KCCC Track

This article was originally posted by ksrunner at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Last week was the KC Corporate Challenge Track meet. The meet runs in the evenings Monday – Thursday. On Tuesday, I ran the mile run and on Thursday, I ran the 1200m leg of the distance medley relay and the 800m run.

After the half marathon a few weeks ago, I knew going in that there was just one guy to beat. Joe had beaten me soundly in the half marathon, I thought that I might have a better chance in the short races, but I knew that he still had a fitness advantage.

The weather last week was perfect and the track had been resurfaced since I had last been there. It was very nice. In KCCC, they accept two people from each company in 10 year age groups and then allow then on race day, you compete in 5-year age groups. This helps to keep the numbers down a bit, but in the middle age groups there are still lots of competitors. In the 100m and 400m on other nights, they run heats of eight until they get everyone in, but in the mile and 800m runs they put everyone together except for the biggest age groups (30-34 & 35-39) which they break into two heats. Still, we had just one heat for my age group with 41 runners in both the 800m and mile.

For the mile, I knew that Joe would be tough, so I planned just to stay close and hope that I could kick. Before I’d run the half marathon, I had thought ahead to the mile run and had hoped to break 5:00, but now, I just wanted to compete well. The track meet was running well behind schedule. I was glad that I had chosen to start my warm up after the relays completed instead of according to the time printed on the schedule. Joe mentioned that he had started his warm up too early, but I doubted that it would affect him too negatively. I was right. When the gun went off, I found myself unprepared for what happened. Joe took off at a much faster pace than I’d anticipated and I just tried to hang on. He went through the first 409 meters in around 66 and I was a second or two behind. I let him get away a bit and similar to in the half marathon, I hoped that he would come back to me later. His lead expanded a over the middle two laps, but then I began an attempt to reel him in. I did not make much progress and finished the race about 6 seconds back (4:57 to his 4:51). Third place finished in 5:34. I found out later that Joe was making some effort to pursue the record for our age group which remains at 4:40 (currently held by Mark Curp). Talking to him after the race, I learned that he would not be running in the distance medley relay on Thursday because he felt that he had a better shot at the 800m record of 2:09. His company has a lot more depth in distance runners and would only give up a second or two by running a younger runner who Joe had beaten at tryouts. That evening, I was understandably down about my chances on Thursday. The way Joe had taken off from the gun had hit me like a physical blow — affecting me both physically and mentally. The other thought that I pursued that night was that I want that weapon (hammering from the gun) in my repertoire. I’ve generally been the type of runner to run as easy as possible. Back in the day, I had the fitness and a nice kick to pull it off. That does not seem to be the case any more. Despite some disappointment, I felt that I had put forth a good effort. It just was not enough for the win that day.

Race time arrived on Thursday a bit earlier than on Tuesday since I had to run a relay before the individual 800m. I did not know who in my company would be running the other legs, but I was unaware of any particularly fast people being available and assumed that I would get the baton with a disadvantage. I did not give myself much time to warm up and did some of my warm up in the homestretch while waiting my turn with the baton. My goal was to pass at least two other teams. Anything less and I would feel that I would have been better off skipping the relay to give a better effort in the 800m. In the relay, our 800m runner performed fairly well finishing somewhere in the middle, but our two 400m runners gave up some ground. I do not know if I got the baton in last or second to last. There were 3 teams who had lapped us and some other teams who handed off just before us. I caught all of the latter in the first lap. Then I ran the next lap chasing the next person ahead of me. It turns out that they had lapped us and on my third and final lap there was no one in front of me. I maintained a good effort until about 150m to go. At that point, I glanced over my shoulder and saw that there was no one especially close, so I cruised into the finish in an attempt to save a bit for the 800m. One race down and I had achieved my goal.

