Sunday, 11 March 2012

When is fast too fast?

This week has been a good solid marathon training week for me with two of my three key sessions (an interval based session and my long run) gone really well and the third session ( a medium long run) not completed.  There are reasons for this and it is simply  a case of adjusting the week to fit in work, family things and other commitments.

The interval session on my 18 week marathon plan was a 6 x 800m session @ 5km pace with a jog recovery.    Having missed a few interval sessions lately and concentrating on the longer stuff I was a bit apprehensive but in the end hit target times comfortably (if an 800m session can be described as comfortable).  Most of the 800s were in the 2.35/2.36 region which was slightly quicker than 5km pace and the jog recovery just ended up being long enough for recovery to take place between work intervals. 

Saturdays long run was planned as a 22 mile effort (I made the executive decision to increase the long run from 16 to 22 as I had missed the midweek 11 that was in the plan).   I set off at the ungodly hour of 0620 for the first of four 5.5 mile loops.   Surely nobody else would be out at that time but surprisingly there were a few of us (I assume) marathon training folk catching an early long run.   Also out was Graham Hall of New Marske Harriers who was calibrating his bike ready to officially measure the forthcoming New Marske Harriers 5km and 10km series (details here...

I chose "loops" for one reason...not to give me an option to cut off the run early if I got into difficulty but simply to provide the temptation to give up the long run - resisting that temptation would make me stronger for race day!   The Marathon of the North apparently goes past the finish line at 18.5 miles meaning that "temptation" to finish early if things are not going well will be there and will need to be resisted!

My 5 mile splits up to 20 miles were 32.56, 31.59, 31.52 and 31.42 satisfying my craving for a negative split.  Last two miles along the Coast Road at Redcar on my last of four loops were 6.17 and 6.21 making the whole run a solid 22 miles in 2 hours 21 covering the distance at an average of 6.25 mins per mile.

It did make me think about my long run pace in particular the question of "Am I peaking too early?".   According to my programme (based on Pfitzinger) suggests long runs at 6.43 to 7.19 pace.  In my early long runs this was fine and all long runs were ok at this pace but as I have got fitter and running longer so the pace I have run them has increased.

This raises the following thoughts....

1.    Is my target marathon time too soft?   Have worked on a sub 2.45 marathon which would be a pb by over three mins.  Maybe I need to be a bit more ambitious?

2.   Am I running the long runs too fast too soon?   So far none of my runs have resulted in me hitting the wall and my recovery is fine afterwards so I don't think there is an over training issue going on.  Also most of my long runs have been negative splits so I'm confident my pacing is about right.

3.   Am I a responder to "long distance"?   Those people that watched the Horizons programme about the "truth about exercise" will know what I am talking about.  A guy does 12 mins of high intensity training in a four week period and his VO2 max does not improve.  Not because he has not done enough exercise but because he is a non responder.   A responder, according to research, shows adaptations to exercise even at this apparently minimal level. 

Horizon: The Truth About Exercise

Maybe 25 years or so ago when I started running I should have invested a bit of cash in a genetic test to see if I was a responder or not to exercise or to tell me if I was more suited to endurance or power sports!   I think I probably know the answer to that after years of training but what if a test said to me - forget this distance running lark concentrate on the 200m or the sprint hurdles because you'll never be a marathon runner.....kind of takes the fun out of it a bit doesn't it!

Saturday's long run was a statto's delight....It was my longest run in about 6 years, it marked 70 miles for the week and 500 miles for 2012 so far, it was my fastest long run yet and was a negative split by 85 seconds.  

Not really managed to catch up on all the news from Istanbul but generally it seems GB athletes have performed well overall.   A bruising encounter for Mo Farah in the 3000m being out kicked by the 37 year old Lagat was a highlight along with medals for Osagie (800m) and the womens 4 x 400m squad.  In the womens 3000m a superb finish by Obiri of Kenya subjected favourite Meseret Defar to a rare defeat - great to see another "older" athlete perform well with Helen Clitheroe "mixing it" in the early stages.

No doubt there will be talk of failure for Farah again but you cannot ask for any more in terms of effort as he hit the floor at the finish with just 3 hundredths of a second separating 2nd and 4th.  Lagat was like a wily old fox and you cannot beat his sprint finish in a situation like that....Like Farah says - you just go out and train twice as hard!  I'm sure he will!

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