TITLE: Entering the Final Iteration AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: August 29, 2006 5:36 PM DESC: ----- BODY: At last report, I had had a good 22-miler, which was my first comfortable long run of the year. My 18- and 20-milers had been struggles, due in part to weather and in part to the fact that I was still regaining strength and stamina from reduced mileage in the spring. But I was wary of feeling too good, because I still faced my longest test of the year. This year I am again training on a three-week cycle, something like an iteration in agile development. For two weeks, I increase mileage, including the Sunday long run, and then in the third I cut back a bit, to consolidate my gains and to prepare for the next increase. My tough 18- and 20-milers had been part of a 50-52-48 iteration, capped off with a 12-miler. The 22-miler was the end of the first week in a 54-56-52 iteration. Well, I did my longest run of the year at the end of Week 2, four times around a 10K loop in the local park. That comes to 24.8 miles, though I record it as a 24-miler. It went very well. I felt strong throughout, ran negative splits for all four laps, and finished in 3:34:25 -- about 9 minutes under my upper bound of 9:00/mile. The last mile of my first three laps took 9:16, 9:04, and 8:46, and then I closed the last lap with consecutive miles of 8:32, 8:46, 7:58, and 7:34. This wasn't nearly as fast as last year's 40K, but it was perfect as a training run -- fast, but not too fast. If I run the long runs too fast, then I won't be able to gain as much from my upcoming speed workouts; plus I run an increased risk of injury or simply burning out. Patience, patience! With a marathon goal pace of 8:00/mile, I felt good knowing that I could close with two sub-8:00-minute miles at the end of a 110-mile fortnight. On race day, I will have run only 20 miles or so in the preceding week, all in short distances and none too fast. The body will, I hope be recovered and ready for a long, hard push. Even better, I ran that well with only two bathroom breaks, taking no energy gels, and drinking only about 16 ounces of sports drink. And I still felt good later that day! As I have begun telling folks, I wonder if my body isn't better suited for even longer distances, the so-called "ultra" races. (No, I'm not ready to put my mileage where my mouth is just yet.) My consolidation week went very well. I ran only 49 miles after giving myself a day off after the 40K. My speed workouts pushed me long -- 5x1600m and 10 miles at marathon goal pace -- and then I ran a long run of 16 miles in under an 8:30/mile pace. I haven't run that route so fast in at least a year. Again, I felt strong. I'm now beginning the final iteration of my training, a two-week cycle of 58-60 that ends as my three-week taper begins. I don't need a consolidation/recovery week, because the taper gives me three weeks of the same. My long runs will be only 22 and 20 miles, which means that I am bulking up my midweek runs. I'm going to stick with a 10-mile max on my Wednesday and Friday speed workouts, so Tuesday and Thursday will be the days that see more miles. I am curious to see what my long runs feel like these weeks, especially if I try to speed them up to an 8:30/mile pace throughout. What I really need to do is find a way to sleep more hours, but there are only so many in a day. With the start of the school year, both for me and my daughters, I don't have much leeway. That is one of the big challenges for me, and one of the reasons I've never tried an April or May marathon, when all of my training would occur during a semester. My training partner for this race, though, lives in Arkansas, and he is suffering through the heat and humidity of the south just to get ready to run with me in October. I definitely owe him one and so will likely find out what training for a spring marathon is really like -- and soon! Next up, in the morning: a 10-mile speed workout, 800m repeats, I think. Time to go fuel up. -----