It’s time for another check in and we’re getting down to the wire. I just completed my final “down” week of the training program. This program featured two down weeks, where there are no workouts or long runs. This past down week, I felt like I was getting sick so I took an extra day off from the program. I didn’t quite hit the mileage the way the program suggested but because it was a down week, I let it slide.
Week 9 featured a workout of 4 x 800 meter repeats to be run in 3:25. For some reason, the 800 workouts have been the toughest for me. I think it’s a mental struggle because the pace is so close to race pace. Because I haven’t done much race pace specific work, at the first bought of discomfort, I assume that I’m not going to be able to carry that pace come July 4th. Awareness is key! At the first bought of such awfulizing thoughts, I try to change my mindset and use positive affirmations, such as “I’ve got this, I am strong, and this pace is not bad at all.” I initially hit the 800s around 3:26 pace but on the final one, I came in strong at 3:17. The last repeat was important because I tried to get my body in a stress state and push through it. In fact, on any run where I am experiencing discomfort (including easy runs) I am making more of an effort to stay with the uneasiness. This is a great exercise in mental strength and after a while, I start to ignore the discomfort.
I also had another long run of 13 miles last week. I hit just under the prescribed pace (9:04) and felt good throughout the entire run. I have been doing my longs runs in the evening on Sundays because it is typically cooler. There are three more long runs left, each at 13 miles. As much as I think 13 is a bit long, I am starting to see the benefit. I feel a lot stronger in my endurance and long runs leave me feeling quite relaxed. But sometimes, it’s just so boring for me! I am trying to do more loop routes versus out and backs, which is helping to keep me focused.
Lastly, the part of the program that I believe is helping my running improve the most is the easy run pace. I used to treat all easy runs as recovery runs. I would go by feel and this typically resulted in ten minute miles or slower. I now believe in running a prescribed pace for easy runs. Sure, there may be a day or two where I need to run by feel. So far in this experiment, the least I had to do was start slow and build into the pace, especially on a treadmill. Never have I run such consistent paces in a training program though. I can tell a difference in my overall strength as a runner. And more importantly, nine minute miles are a breeze whereas before, I would’ve assumed that pace was too fast for an easy day. I now think that as my training progresses beyond this experiment that I will get more comfortable in the 8-9 minute range for easy runs and the 7-8 minute pace for workouts will not be as big a barrier as it has been for me all these years. Who knew a simple change in easy run pace could help so much? Certainly, not the stubborn me.
Three long runs and four workouts left, then it’s go time!