Does anyone else remember a day when two races in the same evening were no big deal? As I waited for the 800m, my legs felt fatigued. I was still committed to get after it in the 800m and not to give Joe anything, but I was a bit concerned. After they got through all of the divisions of relays, I did a light warm up while they ran the older age groups in the men’s 800m. Then I headed to the starting line. Talking to Joe before the race, he mentioned overhearing a guy talking about Tuesday, "I thought I might have a chance in the mile, but two guys just took off …" I knew that unless there was a 400m/800m runner who was stepping up to give us some competition, that this race would be the same. The only such runner that I knew of I had spoken to on Tuesday and he said that he’s "semi-retired" and just running the relays this year provided that his knees hold out. Since he was there on Thursday, I knew that his knees must have held up. They started the race in a double water fall start. I decided to start on the inside of the outer waterfall. I am not always good about getting out quickly and have been cut off before, so I like to start a bit more outside. I almost wished that I had stared on the outside of the second waterfall. One guy got out very quick and could have cut me off, but he left me some room on the inside and I charged through. Joe had started in the inside waterfall and when I cut in, I settled right behind him. I was surprisingly comfortable with the pace, but after the first lap, I knew that I would not hold it and again Joe got away from me. In the end, Joe finished just off the record in 2:10 and I was again 6 seconds back in 2:16. Third place crossed the line in 2:20. Again, I felt that I had put forth a very good effort. As I came out of the last turn, I heard some cheering that I did not think was for me and I pushed hard to the line to hold off anyone who might be coming.

Though I had hoped to win my KCCC races, I enjoyed competing with Joe — probably more than I would have enjoyed winning a relatively easy race. These races have also served to provide motivation. I do not have any racing planned, but I do have a renewed desired to train. I don’t always need races to look forward to in order to enjoy training. Though it is still distant, it may be that next year’s KCCC is enough to look forward to.

One more

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

If you’ve read my two most recent race reports, you might have noticed a pattern. About a week before the races, my training crashed. Fortunately, I bounced back in time for race day both times but I can’t keep counting on this happening.

So why did I crash both times, less than a month apart? The answer to that question appears to actually be more simple than one might think. I didn’t follow my own advice and I ran my workouts too hard. Essentially, I ran myself into the ground. I was fortunate that I recognized this both times and corrected in time but why did I fall into this trap not only once but twice in such a short time and what can we all learn about this?

The first time, it was simply a matter of getting too aggressive. I had one very challenging workout on my schedule. It felt so good to nail that workout, even though I had to dig deep to get it done, that I couldn’t resist the draw to feel that again so I ran later workouts harder than I should have. Meanwhile, easy days were not sufficiently easy to recover from such demanding workouts. I recognized this when I crashed but I then entered a shorter than usual training cycle between races and figured, with not as much time to train, I could put a little more into the workouts. Different reasoning, same trap.

I’m not sharing these examples of how I fell into the trap to make myself look like an idiot or to get your sympathy. I’m sharing these examples because they are examples of how easy it is to fall into the trap. I doubt I’m the only one here who has fallen into these traps.

So what should I have done and what will I do going forward? I’ll follow my own advice: finish every workout feeling like you could have done at least one more. If I do fall into the trap during a workout and run it too hard, I’ll take extra precautions in the following day or two to ensure I am adequately recovered before moving on.

Whether you’re running 30 second repeats or mile repeats, it’s good to aim to finish feeling like you could have done at least one more repeat. Even on long runs, finish like you could have run at least one more mile (I actually prefer feeling like I could have run at least 2-3 more miles on long runs). This will keep you from racing your hard days. Remember, save the racing for race day. On workout days, you’re generally not looking to challenge yourself. You’re looking to build yourself up. You need some stress to stimulate improvement but too much stress repeated too frequently will just break you down.

Race report: Walleye Run 5 mile

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

The story of this race again starts well before race day. I again pushed harder than I should have in training and, about a week before the race, crashed. I had a 13 mile run that was a significant struggle exactly a week before the race, then I completely crashed. It took me almost 45 minutes to run 5 miles 6 days before the race. Another slow 5 miles on Monday and I took Tuesday off. Other than relaxed strides Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I didn’t do anything hard this week until race day. I simply needed to get my legs back under me.

