Training Journal: March 7-March 13

Simulate Your Race

A nearby resident enjoying the unseasonably warm day would have heard a crazy man shouting. “COME ON! IS THAT ALL YOU’VE GOT?!?!?!?!” That resident then would have seen a runner, haggard, his hair a windblown mess, trudging up the steep slope of a hill.

That runner was me. Yes I was shouting, not at anyone running with me, but at myself. No, I’m not crazy. Or too crazy, that is. But at the end of a punishing 16-mile run that I designed to conclude with a four-mile climb, my legs and lungs were rebelling and I had decided I needed a little vocal encouragement to finish my task.

Any quality run offers the opportunity to simulate an element of your race. While the course for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is relatively flat, it does feature several hills, including a brutal final climb during the last two miles of the race.

To simulate making a lengthy climb while tired I planned my 16-mile long run as an out and back run, going downhill over the first four miles or so, traveling the next eight miles (including a turnaround) on flatter ground, then finally enduring a tiring four-mile climb to finish up the run. The climb is an exaggeration of what I will be tackling in May, but completing it built confidence in my fitness and in my ability to maintain a steady pace while battling the fatigue that comes at the end of a challenging run.

But Don’t Overdo

Adding in the climb was a great challenge at the end of the long run, and I may have overdone a bit. Shorter hill runs have been a staple of the base-building phase of my training and two days after my long run (with the end of run climb being an adjustment I added in) I was scheduled to run eight miles on a hilly course. My legs did not feel ready. With each step my calves felt like they were enduring the concussive blasts from fireworks. Step. Boom. Step. Pow. Step. Crackle. I probably should have just run a flat eight mile run. I did not, not wanting to stray from the plan (counterintuitive since my adjustment to my long run had already led me to stray from it).

I completed the run, but my legs felt flayed. I dealt with little aches and pains, especially in my calves, all the way through the weekend. It was a none too subtle reminder that training walks you along a rather thin line between being too easy and being too punishing. Drop a couple of challenging runs and you will not progress much. Add too many in and you will increase your injury risk. I will be smarter with the little tweaks I make in the coming weeks.

Work Down To Your Goal Pace

Like most runners I am obsessive, especially about hitting my splits. I have always struggled the most to hit my goal times during tempo runs. Yet, in the past, I have been unwilling to yield any ground. If a workout calls for five miles at tempo pace, I want to hit that pace for every mile.

The only problem is that I have a proven track record of getting stronger as I run. When I have expelled too much energy early on trying to hit my tempo splits, my tempo runs usually end up looking something like this sample eight-mile run (with five miles planned at tempo pace):

Miles 1 and 2 (warm up miles): 18:00

Mile 3: 6:40 (target half marathon pace)

Mile 4: 6:40

Mile 5: 6:45

Mile 6: 7:15

Mile 7: Death, I mean, 8:30

Mile 8 (cool down mile): 9:30

The end result is a workout that 1) doesn’t mirror my race strategy of easing into a race pace, 2) doesn’t play to my strengths and 3) results in me running fewer miles at my planned pace.

This cycle I have worked conscientiously to dial back the early speed and ease into my tempo runs. The results thus far have been promising. My tempo run last Saturday was a planned seven mile run with three miles at marathon pace (6:55). It looked like this:

Miles 1 and 2 (warm up miles): 18:30

Mile 3: 7:05

Mile 4: 6:55

Mile 5: 6:46

Miles 6 and 7 (cool down miles) 19:00

This is running that resembles me at my best. I completed all three miles at a hard pace, averaged my marathon pace over the length of the tempo miles, and found it easier drop down to my target time (and then beyond it) rather than expending energy trying to capture that goal pace immediately.

Enjoy the Elements:

Every now and then Mother Nature offers an early reprieve from the deep freeze of winter in Cleveland.

Every now and then it is possible to get in eight miles without three layers of clothing.

Every now and then.

Last week brought an unexpected warm spell to Cleveland, with temperatures reaching into the high 60’s. This was a wonderful time to shed the layers (and layers and layers) needed to keep warm during brutally cold Northeast Ohio winter days and enjoy a few days of running in shorts and short sleeves.

Race training can be a grind. Every now and then, it’s nice to grind it out with a soft breeze and the sun on your face in March.

Every now and then.


Weekly mileage: 39 miles

Yearly mileage: 269.1 miles

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