Monday, August 2, 2010

Fessing up

While reading some of my posts from months past, I realized that I haven't always been completely honest with you, dear readers, about how my workouts have gone.  I'm not sure why I didn't include all of the details in them, like the fact that I took numerous "water breaks" during my intervals.  I guess I was either embarrassed about admitting that, even to myself, or I had fooled myself into believing my own excuses for why I needed to do this.

I divulged this dirty little secret a few months back and admitted that I had been hiding behind the average paces I was reporting for my workouts.  While overall averages may fool most, my Garmin charts don't let me forget that I did indeed stop and walk during an interval. You may recall that I set a goal in that particular post that I would follow the RWYCH (pronounced R-witch) principle from then on out.  This stands for run what you can hold and is in response to my proclivity for taking short breaks during my long intervals because I can't hold the pace that I'm running.

I believe I've made the point before that this doesn't seem to have compromised my fitness much if at all since I still ran a 2:46 marathon using this run-with-a-teensy break training method in most workouts last summer.  However, I hypothesized that I was probably compromising my mental training by allowing myself to give in to the urge to stop mid-rep.

I have been slightly nervous about resuming hard marathon training considering I was unable to train for a couple of months due to injury and then spent most of the time once I returned to training focusing on short-distance speed.  For some reason I thought my body wouldn't remember how to run fast over the long distances.  So, this past weekend's 22-mile long run was going to be my first real test to see what kind of marathon shape I am in.  Note, this wasn't a formal test, just something that I had concocted myself.

I looked back at my Garmin Training log from last summer and found that I did basically the same workout on August 15, 2009.  So, that would be about 3 weeks farther into my marathon training program.  I blogged about this workout here.  While I talked around the issue of stopping for water breaks, I never came out and said how many I had taken.  The workout looked good on paper: 4 x (3 miles including 2.75 miles at goal marathon pace (GMP) and .25 miles at 10k effort) with 5 minute jog rest in between.  I went on about how hot it was when I started the workout, so I HAD to stop for water.  I patted myself on the back for averaging 6:16 pace for the GMP and 5:45 for the 10k effort.

I left out the 8 water breaks that I took during the intervals (2 per repeat); yes during the repeats, not in between during the actual 5 minute jog rest.  I imagine a few of them were necessary to get through that much GMP work on a hot morning, but I know that many of them were not taken at an actual water fountain.

So, my goal for this weekend's long run was: try to maintain the same paces as last year, but don't take as many breaks.  For me, this meant less than 2 breaks per repeat, but of course, no breaks was better.  Why didn't I set NO water breaks as my goal?  I believe in taking baby steps and recognize that old habits require time to overcome.

Saturday's workout was 3 x 3 miles, so that was one repeat shy of last year's workout.  However, I had a total of 22 miles to run this time versus 17 miles last year.  I decided to set out at the same time of day as last year, but I wanted to be able to have water at the right spots along the course so I wasn't tempted to stop during the interval.  So, I did my 3-mile repeats back and forth on a section of the American River Bike Trail that has two water fountains about 3 miles apart.    

I won't keep you in suspense here.  The workout went amazingly well.  I held 6:12, 6:14 and 6:18 pace for GMP and then kicked it down to 5:45-5:49 for the 10k effort in the last quarter mile of each repeat.  So, how many water breaks did I take?  Only ONE!!!!  That one break came 2 miles into the last GMP repeat when I allowed myself a 20-second stop to get my act together and finish off the rest of the repeat.  I was so excited that GMP felt this doable this early in my training cycle.  I have mentioned many times before that GMP rarely if ever feels like something I could handle for 10 miles let alone 26 even in the last weeks leading up to the marathon.

So, things are definitely looking good for this training cycle so far.  My mileage is on a steep uphill climb right now having completed 82 last week, doing 88 this week and 101 the next.  I am going to be one tired pup.  But, today I am still savoring a minor victory.  Next time, I'm going for broke: no breaks!


  1. Congrats. Sounds like quite a step forward. The mental thing is one of my biggest issues.

  2. good job! i think it is only beneficial to train yourself both physically and mentally to not stop during the intense part of your training runs. after all: you can't do it in the marathon! you would probably really not enjoy what i often do for my final long run at the end of my marathon cycle (which is 22 miles with 18 at marathon pace or faster). leonard rides the bike alongside me and i literally am not allowed to stop for water or bathroom breaks or anything for the entire run. he hands me water while i take my gus... luckily i haven't had to go to the bathroom during one of thesse runs! i have to admit i'm always a little worried about not being able to stop at all, but it has always been fine and the not stopping was actually a non issue and a confidence booster. obviously i don't always have the luxury of leonard on a bike next to me... so on the other long run days, i plan the water stops very carefully and try to make them as fast as possible. do you have someone (like the genius?) who would be willing to ride a bike with you for your key long runs? i think it really helps the confidence in that you KNOW you don't have to stop... because you've done it in training.