This is the race that has become a family event. By taking a pass on the shirts, for $20, I was able to register myself for the 5 mile, Lisa for the 2 mile and Shayla for the 1/3 mile kids fun run. What a family bargain. Also, they stagger the races sufficiently to allow me to finish my cooldown with enough time to let Lisa get ready for her run.

As a family event, we all piled into the car early this morning to head up to Fond du Lac. We arrived at the park a little later than I normally would. I headed off to pick up our packets while Lisa and Shayla stopped off at a picnic table to eat breakfast. The instructions in our packets clearly stated make sure your age and gender are correct on the bibs. Ours weren’t even filled in so I went off to find a pen and fill in Lisa’s and mine. Shayla’s was filled in but it didn’t matter because she was running a non-competitive event anyway.

I took a little time to relax, then it was time to get ready to warm up. No sign of Lisa and Shayla yet so I did what I had to do, then started walking out to run. I saw them coming so I let them know where I had our stuff and took off to run. The warmup started a few minutes later than I would have liked due to waiting for them but no big deal. I warmed up, with the legs feeling pretty grumpy at first but loosening up fairly well as I went on. I did my range of motion exercises, put my racing flats on, stripped down to my racing uniform and was off. A few strides at the start line, dropping my sunglasses with Lisa because they were fogging up and I was ready to go.

Lined up just to my right was bib number 1, last year’s winner. Oh, great. I’ll get blown away right off the line. Oh well, it is what it is.

As the race started, I did get blown away by bib number 1, as well as a few others around me. I must have picked a good position on the line to start because it seemed like all the fast guys were all around me. I quickly found myself in about 15th place but, like the last race, part of the reason for that was because my legs just didn’t want to go right off the line. It again took them about 1/4 mile to really start firing.

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Once my legs did get going, I quickly worked my way up through the chase pack, separated, then was staring down the lead pack of 7. In front of that pack was bib number 1, wearing a white singlet. I saw 3 blue Fond du Lac Running Club (FDLRC) jerseys and a few other guys. Pretty quickly, 3 guys fell off the lead pack and formed a chase pack. Now, the race was 4/3/me. I figured my only hope of moving up was picking off guys who fall off through attrition. I did try bringing in that pack but it just wasn’t happening so my new goal became to keep as close to that pack as possible so, if anyone fell off, I’d be there to pick them off. Before I knew it, the chase pack grew to 5 as the battle for first became a 2 man race. That didn’t change what I was doing, though. My focus was on the now larger pack and watching for weakness up there.

Through mile 2, there weren’t any signs of weakness. Generally, that pack was running shoulder to shoulder. One guy dropped behind but didn’t fall back. The rest were still running 4 wide. Just after the 2 mile mark, we went around the turn and the pack fell into a single file line. Still, though, no signs of weakness. Then, it started happening. At about 2.5 miles, one of the blue FDLRC jerseys lost a couple steps. Then 5 yards. I was like a shark smelling blood in the water. He still had a good lead on me but he was hurting. He couldn’t hold the pace. I pushed a little harder, knowing this was my chance. By the 3 mile mark, I had cut the gap fairly significantly and he was maybe 20 yards ahead. Just after the 3 mile mark, we had a 90 degree turn and I saw him look back. I thought "Yeah, that’s right, you’re mine" and found a surge of energy. About 1/4 mile later, I went by him and he had no response at all. I kept pouring it on. He wasn’t responding now but, if he could hang close, he’s a young guy who probably has a kick and I didn’t have a kick even when I was his age. I didn’t want him anywhere near me with a half mile to go.

