run: repeat – consistently

perfect road photo © https://pixabay.com/photos/road-asphalt-sky-clouds-fall-220058/

Last week’s ‘long run’ was a 3-10-3 (or thereabouts). It was draining to say the least – my first real distance effort having returned to regular training. The obvious thing to do this week was to run it again and see what a week of solid effort following that rude awakening had done for me. I wasn’t expecting miracles but consistency was definitely a goal. Dare I dream for it to feel easier?

Just Jason and myself toeing the line this week, using the same route and format as last week. Warm-up miles were a little faster than previous and it was probably just as well! The first few miles at pace, covering the early climbs, really hit hard this week. Despite being more or less at the same pace as last week, it felt tougher. Surprisingly, I found the run was really difficult overall. I honestly thought having run it once and covering some quality miles during the week, that it would not have felt more difficult than last week… but it did.

comparing run summaries reveals little until observing the heart rate
comparing run summaries reveals little until observing the heart rate

The summaries of both the runs shown above would ordinarily make for comfortable viewing. A few seconds quicker this week than last; everything looks reasonably consistent. My heart rate was 5bpm higher on average (not good). Reflecting just how hard I felt the run was. Looking at the lap comparisons below, shows the full picture.

a faster warm-up, a similar cool down, but over 30s slower for the crucial section
a faster warm-up, a similar cool down, but over 30s slower for the crucial section

I am fresh out of excuses to explain this. It felt a lot warmer but the weather data recorded with each run shows the same temperature. I could go for humidity but this week’s run was 86% vs last week’s 94%. There was even less wind albeit from the opposite direction that was in our faces for the early climbs. Perhaps that was it? A faster warm-up and fighting with the wind on climbs for the first 4 miles at pace – maybe it just knocked it out of me. The last couple of ‘pace’ miles showed that I was truly off-target compared to last week. Anyhow, job done (view Garmin data).

run consistently

I oft lament my lack of discipline when it comes to running at a given pace. Too often, too fast over entire runs or parts of a run that really should be run slower. I have attempted on occasion to do something about that and be more mindful of my pace. However, I’ll be honest, it’s not something that I have given the attention it deserves. There’s a pattern starting to emerge here…

After the 16 miles on Saturday nearly drained all life from me I decided a proper recovery run was called for. Normally on Sundays, we cover 10 miles of easy road. Yesterday, I decided that I’d bump that to 13 miles of varied hills. Bear with me, the lack of wisdom is coming.

My legs were still tired following Saturday’s effort. I knew if I went out on a flat route, I’d end up loosening up and settling into faster-than-recovery pace. Hills would definitely help to stop that from happening. Knowing that I was going for a longer run than normal would also help to hold back the enthusiasm. That makes sense, right?

the loopy loop

Allow me to introduce the ‘Loopy Loop’. There’s a neighbourhood block near my house that is home to multiple housing estates. It’s roughly 6km around the perimeter, with footpaths all the way (the occasional break for road entry points). There is also a cut-through road that slices the block in half allowing a figure of 8 loop to be created.

There are 4 sides to the loop, excluding the cut-through. On one side of the loop is a 36m climb over 0.5 miles. Another side is a slow drag up 25m for just over a mile. The rest of the route is ups and downs providing no worse than 10m climbs. The cut-through is a 30m drop over 0.5 miles. All climbs/drops can be reversed depending on the direction of the run. It’s a real playground!

recovery at 8:30/mile

I am not the world’s fastest runner – I’m sure that comes as a shock to nobody. As such, recovery pace for me should be around 8:30min/mile depending on the distance. Heart rate is a better recovery measure but roughly speaking, this should be my pace. So starting off yesterday on 4 laps of the Loopy Loop I told myself, “8:30s, no more”.

It’s always difficult to force yourself to run that first mile slowly, when you know you are comfortable at a faster pace. I really had to pull back at times and eventually clocked a 8:31min first mile. “Right, stay there”, I told myself. I managed another 2 miles on the mark, using the hills to control the ebb and flow of pace. Then mile 4 suffered from a wee boost of forgetfulness and I dropped to a dizzying 8:28. Still consistent, I know but I also know exactly why it happened as I recklessly bounded down a slight drop to the beep.

A little annoyed with myself, I decided to clock another 2 at 8:28 to at least stay consistent to the new mark. Over the next two miles my mind started to wander. A symptom of running easy is perhaps that your mind does lose focus. I invented a little game for myself. I would complete the set of 3 at 8:28 pace and then drop back to 8:31 again for another 3 miles. To complete the run, I would run a final 4 miles at 8:28, 8:29, 8:30, and 8:31 to signify the pace range I was accidentally within. Crikey! One’s mind truly does wander – I’m losing it. Losing it or not however, it’s what I did.

I was using my watch of course to keep me on track. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to know what 8:28 vs 8:31 pace was like. That’s what the technology is there for though and using it is beneficial. The run was mentally tougher than it was physically. I have never run anything like that, where my focus on pace was so unyielding.

I'm not sure I could ever run a more consistent set of splits
I’m not sure I could ever run a more consistent set of splits

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