A Hybrid Weekend
|July 16, 2012||Posted by Emily under Uncategorized|
There are a lot of things about ultra running that do not really scream “Emily Sarah Halnon!”
The laid back attitude and aversion to Racing with a capital “R”. The high quantity of watchless wrists on any given ultra course. The preference for dirt over pavement. The acceptance-and expectation-that competitors will walk (frequently) during a race. The lack of the word “competitor” or any other variation of the beloved word I utter so frequently. Pretty much the only thing about the ultra scene that really meshes with my endurance racing philosophy is the high quantity of snacks and (good) cold beer on race day-the snacks, they get right.
But if I’m going to keep doing these ultra events, I need to start adopting some of the ultra lifestyle, other than the whole snack and craft brew thing, especially when it comes to training.
As a self-professed garmin addict, I rarely do a workout based on anything other than distance and pace. Back when I was Ironman training, my coach would email me my workouts for the week with everything measured in time. I would read the email, shoot him an immediate response reminding him that I find time-based workouts exceedingly dull, and then convert everything to distance (3 hours of running=20 mile workout, 35 minutes of tempo=5 miles of tempo) and get my garmin charged and ready to rock a week of well measured and documented sweating. Clearly, I was a triathlon coach’s dream athlete.
And while this strategy worked out just fine for getting me ready to swim/bike/run through the hills of Lake Placid, I’ve been noticing some very large holes in my ultra training, mainly in the form of “time on my feet.”
Run commuting (fast) straight to a bar to spend “time on my ass with margarita in hand” with a newly medaled Ironman, I have down to a science, but my feet could use some more love on a weekly basis. Or, more accurately, punishment via pavement.
While I tried to add a few marathons to my schedule this summer in an attempt to earn some of this feet time thing, I kind of failed at actually using them for this purpose. I have yet to figure out how exactly to jog a marathon. Even when I don’t have a PR in mind, I definitely have a PW that I’m looking to avoid.
See: Grandmas Marathon.
And when doing long training runs, I am barely flirting with 3 hours, far from the amount of time my feet will be racing my ass during my next ultra. Last week, when I finished 20 miles somewhere around 2 hours and 50 minutes, I briefly flirted with the idea of continuing to three hours, just because it seemed like a good idea in the name of good ultra training. But it didn’t take my legs long to veto that plan, and instead walk to the nearest chocolate milk distributor in protest.
So this weekend, in the interest of not entering some dark, scary, ugly place at mile 26 of my next 50k, I pulled an ultra runner, and set out for a run with only one goal in mind: time on my feet. Four quality hours of time, to be exact.
On the other side of this miserably long four hour run, I have to admit, I am still most definitely not a big fan of basing workouts on time. In fact, I’m pretty sure I like them less. When you aim to hit 20 miles for the day, you get rewarded for running it strong and finishing faster. If you try to pull the same stunt with a four hour workout, you will be very fiercely punished with some very dead quads with well over an hour left to slog around before collapsing in a very ugly, very tired heap on whatever street corner you happen to be on when your watch finally beeps 4 hours.
My strategy was to avoid this physical bonking by maintaining a slow and steady pace between 8:30-9 minute miles for the duration of the run.
Well, no matter how slow and steady the pace is, four hours of straight running is just plain hard work and a little bit miserable, especially in the middle of DC summer.
I got out the door later than planned when my Garmin battery informed me it had about 1 percent remaining. While I might not have been running for distance, you can bet your bottom dollar I was not about to spend 4 hours running the (paved) trails of DC without knowing how far I traveled…to the one hundredth of a mile, even if this meant running in hotter and more humid conditions.
The one kind-of-sort-of better thing about running for time, is you really can just zen out your pace. It doesn’t matter how fast you run because you’re going to be out there for x number of tedious hours no matter what. Whereas I’m normally obsessing over my pace and distance, I was pretty oblivious to my data during Saturday’s run.
But one thing you are never oblivious to? The amount of time you’ve been out running, and more importantly, the amount of time you have left.
The worst was reaching 2 hours, feeling more than a little fatigued, thinking “gee, I’ve been out here for a really long time, which means gee, I’ve got a really long time left to run. MOTHER FUCKER.”
Sorry, kids, cover your ears.
By the end of the four hours, which felt more like forty hours, I covered 27.5 miles at an average of an 8:43 pace. My longest training run ever and hopefully one that will make the final miles of my next 50k justalittlebit easier.
On Sunday, anxious to get back to my roadie roots, I embraced my garmin and chased my time-on-my-feet run with a good old fashioned 10 mile goal pace run. I figured hitting double digits worth of goal pace the day after my longest training run ever would do some kind of magical things for my ability to do things on tired legs. Well, as a not-at-all certified running coach, I don’t know if any magical gains were made, but I do know that it was a freaking hard run. Keep in mind that this is my 50k goal pace we’re talking about, a number pretty close to my recovery pace during marathon training, and while I got my legs turning over fast enough to (barely) hit my pace goal, I was DONE by the end of the run. Like, crawling home kind of done.
In the next installment of “So You Think You Can Be an Ultra Runner”, I’ll go totally watchless.
…or maybe not. Baby steps, people.