Nearing the 4 mile mark, I saw another guy falling off the pack. He wasn’t fading quickly, though, and I didn’t have much time left. Was it enough time? I pushed but I didn’t have enough in me to really move. I kept pushing, thinking chasing him would help me build a gap on the FDLRC guy I had passed not all that long ago. With just less than a mile to go, we went around a turn. I thought about looking back, then thought about that turn a mile earlier. I didn’t want anyone behind me thinking I was his to pass. I kept pushing, assuming someone was there even though I was pretty sure nobody was. With 3/4 of a mile to go, another turn. I didn’t even think of looking back. I just kept pushing. I knew I wasn’t going to catch the guy ahead of me but I wasn’t going to let someone come up behind me. With 1/2 mile to go, another turn. I stole a quick glance but couldn’t see much. All I knew is there was nobody within the first 10 yards behind me. What if someone further back saw me? He’s thinking I’m not going to have a finish. I push as hard as I possibly can to make it clear I’m not fading, just in case. With 1/4 mile to go, I try to pick up the pace again. I’m not sure I did. Around the last big turn and I’m going with everything I have, which isn’t much. One more gentle curve and I see the clock just over 28 minutes. I try to sprint but my legs have nothing left. I go as hard as I can, which is basically the same pace I had been running, and cross in just over 28:20.

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Final result was 7th place overall, 1st in the 30-39 age group. 6th place was 42 seconds ahead of me. 8th place was 36 seconds behind me. I’m very happy with this result. Even before this past week’s struggles, I was thinking 5:40 pace or right around 28:20 would be a very strong run. With how the past week went, I was very worried that things could turn out far worse. My legs bounced back, though, and I ran about as perfectly on the original target as possible.

Official results

Lisa ran her 2 mile. She’s not exactly thrilled with her run but she says she now has something to improve upon. Shayla ran her run and was excited to finish ahead of mom (who ran with her) and at a faster pace than mom ran in her race. Then it was off to the festival for a few hours of run. A good day all around.

More on the 10% myth

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

After posting about the 10% myth earlier this week, I thought it would be good to discuss the primary argument I’ve received over the years against my view on this "rule".

To paraphrase, the argument goes something like this: Sure, you could increase by 15% or 20% for a week or two but that isn’t sustainable. 10% per week is the maximum sustainable rate at which one could increase their volume.

I usually respond with the question of how long one thinks you can sustain a 10% per week increase. I’ve yet to hear a response.

If you increase by 10% per week for 8 weeks, you’ve increased your volume by 114%. If you’ve been running 50 miles per week, you’re now at 107 miles per week in about 2 months. If you increase for 12 weeks, you’ve increased your volume by 213% and your 50 miles per week base has in 3 months turned into over 150 miles per week. By 15 weeks, you’ve topped 200 miles per week. Is this sustainable? Of course not. Depending on your circumstances, you’re doing very well if you are safely running 73 miles a week in a month’s time.

The argument I’m making is that we shouldn’t focus on numbers. Focus instead on how you’re feeling. At times, you might find yourself increasing by 15-20% or even more. At other times, you might find yourself increasing by less than 5% or even holding steady for a while. Forget about the numbers and focus on how your body is responding to your increases. Your body will lead you to far better results than some arbitrary formula.

Any other questions, concerns or comments about the 10% rule or why I feel the way I do about it? Don’t hesitate to ask.

The 10% myth

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Everywhere you go, you hear about it. Even those of us who try to avoid hearing about it can’t get away from it. The "10% rule". That supposed rule that a person shouldn’t increase their weekly mileage by more than 10% from week to week or they will risk injury, fatigue, burnout, and a multitude of other bad repercussions. Of course, a corollary to this rule that some strongly promote is that, as long as you are within this guideline, you’re perfectly safe. Is this really true? Well, let’s look at a few facts as well as some observations I’ve made.

First, let’s look at the numbers. We’re told that this "10% rule" applies to everyone at all levels. OK, so how does a person start running? You can’t increase from zero miles by 10% and end up with anything but zero. Maybe that’s why so many people are afraid to start running. They would be breaking the "10% rule". OK, that’s a little extreme so let’s take a situation I was once introduced to. Someone ran 8 miles in a recent week and was asking what would be reasonable for the following week. This person mentioned that, by Wednesday, she was already on the verge of breaking the "10% rule" but still felt good, so did she really have to stick with 10% or could she go higher? I gave my usual advice, listen to your body and let it guide you. After all, is it really reasonable to expect a person to go from 8 miles to 8.8 to 9.6 to 10.5? If she was to do 9 or 10 miles that first week after the 8 mile week, would that mean sure injury or burnout? What if she tried to stick to 8.8 miles but measured a course wrong and ended up running 8.9 or 9 miles? She broke the 10% rule, now she’s going to get injured? Let’s be realistic here. There was no doubt in my mind that she was ready for 10, 12, maybe even more miles. Maybe she would have to maintain for a short time once she hit 12 miles but everything she said suggested that she was ready. Of course, that didn’t stop a "10% rule" proponent from saying I’m full of it and that she should in fact run 8.8 miles the following week, 9.6 the week after, and 10.5 on the third week. This person informed me that it was a proven and time tested principle. Really? I’d love to see the evidence of that but I’ll get to that later.

