Hope, change and tempo runs

Matt Fitzgerald recently wrote about how he was afraid of his upcoming workout. I have one like that in a few hours, a 10 mile general aerobic run with an additional 5 miles at 6:51 pace tacked onto the end. That’s about my current half marathon pace, which I’ll need to sustain just over 34 minutes.

These 34 minutes and 15 seconds will be difficult. I know this. What I want to avoid is having them be pure hell.

A few weeks ago I had a run that was very similar to this, one that I didn’t think went particularly well. I was 13 seconds off pace and had to stop a few times. Since then, I’ve looked at what may have gone wrong that day, and experimented with a few potential remedies, all in order to help prepare myself for another try today.

First, I looked at how I ran the initial non-tempo miles and concluded that I ran them too fast. All of them. From the get go, I was so eager to work hard on this run that I started working hard too early, then paid for it during the miles that counted at the end. I was also running into a headwind for the initial 5.5 miles, which I know tired me out. I should have taken this into account and adjusted my pace, but I was too bull-headed at the time to do so. Also, this run was scheduled for the first day of my new menstrual cycle, a time that has proven itself time and time again to be the day when I am likely to run at my worst.

I also looked at what I was doing in the days before that sub-standard run. For one, I’d cut calories fairly drastically (I’ve been cutting them to shed fat), so I may have been low on glycogen reserves. I’d also done a fast finish 17 miler on the Sunday before that Tuesday run, so I was probably not fully recovered from that.

Here, then, was data I could work with — a whole bunch of factors that I could influence next time around.

I knew I’d have to do this run again — except with the fast miles a little longer and a little faster — in a few weeks, so I conducted a few experiments. First, I tried doing a fast finish long run with the aerobic section done at a lower heart rate than my typical 75-78% for general aerobic efforts. I kept it right around 72% max heart rate, then only sped up in the mile or so before the very fast ones at the end. I also did the first two at very slow speed and low heart rate — under 70% mhr.

The other thing I did was make sure I didn’t cut my calories too severely in the two days before this run, and I loaded up on carbohydrates and water. I also made sure I got plenty of sleep and stayed away from alcohol.

The result? I had no problem running at 7:00 pace for the last 2.5 miles of a 17 miler.

I’ve taken care to do all the pre-run preparations described above. In a few hours, I’ll put that together with my pre-tempo-miles pacing strategy and hope for the best. At least I’m going in knowing I’ve done everything I can to help myself, and that can only benefit me mentally.

Now let’s see if this actually works.