It is more than enough to head out the door and just go in running. This is a methodology that I particularly enjoy for longer runs on the trails, or just in places that I am not so familiar with, as those runs are more about finding a little quiet, or going on a bit of an adventure, than they are about pace.
However, I do appreciate some structure to my life, and that also applies to running.
For example, this week’s long run: 30 mins steady, 20 mins uptempo (6:20), then (5 mins run recovery into 5 mins @ 10k pace) x 2, finished with another 30 mins steady. The key thing about this workout is still time on legs, just like slower long runs are, but applying some speed has some extra benefits.
My other speed sessions in the week are, for the most part, about high leg turnover, building top end speed, and generating power. The speed in the distance session is more subdued, more sustainable. What I am attempting to do is teach my body to pick up the pace when I’m already tired.
This week I floated around 7:20 for the first 30. It is a nice steady pace that I could keep going for a long period, but quicker than what I would consider to be “easy.” This ensures that there’s already some effort in my legs before I speed things up and that by the time I’m done with the 20 minute effort I’m feeling winded. The 5 minute efforts are not all out, but this week I had them around 10k race pace, so they were certainly a challenge after the miles which had already gone into the legs. In the final 30 minutes I thought it would be good to try and match the pace of the first 30 minutes as, again, it doesn’t want to feel too easy.
This is a session about digging deep and finding more when your body is tired. Fatigue is an inevitability of long distance running, and so dealing with it is an aspect which should be trained.
This is also the sort of session which allows me to practise in-run nutrition.
I took two gels, one at 4 miles, one at 8. Since bonking on a 13-miler a couple of weeks back I’ve been thinking a lot about my calorie intake, and have surmised that I’ve really let that aspect slip. When I first ramped up the mileage in early-lockdown I was focused on eating and drinking right (read: enough), but it’s fallen to the back of my mind. This morning I didn’t want to under fuel, so I had a light pre-run breakfast (single slice of toast, peanut butter, honey, banana, coffee) and packed gels in my belt.
I didn’t take a gel at 12 since I was feeling good and the session was near the end, but you best believe I took my eating pretty seriously when I got back, taking on a second breakfast (porridge, fruit, more coffee) as well as a post-run shake, some chocolate dates, and pineapple juice. It made a difference to how I felt during the run, and also how I’ve recovered.
There are always going to be factors beyond our control that will impact how a run feels, but we can at least control what we put in our bodies, and I want to make sure that I take charge of that and give my body and mind the best chance of performing at as high a level as possible.