In 2004, I wanted a PB in my half marathon. I was focused on this goal by training harder, and I was getting faster and faster on my regular 18k Sunday long run loop. SO fast, that I was certain I was going to easily break 1:30!!! But my race performance was a disappointment – I ran a 1:35, two minutes slower than my current training PB. Flabbergasted, I trained harder assuming it was just a bad race (maybe it was the gel I ate during the race?), but my next couple races were even poorer performances – 1:37 and 1:36. I was so confused and frustrated that I gave up running half marathons and went back to 10km races! Unfortunately, I made the most common mistake runners make: Because my goal was time-driven, I based my training progress on 'getting faster' by 'running harder' each time. The outcome, getting slower, was not what I was expecting with the training that I was doing.
Over the years, I have come to see that when training results are better than racing results, it is simply because the training is too hard. You're asking your body to perform and adapt at a greater rate than is possible. Instead of searching for a magic fix, I took the time to understand simple training concepts. In 2006, I broke 1:30 with a 1:29 and continued to hit PBs into 2011 when I ran a 1:27. This didn't instantaneously happen, but I learned to maximize training by understanding my optimal physiological limits and mastering my psychological weaknesses. My goal is to now run a marathon in 3:15, but my approach to training has changed since that disastrous year in 2004.
I have been using a heart rate monitor since 2005 and there are many more benefits to this training tool than getting your average heart rate: it has helped me to optimize my training habits so that my performances are more consistent and faster, and I trust my training come race day. NOTE: Click on the picture to see the complete workout online, and links to find out more on how to train by heart rate.
The Long Slow Distance (LSD) run is crucial to half and full marathon training programs, but it is not sufficiently measured by tracking distance and pace – though the label may lead you in that direction. Many runners have adopted the misconception that getting faster is all about the mileage – runners get excited when they come back from an 18K or 34K run. The distance is one part of the equation; intensity and frequency are the other two key components. Worse yet, many have adopted many misconceptions about heart rate and training, assuming that training is only about “staying in one zone”. This is a limited (and impossible) view of heart rate based training. The purpose of an LSD run is to build basic endurance and develop the structural strength of your muscles, bones and joints. It helps to develop the metabolic system to enable you to burn more fat. All good things that make us perform better. I think of the long run as teaching my body to handle the distance and low blood sugar levels, and help with learning coping strategies to deal with doubts, frustrations and fatigue.
LONG STEADY RUN
Most of my longs runs throughout the year are 1.5 to 2 hour steady runs. You read that correctly, I run LSD all year!!! My body has become well tolerant of this duration and frequency - last year I had 43 LSD runs - and I recover quickly if done at the right intensity. I do have rest days built into my training and sometimes chose not run and ride my bike instead, but I love running and this is one of my favorite runs. I enjoy theses training runs the most when I get to run with my training partner or in a group. The distance doesn't matter, as I usually leave my house knowing I will run 120 minutes and not 21k, but the intensity matters. An LSD run should be completed in a range of 65-75% of your maximum heart rate, and during a steady run, I am usually at 75% average. The aim is to stay relatively lower than 75% but my eyes are not fixated on my HR or pace readout - I train by feel, listening to my body's rhythms and I know when I am going too hard. My average pace of 5:38 min/km is significantly slower than my race pace and my training load was 214. This was still a "stressful" but manageable run as I was not sore the next day, but this is in contrast to actually doing a race of this distance.
This summer I was the 1:40 pace bunny at the Edmonton Derby Half-Marathon. As you can see from my data, I am working very hard and steady, even with 10n1s. The biggest fear that runners have when they train is “will I be able to maintain that pace during my race?” so they practice by running too hard in training. SLOW DOWN! Also, this training philosophy sometimes leads to poor pacing strategies when racing. Putting 'time in the bank' by starting out fast and hanging on for as long as possible is rarely successful. Master the LSD run as 'time on your feet'. Our training is not limited or based on one weekly run but a combination of different types of runs at purposeful intensities, and a usual training program is 16 to 24 weeks of specific training for that distance. My average HR was 91%, pace was 4:36 min/km and a training load of 385. I took two weeks off from all training after that race and needed it. August was the end of my 2012 training and racing year and I started my 2013 marathon training in December.
I am currently instructing a clinic at the Running Room and we do 10n1’s for our LSD runs – if you are not familiar with this you need to come to a Sunday Run Club! The purpose behind a 1 minute walk break every 10 minutes is to help keep the stress of this run as low as possible. Running these distances is a stress to our bodies, and 24 kilometers and 2 hours and 43 minutes of running is no easy task. My average HR was 72% and with breaks, I was in zone 2 more often. The training load is still significant at 246. In order to recover, Mondays are OFF DAYS or RECOVERY RUN, which is even slower than an LSD! The goal is to not have your next training week suffer because you've run too hard on Sunday. Some people start their training on Sunday, placing the LSD first and forcing them to run at the right intensity to set their week off on the right foot, so to speak :-)
Long Slow Distance (LSD) is not as 'easy' as one thinks! Finding the right pace and intensity can be difficult, but a simple question (or two) I ask myself while running my LSD is 'could I run another 5km more at this pace?' or 'could I repeat this same run again tomorrow?' If my answer is no, then I need to slow down, but more importantly, if the answer if yes, I don't speed up! f you want a change of pace, in the last 8 weeks before a race, I include “fast finish” LSD runs – which my clinic members love doing. For the last 10 - 20 minutes we increase our pace to our ideal race pace to test how your legs feel and help build your racing confidence. Read more at http://www.polarca.com/ca-en/smart_coaching