After months of falling off the early morning running wagon, I am happy to be back on! Last week was a pretty successful week of getting up when my alarm went off – most days around 5am (two days as early as 4:30am) – and finishing my runs before 7/8am.
My weekly mileage is slowly starting to rise again – I had back-to-back 60+ mile weeks and came out feeling rested and ready for more training. I think a HUGE part of that is how much easier I am taking easy runs these days.
I don’t know what it is, but it’s like a lightbulb finally went off in my head. And if there was a way to smack my younger self upside the head, I would. Looking back on the last several years of training, I know that I was running too fast on my easy days. I can remember coming back from an easy/recovery run and feeling wiped. Ummm…you shouldn’t be wiped after an easy run.
Lately, I’m focusing on heart rate or just perceived effort and I wear no watch most days (if I want the HR data, I wear it). I can tell you that it’s significantly slower than I have been running my easy runs. And I’m finishing up my easy runs feeling energized and ready for the day, rather than feeling like I want to crawl back in bed.
I recently wrote a post for Women’s Running about this – the whole article can be found here – but here is an excerpt:
It could be tough to ease up on the relaxed days and watch your pace slow down. Remember that just because you can run faster doesn’t mean that you should. Honor the purpose of the run. It takes a lot of confidence—in yourself, your ability and the training plan—that the slower pace will actually, in fact, make you stronger and fitter rather than slow you down.
If you are struggling with taking it slower on the easy days, here are a few ways that could help you ease up:
- Ditch the GPS and run by perceived effort. I was a slave to the number on my wrist. I was too focused on the pace, rather than on the effort or with how my body felt. I spent most of the winter running without my Garmin or with it tucked under my shirt or jacket—a great alternative if you want all the fun data, but just not in real time.
- Use a heart rate monitor. If you know your training zones, this is a great way to stay on track on the easy days. It “allows runners to see objectively whether their intensity level is actually easy, moderate, or hard.” (Source)
- Use a training calculator. While not 100% accurate, these calculators can get you in the general range of where you want to be for your easy runs. Maximum Performance Training and McMillan Running are two of the popular ones.
I think a large part of my slowing down came when I developed more confidence in myself. After a bunch of bad races, I felt like I was on a mission to prove myself.
I believed that if I took it easy during a run, I would become more comfortable running slow. And then when it was time to race, I wouldn’t remember how to run fast. (Note: “Slow” and “fast” are all relative in this article.) I thought that if I ran at (or close to) my goal race pace on a regular basis, the pace would start to feel easier and eventually I would be able to run the entire race distance at that pace.
So I’m taking it easier most days and finding that I have more energy to push harder on the days that are meant to be hard. The pace is secondary on the easy days (especially given the heat/humidity). And more energy in general, despite the higher mileage!
Here is what last week looked like:
Planned: 10 miles (moderate pace with last two fast finish)
Actual: 10 miles @ 7:53 pace (1:18:53) with last two fast(ish) finish
This ended up being a pretty solid training run, despite it being insanely hot and humid at 6am (87 degrees with 67 dew point). Ran the first 8 miles at a fairly moderate pace and then dropped it down the last two. I ran this run mostly blind – I had the watch showing heart rate rather than pace (I would get mile alerts). It ended up being a perfect progression run too.
Splits: 8:27, 8:11, 7:58, 7:58, 7:52, 7:51, 7:47, 7:44, 7:32, 7:25
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday
Planned: 7-8 miles (easy/recovery pace); 4-5 miles (Sunday)
Actual: 7, 8, 7.3,5 miles
Four of my seven runs this week were easy/recovery runs. Kept the pace really easy and controlled on every run – pace fluctuated between 8:15-8:32 (average) for the runs.
Planned: 2 miles up, 10 x 600 (with 200m recovery), 2 miles down
Actual: 9 miles @ 7:36 pace
This was one of those runs that felt like it had no chance of success. I felt tired from the warmup miles and felt like I was working much harder to run those paces than I should have felt. I had brief thoughts of just scraping the workout and making it easy miles, but I’ve been looking forward to shorter intervals for weeks now and didn’t want to let this workout get away. The first set was my slowest and most painful but then it was like my legs and body get the memo about speedwork and it ended up being a great workout. I did this workout on the road – it’s mostly flat but has one large hill in one direction (so one downhill in the other). Goal pace for the 600s was 6:10-6:20 (2:18-2:22).
Splits: 8:27, 8:02; 8:15, 8:14 (2 up, 2 down)
6:16, 6:11, 6:08, 6:06, 6:12, 6:13, 6:11, 6:10, 6:05
Planned: 14 miles with last 4 uptempo (@7:00-7:10)
Actual: 14 miles @ 7:30 pace
I had my alarm set for 4:30am – I wanted to get this workout done early enough to leave me time to relax a bit and recover before heading to Conference House for the NYRR Open Run at 9am. Both of my sons had fevers the evening before and I ended up being up for several hours with my oldest (from 2-4am) when his fever spiked again.
I slept straight through the alarm and work up at 5:40am in a state of panic. I’m usually a huge procrastinator but I managed to get dressed, drink some coffee and be out the door by 6am. Only downside is that I didn’t have time to eat anything (I didn’t want to spend the time waiting for the food to digest) – so the entire workout was done on a mostly empty stomach.
We’ve had a stretch of cooler temps and much lower humidity – so this was the first long run in a while without the summer heat or Alaska hills. My pace was faster than I expected early on and I spent the first 10 miles having a battle in my mind if I should slow down and conserve energy/legs for the last four miles. Even now, after the countless fast finish runs I’ve done, I still spend most of the run nervous for the faster miles.
The first mile of the last four was the toughest – my body wasn’t thrilled (initially) with the faster pace and I felt out of breath. But then it just clicked and the minutes ticked by with me feeling stronger with each step. When I saw sub-7 for the 2nd mile, I couldn’t believe it. I only manage one mile sub-7 for fast finish runs – ever. And I had three on Saturday (and averaged well under sub-7 for the four miles).
Splits: 8:10, 7:53, 7:45, 7:40, 7:38, 7:37, 7:37, 7:30, 7:36, 7:40, 7:07, 7:00, 6:57, 6:50
After finishing, I rinsed off, had a protein shake and quickly headed to Conference House for the First Open Run! It was amazing! Almost 30 people came out – mostly runners, but a few walkers and a stroller!
And it’s always a great day when I get to see and run with Jen and Danielle!
The best part was that my sister joined me! Since the start of the year, she has lost over 30 pounds – and without dieting or exercise. Her and her husband have changed the way they eat – and the pounds literally just started flying off (both of them!). Now that she has gotten control of that aspect of her life, she is determined to become more active – so Saturday was the first time she ran in years! We did a 2 min run / 2 min walk for the entire 3.1 miles! (Note: I plan to go into much greater detail about her diet and the things they have changed in a later post!)
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