  3. Thanks, Joe. I have a feeling it is one of the hardest parts of this thing we do. Every little milestone means a lot.

    T-meat--lucky for me, I don't have to do that killer workout. The longest workout I would ever do at GMP or faster in a build up to a marathon is a half marathon. My coach believes that anything longer takes too long to recover from and could compromise the rest of my training, and even the race if the timing is too close.

    For the rest of this cycle, I have workouts that I will be able to do without needing to stop for water if I plan them well. The question is whether I can keep myself from going out too fast and stopping when it becomes super hard. I obviously don't have a problem with this in the actual marathon. I use it more as a measure of my relative fitness--being able to hold a pace that I couldn't last year when I was in 2:46 shape. Makes me excited about what I'll be bale to pull off in Chicago.

  4. yeah, people have different opinions on these things. i guess it just depends on how hard you run them. obviously if you run them like a race, it will kill you. but i've always come back two days later with great intervals and carried on with training very well. i just like to stay in control while doing them without crossing over the line so to speak. if done right, these runs are a great confidence booster. if done wrong, yes, they can push you over the edge and you can leave your race out on the trail.

  5. I think that's right, t-meat. Each of us figures out what that unique combo of workouts is that builds us up without putting us too far over the edge. We also have to figure out what workouts build our confidence. For me, I compare my workouts from one cycle to the next, like I did last weekend. This is all I need to have confidence in my fitness. Then, I just need to stay healthy and have a good combo of weather, competition and luck on race day! No small feat!

  6. i also find it interesting that people do a variety of different things to prepare for various distances. yet many times, in the end, we all are in the same basic place. obviously there are some things that are simply "wrong" or "detrimental" to do.... but it's kind of cool how there is not necessarily a "right" or "wrong" way to do things. what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. and hell, sometimes the same thing doesn't work for the same person from one cycle to the next.
    as for you, it makes sense that you would get off on comparing your cycles, since you have been on a fairly dramatic upswing in recent years. that's confidence building enough.. just to see improvement. for me i think it's more about maintaining. not seeing a decline is what keeps me psyched. you are still chasing PRs (which are very attainable), whereas i doubt i'll hit my PRs... but i enjoy trying to get as close as possible to them. as time goes by, i realize how rare that perfect day is when everything comes together. as leonard always says... you never know when you just ran the fastest you ever will in your life. so yes, it's true... no small feat to have it all synchronize perfectly. having confidence in yourself and your training when you toe the line definetely helps to swing the odds in your favor!

  7. That's good stuff. I'm pretty sure we can write a book with all of this good material we're laying down;)

  8. or a blog. ;) actually i'll leave that to you.

  9. I was going to comment on your post, but there's some interesting discussion in the comments. I've got no idea who Leonard is, but that's so true. After my lifetime PBs I was happy enough, but always thought I was going to race that particular distance faster (which is a good attitude I guess). Also, it's interesting reading about the different training methods of athletes that end up producing similar race times.

    Anyway, good to repeat a session from the last build-up and improve as well as cutting the breaks.

    It's also interesting about the number of food items from that Wednesday that we can't buy down here: Splenda, Trader Joe's black bean and corn enchiladas, baked blue chips, Larabars, Trader Joe's lite kettle corn.

  10. Confessions are so entertaining to read! Keep being a bad girl so we can get the dirt. ;-) But seriously folks, great run.

    And sure, mental strength is super important, but you have a point...if you can do those times with the breaks, you're rocking it, regardless. I guess now you're rockin' it with room to spare and that ain't half bad!

  11. One of the benefits of my run with my Club was that we twice stopped at water fountains in Central Park. But when I'm alone, I almost never stop, although I sometimes wear a Fuel Belt (and I know Flo carries a bottle).

    There's a balance to be made. I think physically and mentally if you finish a longish run without fueling you are better training yourself to run with depleted stores.

