Two Types of Long Run (9/4 and 9/14)

I'm a big believer in making your long runs into a workout, particularly in a marathon phase.  There comes a point where a standard 20 miler (or even 24, 25, or 30 miler) can only do so much for you.  If you want to really run well in a marathon, you need to teach your body how to run fast after 20 miles.  One way of doing this is to progress your long run.  Khalid Khannouchi was famous for this.  He would run his 20 or 22 miles getting progressively faster from 10 miles on, finishing on the track in 4:40s or better for the last 2 or 3 miles when he was really "on."  I did about five of these types of long runs during my buildup for the St. Louis Marathon in 2008 (where I ran my PR of 2:26:19).  With the Specific Block and some other things I've been trying, I have not gotten in as many of this type of run during my current Chicago buildup, but I did get one in on September 4, a couple of weeks ago.

I did 24 miles total, and the plan was to progress the pace from about half way until a mile from the end (leaving the last mile for a cooldown).  I rolled up the lakefront path to a bit north of Northwestern's campus on the way out.  I was running 6:00 pace by the time I got to mile 7.  I really started to get moving about 13 miles in, dropping it to the 5:40-5:50 range.  I did not have splits up north, but my best guess for miles 16-19 was about 5:30s average.  I was back onto the path at this point, but feeling pretty rough.  I took one mile "easy" at 6:00 pace to recover a bit, then hit 2.5 miles at MP before cooling down a mile and a half.  The splits for my last 2.5 were 5:20, 5:19, 2:39, right on my goal MP.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the workout.  I got some solid MP running in late in the game--crucial for teaching my body how to really finish a marathon (both from a muscular endurance standpoint and a fuel-burning standpoint).  I finished this type of run faster a few times during my St. Louis buildup, but those runs usually didn't hit 5:40 pace or faster until just 4 or 5 miles from the end.  Here, I was really running pretty quickly for quite a long time, so naturally, I could not close quite as hard.

Just a few days ago, on September 14, I did a long run at 95% MP (or 16 seconds slower per mile than my goal MP).  My goal was to hit 22-24 miles at pace, which should be about 5:34s, based on my goal MP of 5:18/mile.  I got through 19 miles at 5:35 pace.  My splits are finally dead-on accurate, since I took it upon myself to measure the lakefront path via satellite (see here and here), since CARA or Nike or whoever runs the show with the mile markers is too incompetent to do so accurately.  I was pretty happy with getting those 19 miles in.

Not exactly what I hoped, but I had some issues with fluids.  I'm much less of a believer in taking in a lot of calories than I used to be.  More or less, at MP, your digestive system shuts down, so you can take in very little glycogen.  The better option is to train properly to teach your body to burn lipids and glycogen in the right percentages to reach 26.2 miles without running out of glycogen or "bonking."  I do plan on taking in some fluid (alternating water and gatorade), but no gels, during the marathon, but only a few ounces at each stop, which isn't too much of a problem.  Anyway, for whatever reason, I decided to try to get down 12 oz. of gatorade at mile 12.  I used to do this a few years ago, but during the aforementioned long progression runs, meaning I would be running slower than 6:00 pace when I took the fluid in.  No big deal then.  Taking 12 oz. of fluid while running low 5:30s is a whole different ball game.  It's the same reason why I don't take anything in during half marathons.  Trying to swallow (not to mention carrying a bottle without spilling it) throws me into oxygen debt.  I was riding a fine line, and taking down that much really threw a kink in the run.  Not only were miles 13 and 14, while I was taking the fluid, my slowest miles of the run (5:40s), but even afterward, I was just thrown off.  I just couldn't get back to the same relaxation I had at 5:34 pace before taking the fluid.  It may sound dumb, but I really think that issue cut my run short by a few miles.  I think I could have gotten through 21, 22 miles or more at pace if I'd just skipped it all together. 

Despite all this, it was a very solid session, and one that should pay dividends come race day.  It helped prepare my body to burn fuel properly in the race.  It helped me practice mentally focusing for a long time.  And it helped prepare my muscles for a long, fast run.  These and other workouts over the last month or so let me know that, on the right day, a sub-2:19 (Olympic Trials qualifying standard) is possible in Chicago.  Only a few hard efforts left, and then it's time to see what I can do!