TITLE: Building Mileage Through My Tough Zone AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: August 17, 2009 1:48 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Yesterday morning, I ran 16 miles, for the first time since training for my 2007 marathon. Historically, this has been a tough distance for me. Up to 12 miles seems easy enough, even when I was first building up. 18 miles and more isn't "easy", but it is long enough to intimidate me a bit; as a result, I run slower and prepare more carefully. Runs of 14-16 miles are caught in middle. Even after a few years experience, there feels like a crossover for me. My two fourteens so far this year were a mixed bag. The first felt great, and the second did not, though I ran just a touch slower. Yesterday's sixteen was my toughest run in a long time. It was rainy and windy at the outset, and I was struggling by the 2-mile mark. Later the sun came out and warmed things up, with the wind staying strong. My legs were sore throughout. I finished uphill into a headwind. For the next four hours or so, I was in a bit of a daze, sore and tired and unsettled. I finally snapped back and felt good by the end of the day. Some people think that shorter runs are easy, or at least easier than the long runs. For me there is a crossover point in the 14- to 16-mile range, but even then there is no magic tipping point, where runs go from being easy to a marathon distance being hard. In one sense, all distances are difficult. Yesterday's was less comfortable than I enjoy feeling. It's important to keep in mind that this a key point of training. In order to race a marathon, I need to run when I am tired, to prepare to run when I am tired or sore or uninterested on a race day. When I'm first building up my mileage, most runs are difficult because of their distance: they make me work more than I am used to working. I am back in this beginner's phase now after a year of diminished capacity. When I'm further along in my training, most runs are hard because I expect more and want to run a faster pace for a longer distance: they make me work harder than I am used to working. Both of these are good preparation for the marathon, when I will want to run a long distance at a faster pace than I usually train at long distances. The idea is to get the body ready for the stresses a marathon will place on it -- and to get the mind ready for the challenge of a goal that stretches me. I experienced another milestone this week. I have finally worked myself up to a 39-mile week. A number like this often impresses my non-running friends, but when I am healthy and in good shape I like to run 38 miles or more every week -- that's my maintenance mileage, what I do for fun, even throughout the winter. I've been rebuilding my base slowly from ground zero in hopes of staying healthy enough to stay on an upward path. So far, I am doing okay, though the last two weeks have been increasingly tough. By this point in training for a fall marathon, I would usually be at 48-50 miles on my way to a 60-mile or so week. This year, I'll slowly raise my mileage to a max of 48 or so at the beginning of October. If the rest of my long training runs leave me feeling as I did yesterday, I'll have a question to answer: Will I make it? Right now, I say yes. -----