Thoughts on Running from a Long Run

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In the little gaps of time between training, when I’m not sleeping or eating or possibly wasting time with Twitter I think a lot about training. You’ve seen some of the fruits of this with the graphs I’ve filled recent posts with. Don’t worry, there aren’t any today, but I have started on some for my week 2 summary this Sunday. No one should be surprised that a lot of those training thoughts revolve around Kona. It’s looming large on the horizon and whether I can get into shape for it, especially sub-10 shape is the big question. I’m not myopic though and I also ponder the bigger picture and what’s to come.

Going beyond the race in Hawaii I have another six to nine months training full time before reality bites. I want to make the most of this time and step things up a gear. A big push so that next year’s race results reflect a new athlete. The biggest question is how?

I will get to running in a moment after some more general points. Buried in past post or comments I have said I feel like I’ve reached a point where I’m really ready to train. Typically this was close to a race so perhaps a good sign I was fit. What I would say, just two weeks into a new training block is I have really reached that point. It’s easy for me to train regularly and volume is never an issue. I’m at a point where I can work on increasing the intensity, uping the training load more to get bigger results. That’s where the focus of the next nine months lies. Not just training lots, but working harder than before.

My best fitness has come after extended blocks of hard training. That means knocking out the 30 hour weeks and uping the intensity as I go. I’ve been involved in a very interesting discussion on tritalk regarding training which includes a link to the perfect analogy. It’s about building the house, or in this case renovating it to a higher quality. My house is sturdy and reliable, but it needs to be finished off. I can go into my training knowing that all the biking, running and swimming I do is well within my grasp and what’s needed is harder work.

I will also briefly note that my best racing comes when I work myself into the ground in a training block. I need to be exhausted so that in the last week prior to taper I struggle to hit each session. In fact if I’m failing to hit some sessions I might take that as a good sign! Then a two or three week hard taper. Reduction in volume, but still intensity when I can. In Training Stress terms build up a very high Training Stress Score (TSS) then crash it down a little. It’s not entirely text book, but my gut feel is it’s worked for me. Kona and Western Australia will tell a lot on this. I’ll review it again before the races next year.

Anyway, the run…

Run splash

OK, so this post was about running and run training. Partly because I’m considering the what next for my run training and partly following email with Steven about his running. Fortunately I’m not in the situation of having to rebuild my running following a nasty injury. You should check out Steven’s blog to see what he’s having to cope with. A minor bout of Shin Splints a coupld of years ago is the nearest I can come to understanding the frustration.

My last two races included what I’d consider breakthrough runs for me. Finally coming in around the 3:10 mark, much closer to where I felt I should. It’s a great start and I put it down to a range of factors. Improved bike and run fitness over the last year being one, but also significantly was weight loss and better pacing. Finally learning to control the bike and the run pace so you can push in the last 10km was a revelation!

Of those factors, there’s probably still room for a little bit more on the weight loss, but not much. I think I’ve seen the biggest impact I’m going to get from that. With pacing I think there’s room for me to up the pace sooner. For that I need a race and the guts to try it. Ironman Western Australia perhaps? What I can do in training is work more on finishing my runs at a higher pace. It seems to be coming in naturally at the moment and I’d like to explore it more.

Really the key is to improve bike and run fitness. I need to be getting off the bike fresher and a faster natural runner. It’s really that simple. Given I’m discussing running I’ll put the bike issue aside. We’ll just assume my bike fitness is such that I’m arriving in T2 ready for a decent run.

My current run protocol is very, very simple. I run every day for at least 30 minutes, sometimes more. Most days I just run those thirty minutes around a local loop. How close to thirty I come is a good indicator of fatigue and fitness. One day a week (at least) I do a longer run typically over two hours. That’s about it. It gets me into shape to comfortably run an Ironman marathon, but it doesn’t build speed.

Increasing fitness comes down to increasing load and recovering from it. I’ve two options, increase the volume or increase the intensity. As usual I’m opting for a middle ground route! Recent runs I’ve noted that my pace picks up considerably throughout the half hour run. I started to think that perhaps I could get a lot simply by extending my run by another twenty to thirty minutes. If I could spend more time running at the higher pace my body will adapt towards that – perfect. So I will be uping the length of the daily run to 50 minutes minimum in the next training cycle.

The second way I’ll look to increase volume is to include a double run day once a week. Morning and evening runs with all my usual training in between. At least at first keeping the pace nice and easy for at least one of them to ensure I survive. Another option I’ll consider is a second long run. Not every week, but perhaps every other. In every case the aim is more time running per week, but minimising the risk of injury. Depending on location, finding trails could be a big benefit on that count.

I addressed intensity in the run up to Roth and Ironman UK by running regular short races. It’s my prefered way, I’m far better at racing than doing intervals. Without run series to hook into I’ll need to look at throwing in interval work one way or another. Some fartlek running and tempo work in the week at the very least. Whether I should try a return to a bit of track training is another question I need to weigh up.

Looking forward I’m simply looking to increase the training stress of my run training and rely on fitness to follow. Like that it seems a little too straight forward. I’m not sure there’s anything more complex to it though. Run more and run harder. Recover, adapt and get faster. Right? If anyone has experience of getting down to the 3 hour mark for Ironman marathons I’m very keen to learn more!

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From nutrition to pacing - a collection of CoachCox blog posts focused specifically on Ironman training and racing.