TITLE: Building Mileage Through My Tough Zone
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: August 17, 2009 1:48 PM
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.