Whether it be a marathon or the Ironman, the one workout I dread is the long run. They are the necessary evil in the world of long distance training. The big difference between marathon and Ironman training is the long run happens after you have ridden many miles on the bike earlier in the week. Thus you never run it on fresh legs.
I don’t do the long runs that fast. I purposefully go slow and just grind them out. My coach gives me plenty of other workouts to run fast, so I simply run these workouts by time only. I use to stress over how fast I was going, or my pace, now I just do them. I took this strategy into Ironman Wisconsin and the Houston Marathon and it worked great. I was limping along at 8:30 miles on trail before Houston and managed a 7:09 pace on race day. So running these things fast are just not worth it to me.
I see so many people out there with Garmin’s trying to pace their long runs. I ask why do that? If the goal is to be on your feet for 2.5 – 3 hours, then what do you care how fast you are running? Often my legs are so tired when I start these things that my only goal is to just get them done. If I had to look down at a watch the whole time, I would go crazy. Save the pacing for when it is necessary. Leave the long runs to just getting the time in at a low heart rate.
The other good part of the long run is you get a chance to imagine yourself running along Ali drive in Kona! Every tri-geek has done this multiple times and if they ever tell you that they have not, they are lying. Other than imagining myself in Kona, the long run gives you a great time to do some thinking. I find myself going over work stuff in my head, life stuff and anything else you can think of during the hours on the pavement. I don’t run with a cell phone so the distractions are at a minimum. I occasionally have the I-Pod with some music or a podcast, but often I just enjoy hearing the feet hitting the pavement.
As far as nutrition, I usually start with a banana and 24 oz of Gatorade. I run with my fuel belt which has 4 x 8oz bottles that I also fill with Gatorade. I typically drink one bottle every 20 minutes then stop and re-fill. I carry some gatorade powder in a flask so I only need to hit a fountain. If I hit the fluids every 20 minutes and a gel every 45, I have a decent run.
In Houston, fluids are mandatory! In California you could get by with a few drinks out of a fountain, here you will lose so much water that you risk dehydration. The funny thing is, you can get so dehydrated at 6:00 in the morning because the temperature is 77 degrees, but the humidity is 100%.
I run so early in the morning that I don’t get a chance to run with others during my IM training. I can leave here at 5:00 and be back by 7:30 in time for work. Not a lot of people interested in that schedule. This morning my friend Mike Young hit 30 minutes with me in the beginning so that was a nice treat. For the marathon training in the winter, I do run Sunday’s with others at parks and on trails which is a nice way to pass the miles.
So to wrap this up, I guess I can dread the long run before I begin it, but I always revel in the accomplishment upon finishing one. How many people do you know knocking out 19 miles before work?