Most of my training runs are not actually at the pace I'm planning on running in the marathon. Sometimes I do speed work, which is faster, and sometimes I'm doing long runs just to log miles, much slower than my planned pace.
But another key to putting up a specific pace in a marathon is getting a sense of what it's like to run the pace you're planning on running in the race itself, when you're already tired. So today the plan was to run 16 miles, and run the first 8 miles slower than race pace. Then for the final 8 miles, I'd run at race pace: 8-minute miles. Todd and Chris were running with me again, and thought that sounded like a good plan.
What's more, since Big Sur is a hilly race, we decided to finish our run on the hilliest segment, instead of starting with the hills like we usually do.
It was a frigid morning. My thermometer registered 17 degrees, and Todd's was at 13. I put on an extra layer and wore a ski cap instead of my thin running hat. At least it wasn't windy, and the sun came up after about 20 minutes. The most difficult part of the first portion of the run was restraining ourselves. 9-minute miles seem very slow for a group that's used to running at an 8-minute clip. In fact, for the first 8 miles, we ended up averaging about 8:40 per mile. After a break to fuel up, we took off up the first big hill: 129 vertical feet, and we did it at an 8:17 pace, a little slow. The next mile was almost as hilly, and we broke 8 minutes: 7:56. Then, over rolling hills, 7:39, 7:49, 7:50. The big hills were last. Mile 14 featured 126 feet of climbing and 103 descending, 8:13. Then on Mile 15, Todd and Chris started to pull away. Still, on this mostly-downhill section, I clocked 7:42. Mile 16 was a long hill back into town, and I was finally starting to tire. While Todd and Chris picked up the pace, I struggled a bit, finishing in 8:32. But still, I averaged below an 8-minute pace for those last 8 miles, so I achieved my goal for this workout.
Overall average pace: 8:20. Not bad! In fact it was almost the identical pace as last week's 15-miler, even though we had deliberately held back for the first 8 miles—and today's run added an extra 160 feet of climbing.
Here's a summary of the week's runs:
53.58 miles (my longest week ever)
2,876 feet elevation gain
476 feet average elevation gain
On each my three hard runs, I met my goals: my fastest time ever on the DART 6.3 mile loop; a solid hill workout, and a tough long run with 8 miles at marathon pace. If I can keep this up for another 16 weeks, I just might run that 3:30 I'm hoping for at the Big Sur Marathon.