TITLE: 40 KM AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: August 23, 2005 4:40 PM DESC: My recent string of pleasing long training runs continued with my longest long run of the year. Does that portend a good race six weeks hence? ----- BODY: I did my longest long run of the season on Sunday: four times around a 10 km loop in the local state park, for a rough total of 24.8 miles. This run came at the end of my longest training week, too, 61 miles. It was, I believe, my longest week ever. Once again, I was pretty happy with the results. I knew that I needed to pace myself in order to complete this run, so I planned to begin gently. But, as slow as it seemed at the time, I must have felt better than I expected. My four "lap" times were 51:36, 51:01, 50:38, and 48:38. Negative splits! Even better, the first three were faster than all but the fastest split time for my recent 18-miler, over the same course. I broke each lap into two parts that are roughly 5K each. Near the end of each of these parts, I clocked a single mile in order to gauge my pace. The eight miles, in order, were 8:36, 8:30, 8:33, 8:23, 8:27, 8:08, 7:40, and 7:27. Yes, I ran the 24th mile in 7:27. Total time: 3:21:53. Color me pleased! Later in the day, I went back to compare my time on this route with the same training runs for my previous two marathons. My log reminded me that I was unable to do this route last year, due to flooding from heavy rains in the preceding week or two. But back in 2002, I ran this route on September 21, as part of my then-longest (by far) week ever of 51 miles. I didn't run negative splits that year, though my fourth lap was my second fastest. The run took me 3:59:38. My improvement in two years was about 38 minutes. Notice, too, how late my longest long run came in 2003. My 2004 24-miler came on the same weekend, September 19. By hitting 24 miles a month earlier this year, I have the luxury of being able to do two more long training runs: a 22-miler next weekend and a 20-miler exactly three weeks before the race date. I can focus these runs on pace management and speed, without having to worry about endurance. At this point, I am guardedly optimistic that I can make a solid improvement on my marathon time from last year. The guardedness reflects the intrusion of reality... I took restroom breaks during the training run that I will hope not to take during the race. Those rests, however brief, improve running time at the cost of actual time. Plus, there is a big difference between early 8 ½-minute miles and early 8-minute miles. But I will also rest my body in the weeks leading up to the race, and I will do more to manage my diet and sleep. We'll see. Doing this run reminds me just a bit about how grueling the marathon is. As happy as I was with my time, my quadriceps are still feeling it two days later. Over the course of the run, I lost eight pounds. (Don't worry; most of that comes back with a moderate-sized meal later in the day.) And I needed a nap on Monday, though I didn't get to take one. :-) Back to the track tomorrow morning... -----