbs.) During summer training the past few years, my brother Adam and I have pushed for speed on our shortest routes – just over 3 miles – and, last year, I achieved a 7:24 pace on a 3.17 mile loop, and that required some serious work on my part. And after a run like that, I felt like I was at my limit.

This year’s schedule hasn’t included those short, speedy runs, since there were longer pace runs on the calendar, and I saved my weekly energy for those days. But breaking the 8-minute mark and keeping it up for four and five miles recently got me thinking about those “speed days” again. Week Seventeen’s daily mileage was 4, 3, 4, and 8, and there are no more pace runs scheduled. Knowing that next week’s miles will mostly be just to keep my legs warm (only six miles, total, before Sunday’s race), Adam and I decided to see this past week what the summer’s training has done for my speed over short distances.

Tuesday and Thursday, we ran our four-mile loops while talking and taking it easy.

Wednesday, though, we ran our old 3.17-mile course for the first time since mid-March, and we gave it the old speed treatment. We did choose to reverse the direction, which changes the effects of the hills somewhat, but since the course is a loop, our climbs and descents still equal out by definition. It was a tough but fun run, and we pulled it off at a personal-best 7:14 pace, which, frankly, I wouldn’t have even thought to shoot for, because I remember all too well the days when I had to pull up short and try not to puke while trying to break that 7:30 barrier.

Encouraged, we decided to aim at an 8:00 pace for Saturday’s eight-mile run.

Seven and a half weeks ago, I surprised the heck out of myself with a personal-best 8:09 pace over this same 8.2-mile route – a pace I never came close to reaching on two subsequent runs. And I freely admit that when I went out at 7 a.m. for this one, I really didn’t feel like aiming for a new PR. Still, I felt like I should try for it, so before I could change my mind, Adam and I took off at a brisk pace in our no-chatter-all-business mode.

My thinking was this: I had just run a sub-eight-minute-pace four-mile route last week, and felt fine afterwards. Today, then, I’d just be doing the same, only I’d be doing two of them, with a 60- to 90-second walking period in the middle.

We ran the first mile more quickly than planned, and I felt like I was struggling not to breathe too rapidly, but I felt much more in rhythm by the two-mile mark, where we were somewhere around 15:45. Still below my goal pace, but not much cushion to count on during what I knew would be a difficult second-half stretch. I made sure to sip water a couple times per mile. Number three passed steadily, and in mile four, I pushed myself pretty hard once I could see the traffic light that marked my first-half finish. (We later determined this to be the 4.1-mile mark, and we were there in 31:40, for a 7:43 pace.)

Adam timed me for a 90-second walk, and I drank some water, and then the tough miles began. Much of the second half of this loop feels at least slightly uphill, and I was in a place where “pushing it” felt less about trying to speed up and more about simply not slowing down.

The final mile begins with a climb which I have come to hate for two reasons: 1) It’s long, and it builds slowly before a steep section at the crest. And 2) Once you’re at the top, the road only levels out briefly before it goes up a bit more over the next few tenths of a mile. It’s not that this part is a real climb, it’s that it makes it really difficult to catch your breath and recover from the hill just behind you.

Past that, there’s just about a half-mile and distance padding, and while I let my breathing speed up, I’m also concentrating on taking deep breaths, and we finish with a good sprint up the street. Final distance: 8.214 miles. Time: 65:25.

Pace: 7:58! Eight seconds per mile off my previous best! (And yes – it’s “only” eight seconds per mile. But over the past few years, I’ve really developed an appreciation for both how long a few seconds can seem when you feel like you’re running at your limit, and the accumulation of these small bits of time over long distances. It might not seem like much, but I can tell you that I definitely know how different an 8:15 mile feels from an 8:30 or an 8:45.)

This is a perfectly fine way to end the middle-distance runs for my Canton Marathon training, and though I’m still worried about things as far as the 26.2 mile run a week from tomorrow is concerned right now, I’m feeling pretty darn good.

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

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