Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Going Long

Since first training with a coach about a year and a half ago, my runs, as well as most of my other workouts, have been characterized by their intensity rather than their length. That’s not to say that total miles don’t add up in a week, but a lot of time it’s eight miles with most of it in my upper heart rate zones rather than 10 or 12 at an easier pace.


On a recent Saturday however, was the first notable exception to that. The instructions were a three and a half hour run with a mix of Zone 2 and Zone 3. I believe running like this all the time has the potential to lead to injuries. In fact, I know this to be the case from past experience. However, as an occasional workout, it’s very useful to gauge current endurance levels.

Garmin Connect say it was 73* as I started my trip down the Sulphur Gulch bike path a little after 10:00. That might have been the shade temp but the heat out in the sun and on the pavement was higher. I had my CamelBak with me and a couple of Gu’s since I figured to be burning some significant calories before this was all over.


I started out doing ten minute intervals at Z3 and then recovering at Z2. The further I went, the harder it was to actually ease my heart rate down to the lower zone. However, my perceived effort was consistent with Z2 being less of a challenge than Z3. I also took some time to walk for a minute or so and let the rate recover more fully before starting up again.

I got all the way out to the Dove Valley area before it was time to turn back and run the trail home. My first long interval was 30 minutes in Z2, followed by 30 in Z3 and finally 30 more in Z2. I was going more uphill than down on the return section and it showed as I started to spike outside of my assigned zone. 


By the time I reached the last set before the cool down, I was walking as much as I was running. I didn’t feel exhausted (though I was quite tired) but I also was keeping in mind the net impact the run would have on me both in the short term (a brick workout was waiting for me on Sunday) and beyond. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done any training of this length but I do recall feeling pretty wasted for days afterward.

The slower return had me finishing about a mile away from my intended goal which was our neighborhood pool. Officially, this went down as an 18.68 mile run but I was closer to 20 miles when you count that walk to the pool.

Upon arriving at the pool, I spent about fifteen minutes just wading, gently kicking and slowly walking around in the water. I can’t say for certain that this helped in the recovery, but I will say that when it was time run the next day, I felt no residual effects.


I’d like to think this is a gauge of how the marathon portion of the race might go, but it’s not that easy. I had done a 30 minute open water swim earlier that day, but that’s not the same as a swim of over an hour to say nothing of a 112 mile bike ride. There’s no way I’ll feel so fresh when I hit the Boulder Creek Path in a few weeks.


I’ve run estimates six ways to Sunday and still have no real idea how hard it will be during those first ten to fifteen miles of the run. I am certain the balance will be incredibly difficult! This run was done at an average of 11:14 per mile and as I mentioned, I took some sections pretty easy. I’m not going to especially hard on race day, but I’m also not going to be overly concerned if I creep out of Zone 2 and into upper Zone 3.

If things go really well, I’ll be finishing up after about 5:30. If they don’t it will probably be six hours or more. My overall goal for this race is really anything under 14 hours. It means a good bike could take some of the pressure off the run. But, of course, you have to balance the bike so that there’s still plenty left in the tank before starting the marathon.


I’m still anticipating a long bike ride before my taper. Much as this work out did, it will inform me on what I might expect to see on race day. In fact, since I plan on being more or less fresh to start the ride (I’m feeling pretty good about my swim), it may tell me even more.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Fighting Fatigue Through Phrases

There are now less than nine weeks until the big day and the training has clearly ticked up in both intensity and duration.

If I’m not swimming until it feels like my arms are going to fall off, I’m repeating a set of hills or doing a run after that set of hills. In other words, things are very hard right now and I’m often completely spent at the end of the day.

In fact, after finishing yesterday’s brick, it was about all I could do to get a shower before I got in bed and took a nap. It’s always a good feeling to finish up the last workout of the week and in all candor, I expected the upcoming week to be one of my recoveries. A look at my Training Peaks account last night showed me otherwise.

Instead of a lighter week, I have about another 12 hours of training that includes a very long swim (IM distance) track work, and some bike rides that will include some trips up to power zone 5 which has never been a favorite place of mine.

The effect on my mood was a little disheartening at first. Being that tired can make you a little despondent when you’re told that there’s basically another week coming up that is more or less like the one you finished. This last week has had a lot of strength focused work including hill climbs on both the bike and on the run.

After a few minutes of sulking, I realized that isJune after all and in fact, two weeks from tomorrow I’ll be racing. Being that it’s summer, that time will undoubtedly fly by! This helped me remember that I’m not training for the Clay-man or even the Aluminum-man. This is the IRON-man and that moniker really isn’t an exaggeration. I seem to recall that among the founders were members of the military and some of their sayings helped bring me out of my funk. My three favorites these days are:


The only easy day was yesterday.

Embrace the suck.

If my own preparations are inadequate, I end up either not finishing or coming in so late that all my friends and family have gone on to have dinner and gone to bed while my wife waits for me with a look that is combination worry and annoyance. If one of our military members has a bad day, well, you know.

Another phrase that helps is one  my coach has used: 

If this were easy, everyone would do it.

While it may feel like everyone is in the water with me at the start, the truth is only an infinitesimal fraction of a percentage of the population will ever do anything like this. It’s good perspective.

So I’m still faced with the same set of circumstances. Hard workouts, feelings of exhaustion and pain that really can’t be described and no assurances that next week will be any easier. However, my outlook has improved. Long swims? Bring it! Twelve by 400 on the track? No problem, I’ve done that before. Anticipating a challenge, especially when it’s daunting is usually worse than the actual event. Past experience has taught me that without even noticing, I’m already most of the way through the workout. My final phrase that has helped me along:

This too shall pass.

Thanks for reading and best of luck to you in all of your obstacles, challenges and most of all in overcoming your fears.