I've never been one to slow things down. I mean other than napping, I kind of like things to happen....right now! Now now now now now!
Endurance sports are not in my natu.....SHINY THINGS!
For this last 8 weeks before Arizona (can you believe that? 8 weeks out? Have you set your calendar reminder? I have) I've decided to put a primary focus on my run. Swimming, as long as I am consistent, I can do. Biking I've been really good with, having solid power improvements over the past many months.
But running, now running I need some focus on. Because running is oh so hard on your body. And where I'm (currently) convinced that if I can ride 100km (which I can) I can ride 180km, I'm not necessarily convinced that being able to run 20km means I can run 42.2km. So running it is!
Anyone follow this 80/20 running stuff? Blogs are full of it, there's books about it, Rob does it. Basically it says run slow to get fast.
I sort of bought in. I mean there's enough literature about it that it probably holds water. Then again minimalist running was all the rage for like 8 months and now you can't even google that anymore.
Nonetheless, if you have any inclination to run for distance, you know that most every training plan calls for a "long, slow run" at least once per week. If you have no inclination, well that's your fun fact for the day then isn't it?
But how much slow is "slow"? I've struggled with this. And recently I've realized it's soooooo muuuuuuuuccch slllooooooowwwwwwerrrr than even I imagined.
My heart rate monitor has basically exploded (piece of shit Garmin) and I'm not really inclined to purchase a new one. That's required me to turn my focus from hearT rate to run pace to gauge how hard a run really is. It's a neat shift, more old school. I wouldn't recommend it out of the gate. But I have enough data from the last year of training that my pace is pretty much dialed in for all of my various "zones".
I used to get really frustrated reading about pros (and experienced amateur, and naturally gifted amateurs, and basically every amateur on the internets who is faster than me which seems to be everyone) and their blazing fast speed at comatose heart rate levels. My heart rate during exercise exists somewhere between aggressive paint-can mixer and hypersonic death ray of death. So I found this crazy frustrating when over and over I would read about people "struggling" to run 40 minute 10ks and 1:30 half marathons. Screw you people.
But then I read this article about pace. And specifically long slow runs. And the kind of pace that elite level marathoners actually train at.
And it was slow, so so so slow.
I'll get the numbers wrong, because I can't remember right now what they were exactly. But basically the article gave a case study of a female elite runner who, despite her marathon pace of 5:30 min/mile (that's not right, but it's close), trained her slow runs at about 9:30 min/mile.
Who cares? Well I did the maths in my head. Her "slow" pace was 4 minutes slower per mile or, put another way, close to 44% slower in her long runs than in her race pace.
44%! That's like way crazy slower. Like imagine if they lowered the speed limits by 44%. Everyones' heads would explode!
I mean I can run a 9:30min/mile. I certainly cannot run a 5:30 min/mile. I probably couldn't run 100m at that pace. There was such a wide spread between her "slow" and her "race" that I realized in that moment I was probably doing "slow" all wrong.
So I looked at my own pace.
My personal best 10k time is about 54 minutes. So that's about 5:40/km. Marathon pace is slower than 10k pace because it has to be or your heart will self destruct.
But my slow run pace was about 6:00/km. Certainly not 44% less than my marathon pace. Whatever that might be.
In conclusion, my "slow" pace was waaaaaaaayyyy to fast. This was the crux of the article, that all inexperienced (and even a lot of experienced) runners run way to fast way to often, because "slow" according to your body is still actually working pretty hard.
That same article (man I wish I could find it, I really should link to it or cite it or something. Sorry article), basically broke it down like this:
- We learn how to train like (and set our expectations like) weigh lifters. More weight every week make muscles grow which allows us to lift more weight. We see results this way.....in weight lifting.
- But for endurance, your body's aerobic system doesn't work that way
- Instead, aerobic endurance is improved by sustained and consistent effort at low intensity over a long long long time. The key being sustained, consistent and long long long.
You can't get faster by trying to run faster each week. It doesn't work that way. Weird I know. But I was doing that, even if I didn't plan to. Why? Because you want to see improvement day by day. But I learned that for running, you have to get comfortable not seeing "improvement" on the day by day.
So I looked at my pace charts, and I looked at what I had been running. And I decided to slow down. A lot. I set my "slow run" pace at greater than 6:30/min kms, and as close as I could get to 6:45 or even 7 minutes (I couldn't chop 44%, I basically would be going backwards). It is better to err on the slow side than the fast side.
At those paces I basically just look like I'm shuffle stepping with something up my bum. I'm not really running anymore, but I'm also not not running.
This is starting to ramble...I'm going to take a break...
Okay I'm back. So I put my new "slow slow slower" long run pace into practice the other day. And do you know what I noticed? Every single person who was running my same route who looked like they knew what they were doing was also running a shuffle-step-something-up-bum pace. Every. One. And you can tell who knows what they're doing, they have that look about them.
I had never noticed them before. I'd been too busy trying to gasp for breath and wipe the tears from my eyes as I ran "slow".
I also noticed that every single person who looked like they were new and trying to prove something to themselves was running not all that much faster, but was in visible distress. Glazed eyes, sweat everywhere, foaming at the mouth.
That used to be me.
But I want to be the other guy.
So what's the moral of the story kids?
Slow down as much as you can, and when you can't slow down anymore, slow that down by another 44%. We're playing the long game now. Let's see where this takes us.
UPDATE: I found the article! My numbers were a bit off, but the message is the same. Check it out here: https://runnersconnect.net/running-training-articles/wrong-long-run-pace/