Training for a marathon PR isn't supposed to be easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, right?
So I knew today's workout would be hard. It's topping off an extremely tough week, a 70-miler, the last of just three such weeks on my workout schedule. But in addition to being a high-mileage week, it's also got two of my toughest workouts. On Thursday I did a challenging tempo workout, and today I had an even tougher workout planned.
Today's run was partially what is known as a "marathon simulation," meaning that you run the last part of a long run at marathon pace. I'd be doing that. But it also had a tempo workout thrown in, just to make the simulation a little bit tougher. The idea behind a simulation is that running an entire long run workout at marathon pace is too difficult. There's a reason most people do marathons after a two- to three-week taper where they decrease their mileage, and why they typically take two to four weeks to recover from a marathon.
A simulation allows you to experience some of the pain and exhaustion of a real marathon without putting you out of commission for multiple weeks. Ideally you'd run a simulation on similar terrain to the actual target race. That's a problem here in Davidson, which, while not mountainous, is hilly enough to make it tougher than most marathons. Rocket City Marathon has about 300 feet of climbing in the entire race. That's less than one of my regular routes for a six-mile training run.
So today I planned out a 20-mile route on some of the flattest terrain we have in the area. The first 8 miles would be at an easy pace for me: about 8:30 per mile. Then I'd speed up to my planned marathon pace: 7:15 per mile, for 40 minutes. Then I'd speed up even more, to my tempo pace of 6:30-6:45 per mile, for 5 minutes. Then another 20 minutes at marathon pace, 5 minutes at tempo pace, and 5 minutes at marathon pace, before finally slowing down for a 2-mile cooldown.
For a run this though, I wanted to have company, but unfortunately, since many of my running buddies have already run their marathons this season, there weren't a lot of takers. I ended up dividing my time, running the first 3 miles alone, then 2 with Chad and Cliff, then 1.7 alone before meeting up with Ben and Kevin.
I told them we'd have 2 miles to warm up, and then we'd start the faster part of the workout. Unfortunately the only stopping point in the run would be about halfway through the first marathon-pace segment. Kevin suggested that we run a shorter MP segment first, followed by a T segment, and then take our first break. It sounded good at the time, and we completed this first section of the run with few problems.
What we didn't take into account is that our route was all downhill up till now, and we'd have to do an even longer, 40-minute MP run on a steady uphill. Our pace gradually slowed: 7:11, 7:26, 7:18, 7:23. We weren't quite making the planned splits, and I was running on fumes. Finally at about Mile 4.5 of what should have been a 5.5-mile segment, I told the guys I would need to shut it down at Mile 5, when we'd be approaching the bottom of yet another hill. I completed this mile in 7:25, then stopped, sucking wind. I wanted to get in a full 20 miles, so I limped along at a 10+ minute pace for another 2.5 miles, finishing at 19.79 miles for the day and just over 70 miles for the week.
In some senses, the run was a dud, but given the fact that we actually climbed over 800 feet in just 20 miles, compared to around 300 in my target race, I'd say I'm probably fairly close to being on track.
My longest training week from here on out is just 56 miles, so I should be feeling a lot fresher when I run the target race in December. Let's hope so, because that's the only way I'm going to be able to manage the pace I'm planning!
Details of today's workout are below.