As you know, I'm currently training for the Chicago Marathon which, at the time of this posting is 47 days from now. This is the time where you really begin to ramp up your training. The long runs get, well, longer. My longest runs to date were a three hour run I did alone on 7/31 (18.48 miles, to be exact) and an "almost 20 miler" with John on 8/14 (we covered 19.6 miles in 3:10).
I wanted to get as close to 20 miles on my long run yesterday as I could. This time of year can be tricky for long runs because of the humidity and heat. Getting out the door as early as possible is usually the best strategy, but that doesn't completely alleviate the effects of the dewpoint or temperature, particularly when you're running double digit mileage.
But...you gotta train. The thought of running for a few hours alone on a summer morning has the potential to overwhelm a person, even if they have completed seven marathons already (that's me, by the way). However, it has to be done. I don't take marathons lightly, nor do I want to go into one without having done the necessary preparations.
I had stumbled upon Jeff Galloway's "Walk Breaks?" article a couple of years back (http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/walk_breaks.html). I had crashed and burned on a 16 mile run two years ago. We had a very wet spring in 2009. In fact, it rained almost every single day in the month of June. So, the heat took a while to show up. And, when it did, it completely kicked my well-toned butt. It was one of the hardest long runs I had ever done and I was near tears because it took so much out of me. So, the following week, I decided to put Galloway's method to the test. I ran 18 miles with a couple of friends, utilizing a 4 minute run/1 minute walk ratio and averaged about 9:55/mi.
It was exactly what I needed to put the sting of that frustrating 16 miler out of my mind and behind me.
My training has been going very well this time around. I've been keeping my mileage between 55-60 for the past several weeks. Plus, I've gotten myself out there in warm temperatures numerous times. I haven't had any real "crash and burns" to speak of. But, the thought of doing my first 20 in the heat, and alone to boot, was kinda messing with me a little, I admit. Then, I remembered that 18 miler I had done two years ago and decided to give Galloway another go.
I stayed true to the 4/1 ratio for about 95% of the run. There were one or two walk breaks that I eliminated or shortened, due to crossing busy intersections and just plain old zoning out, but I took them early and often, as suggested. The problem is, most runners wait until they're so tired that they have little choice BUT to walk. And, by then, it's almost impossible to get going again. In this instance, it's important to be proactive.
Mission accomplished. I got my 20 miles in: 3:15:02: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/108244316.
Going into this, I had hoped to keep the pace at about a 10:00/mi pace. I figured, using this method, that would be a fair estimate. Well, guess what? I averaged a 9:45/mi pace EVEN WITH THE WALK BREAKS. I ran 19.6 miles the Sunday before, continuously and it was only FOUR SECONDS PER MILE faster than my 20 miler. By mentally breaking up the run into smaller segments, I actually ended up running a little faster. My legs felt pretty strong throughout and I didn't even start plotting the end until about 2:30 into it. I found I could keep on going because I "only had to run four more minutes...just four more minutes, Cyndi Lou..."
Will I do it this way every time I run long? I wouldn't go that far. Plus, I may not need to, particularly when the weather is more conducive to being out there for hours at a time. But, it's a nice alternative to the norm. I got my long run done, the distance I wanted, on a warm Sunday in August. And I'm feeling pretty good today. Aside from mild stiffness in my calves and heels (which is to be expected), I'm moving around very well.
Some runners think that walking during a training run is a sign of weakness. At one point in time, I probably echoed a similar sentiment. But, there is something to be said for conserving your energy and being as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. Gutting out a 5K is one thing; suffering through a marathon is another thing entirely.
I'll run. And, maybe, I'll walk. But, I will run again.
If it's good enough for Galloway, it's good enough for me.