I have a tendency to jackrabbit from the start of my runs, leading to some fast(er) first miles, but pain and misery later on. On occasion I can keep up the pace for the entire distance, which is very satisfying, but inconsistent. The other main problem is that ALL my runs tend to fall within a narrow range of paces, meaning my hard and easy efforts don’t vary much from each other. This did not bode well for my ultramarathon training. Over the years I’ve read about the concept of running slowly in order to get faster, which sounds so contrary yet intriguing.
From Rich Roll’s upcoming book, Finding Ultra: “…a dreaded no-man’s-land where the effort exerted exceeds that which is required to properly develop the aerobic engine, yet falls short of the intensity necessary to significantly improve speed or increase anaerobic threshold…In actuality, such training undermines true progress. It leaves you tired, with little to no gains in either endurance or speed… And it is by far the most common mistake made by amateur endurance athletes—myself included.” (emphasis in original)
That's me in a nutshell.
So, in order to race fast, you have to train slow – not all the time, but easy days should be easy.
What I’ve been working on in this last month before I start my 50K training plan (details of the plan coming next week) is to relax, to ease the pounding on my joints, to feel control of my running. In meditation, this could be likened to mindfulness. In running, it appears as attention to breath, to my posture, and to feeling in control of my gait—not worrying on whether it’s the “proper” gait, but one that works for me.
Another thing I’ve focused on is to pick up my feet rather than push off as I stride. This is something that Ken Bob Saxton suggests and I utilized during my barefoot running foray. It definitely makes me feel like I’m damaging myself less as I run, and in latter stages of a long run, it gives me energy and allows me to pick up the pace, even when tired.
The other thing I’ve done is to pull out my mountain bike. It’s a single-speed, which I’ve read helps with pedaling form and also makes me more aware of my effort. Heading out on the trails helps with balance and bike handling, as well as being aware of what’s coming up in terms of obstacles. Plus, it’s just a ton of fun.
Two weeks until my training for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K starts. A month ago I would have told you I was nowhere near ready for it. However, this last month has greatly increased my confidence. Barring injury and/or burnout, I think that the plan will get me to the finish line without problem this coming September.
Do you take it easy on your easy days?
What else are you doing to make progress?
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