As I mentioned before, I don’t know much about long run strategy.
Based on my limited experience with building up mileage week by week, I know that I shouldn’t expect to be able to maintain pace at the end of a new distance. There were long runs leading up to San Diego last year where I all but crawled the last two miles.
I hope that this time around, there might be some muscle memory that will make the ends of those longer runs a bit more bearable. But until today, I hadn’t planned to do anything to counteract the weekly meltdown.
I went to the Team in Training group run this morning, planning to run 10 of their scheduled 12 miles. I fell into pace with Greg, their typical leader of the pack. When I mentioned I was planning to turn around early to make it 10, his response was, “what’s two more miles?”
My gut reaction: “IT’S TWO MORE MILES!” But then I thought about it… it’s two more miles. Two more miles that I needn’t necessarily worry about keeping on pace, but miles that if run today, might be easier crank out next week. Hmmm. So I let Greg drag me along. As I suspected, it got tougher after 8, but I did my best to play the mental toughness game.
At 9 miles, Greg split off of the marked course to run a full 18 miles. At that point, I was 3 miles from the car, and was traveling 12 miles whether I ran, walked, or hitch-hiked back.
I finished my scheduled 10 miles at a steadyish pace (last mile 8:35) but then eased up. I took a nice break at the water stop at about 10.75 miles before heading back to the finish. The last two miles averaged just under 9:00 pace, and – hooray! I didn’t feel miserable at the finish!
So just like all of last year, I ran the last last two miles at a slower pace than the rest of the run. But because it was a controlled slowdown, and because I ran all of the “scheduled” miles at a decent pace, I have a totally different mindset about it. We’ll see if this still sounds like a good idea as the runs get longer and tougher, but for now I really like this theory. Right now, my calves are screaming and my stomach feels gross – but that’s nothing new. This still seems to make sense.
Disclaimer: if I get to next week and miles 10-12 are anything but smooth and steady, I may reevaluate this master plan. I see absolutely no point in adding on bonus miles “for fun.” Because, friends, I don’t even LIKE long runs! What is wrong with me?