    On the other hand, from experience I learned that when it's warm the better part of discretion is to do, say, an 18 miler with water and gels rather than blowing up and have to stop at 14 without. So I set things up to briefly stop. I often use a loop course, with a water bottle on my car. Stop 10 seconds and grab a gel and a drink and start up again. (I don't stop at water stations during races.) I've found that can make a huge difference in the final stages of the run, even if it may decrease the effectiveness. But remember, on raceday you'll get this stuff and there's much to be said for the simulation.

  12. Ewen: I agree that this one sparked some good discussion in the comments. Leonard is t-meat's coach/husband, btw. Too bad for you that you can't get all of those delicious items in your grocery store;) A couple of them are probably closer to junk than real food, but I like to think the others have some nutritional value. You need to get your hands on the Larabars (there's an umlaut in there somewhere). they are tasty.

    General comment: I'm not sure how to feel about Leonard's comment that you never know if the race you just ran was your lifetime PR. I don't know if it would make me any more appreciative of the achievement because, at the time (like Ewen), I'd probably still be optimistic about my prospects for running even faster. Luckily, running fast is only one component of the sport. There's also competition that may or may not have any relationship to lifetime PRs. As for my future, I've already run faster than I had ever expected to in my lifetime and am completely satisfied with what I've achieved even if I stopped running today. Whether I've already plateaued or not does not have any bearing on how hard I train. It's fun to dream about crazy fast times and push myself with the hope of setting a PR. However, that's not the only thing that drives me. Perhaps my attitude will change when I stop setting PRs. I hope it doesn't.

    GIM: You're such a supportive blog friend (BF). Thanks for accepting my uglies. You know there will be more to come:)

    Joe: Thanks for reminding me that important long runs warrant planning and logistical support. I get used to running out my door with a couple of gu packets and hope that the water fountains along my route will be operational. This last weekend's run was a step in the right direction in that I at least planned my repeats to start and end at water fountains so my breaks could come between the hard effort instead of in the middle. I dislike carrying a water bottle, so I go out of my way to come up with an alternative. I did carry one with me on Saturday's run with the expectation that I would use it, but I threw it away before I started the speed work because it was bothering me so much. That's when I came up with the course change.

    Maybe I've made it sound like I never want to stop for water on my runs, but I am fine with it during easy and moderate runs as well as the portions of my long runs that aren't at a specific pace. The issue, which I think you get, is that it's not about the water. Water is a convenient excuse for me to stop when I feel overwhelmed in a workout. So, your advice will come in handy as I try to set myself up for success in these next few weeks of tough, hot running. I couldn't agree more that practice, practice, practice is always a good thing!

  13. to clarify what leonard means.... i think ewen basically gets it. there's nothing really negative about it at all. it's just a knowing reflection from someone who is done PR'ing. the point is that when we run races and PRs, we almost always think that we will one day run faster. we don't say "wow, i'll bet i'll never run faster then that!". we always figure we'll build on our best and better things will come. and it's good to think that way... that's what keeps us motivated and excited! but you never know what life has in store. i mean, how could we possibly know ahead of time when we are finished PR'ing? so the point is to give each race your best, as if it is potentially the fastest you will ever run. because maybe that's exactly what it will end up being. and having appreciation for the days when things are going well for you. i know from my own experience that when i ran my marathon PR of 2:41, it was pretty easy at the time. i was a fairly new runner and i just assumed i would one day go faster. but then i went on to have two kids and logistically i was never able to put the same amount of emotional intensity into my training. so in reality that 2:41 will likely stand as my PR (and i'm perfectly ok with that). but i sure didn't think it was at the time. now i can look back, see how everything really worked out for me during that training cycle and on race day and i have a better appreciation for it. i understand what people mean when they say those great days only come once in a blue moon. so again... if you are lucky enough to have everything come together just perfectly like that... take full advantage of it. seize the moment so to speak. because you never know if this is the fastest you will ever run again!

  14. i guess i should also point out that though i shared that quote from leonard, it's not as if i live and breathe it every moment! sometimes i just race to race and sometimes i don't take it as seriously as other times. leonard also has a different perspective since he was hit by a drunk driver many years ago while out running... so his running "career" was instantly cut short. gives you a different perspective on things and a stronger realization that you just don't know what the future holds.

  15. Yes tmeat, that's it. If one is racing well (on PB schedule), make it the best possible PB. Don't save anything. If it's a track race, go hard the last 2 laps, and sprint the last 150 metres (or however far one can sprint) - à la Chris Solinsky - 26:59.60 is a more satisfying PB than 27:05.