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Three Elements of the Great Long Run.

24 October 2016

Well, things appear to be wrapping up in positive directions on several fronts. The title company issues with my house are settled, now I just need to sign things and get them mailed off. The sale should close on Tuesday. After that, I am thinking of spending some of the proceeds on a Subaru Crosstrek, a cute compact crossover-SUV that would allow BB and I to expand our radius and learn more about the areas we live in. And take our bikes out to more distant areas and ride them in the countryside. And go to IKEA more*.

My marathon training is finally sort of on track. This past week was warmer, and I had a couple of hard slogs worth about 10 miles which felt awful. But the weather was back up over 80 degrees again. I’m never going to be good in the heat. I just don’t have the constitution for it. But I should be better than I am and I’m going to work harder this coming summer than I did this past one. But despite the heat and misery, I got in a 7 mile run in the afternoon, puddled in sweat.

Then it cooled off over the weekend, and BB and I did our 15 miler. It was a pullback from last week’s 20. Pullback weeks are crucial to allow the body to rest and recover. So I had about a 26 mile week and that’s good. This coming week is the big one. The longest of the training season. My training schedule says it’s 39 miles, but my plan is to do at least 42. Possibly 44. With the cooler weather (it’s going to be in the high 50s when I run today) I should be able to run faster and harder, and get in some good distance.

I felt really nervous the past few months about not getting into shape. So, I did something about it. I did longer, faster, harder runs to build fitness faster than I otherwise might have. And it’s paid off. I had a good 15 miler this weekend, and a great 20 miler last weekend. This weekend is going to be 21, and I know what to do and how to do it. I know how to fuel now. I know how to pace. I know how to prep. I’ve learned a few things about running long. Here’s what I’ve discovered in two and a half years of doing long-distance runs:

There are three aspects to a good long run: Musculoskeletal, Cardiovascular, and Metabolic. All three have to be at least decent to have a good long run. But really, only one is under direct control on the day of the run. In order:

  1. Musculoskeletal. Gotta have bones and muscles that can do the job. A little pain, a few tweaky injuries that shake out as the run progresses? No problem. That’s just being a distance runner. Fatigue and injury are part of the game. But if you have sharp, ice-pick pains, or swelling, ease off and let yourself heal. No need to die a hero at mile 4. Take regular rests and pullbacks to keep yourself healthy. And for me, I need short, slow runs regularly.
  2. Cardiovascular. For this, nothing works but putting the time in. You need to be able to get your heart rate up, and sustain it up for a long time. Interval training is really good for this. Jumping rope (boooo!). And running. As BB’s trainer says: if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. Get that sweat pouring, get that heart rate up. Work like hell. Then, you’ll have what you need on the long run day.
  3. Metabolic. This is the one we can control on game day. The big deal for me starts the night before. I need to hydrate aggressively, and eat a lot of lean protein and carbohydrates of middling complexity, like potatoes or white rice. Pasta doesn’t work for me. Then, in the morning before the run I need granola and yogurt or milk. And I’ve discovered a shot of honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup right before I run helps immeasurably. During the run I need 200 calories an hour, starting with food-like substances (date and nut bars), shifting to performance fuel (powerbars), and finally to pure sugar (gels, GU, Bloks, etc.) for the final few miles. And extra electrolytes regularly.

If I hit these three things, I can do any long run. My muscles and bones are fit, even though I have several minor injuries and pains to fight through (foot, knee, high hamstring, shoulder). My cardiovascular fitness is good as long as the temperature stays below 65 degrees. And I’ve figured out how to fuel and drink on the run.

I’m not counting any chickens yet, but these eggs look healthy.


*This might be the whitest thing I’ve ever written.

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