What about the opposite end of the spectrum? Some of those who promote this "rule" say that, as long as one stays within the guidelines, they will be fine. What does this mean for someone who just ran a 100 mile week? Well, that person runs 110 miles the following week, 121 the week after, 133 the next week, 146 on the fourth week, and 160 on week five. That’s a 60 mile per week increase in barely over a month. Staying well within these boundaries, a person could increase by 6 miles per day in a month’s period. What are the chances that someone could actually increase the training load this quickly without problems? Again, let’s be realistic here.

Next, let’s look at some facts. A number of sources will tell you that, as long as you increase by 10% or less, you are at a low risk of injury and burnout. As soon as you cross over to more than 10%, though, you are at a high risk of injury and burnout. This is a very interesting theory. All I can do is ask what makes 10% so special? I know of many people who, on a very regular basis, increase their mileage at a much higher rate with no repercussions. I have actually done that myself from the beginning of my running years. I also know of many people who have increased by much less than 10% and ended up with very serious injuries. From my observations, I have seen no sign that 10% is some magical turning point where injury risk suddenly increases. Also, I have seen no studies that have found this to be the case.

In the end, I just have to ask why 10%? Simple, it’s a nice round number that sounds good. It’s a middle ground. Many people get injured increasing at 5% or less per week, many others don’t get injured when increasing by 20% or more per week for a short period of time. Most runners will be safe at 10%, although many would also be safe at 15% and those who wouldn’t be safe may or may not be safe at 5%.

Well, if most runners are safe at 10%, why do I have a problem with this number? Simple, there is a better, less limiting and even safer way to increase. It’s called listening to your body. At points, if you listen to your body, you will probably increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. This is the point where 10% is too conservative and is actually limiting your training. At other points, if you listen to your body, you will probably increase your mileage by less than 10% per week and maybe even stop increasing for a few weeks before starting the buildup again. This is the point where 10% is too aggressive and runners who follow it to the letter end up developing problems.

Note on upcoming blog posts

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

With the blog available, the "Articles" section of the site seems a bit redundant. I’m going to copy/rewrite the articles posted there into blog posts and redirect links to these posts. Eventually, the Articles section will be going away.

This means you will probably see some topics come up here that seem familiar. Some will be extensively rewritten as known facts have changed or my understanding of the facts have changed. Others will be largely untouched.

The Silver Lining Race Report

This article was originally posted by Ed at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

On June 2nd I raced in the Silver Lining 5K for the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County. My wife and children came to this race with me. I love having them at the races in which I participate. As always, I get a bit anxious before a race but the pre race warm-up always settles that issue. I was anxious because I had spent seven of the last eleven days with an injury and not running. Coach Hill told me that any lost physicality should be made up for in the rest that my legs had gotten. I was trying to keep that in mind.

Check-in was a breeze, I got my race bib pinned on and headed over to the van to drop of the race packet. I was sizing up some of the competition as I walked through the area. I saw a few I knew would beat me (including and especially Ruffalo) but I was feeling good. I headed off for the pre-race warm-up and was feeling loose and relaxed. I warmed up about two miles at an eight minute per mile pace. Then I did some light stretching, especially in my calves down to the Achilles’ tendons, which is where I had my recent issues. I then did three strides trying to hit 9.6 MPH (around the pace I wanted to run the first mile) and I did ok – got a feel for the pace.

We lined up for the race and in a couple of minutes – we were off and running. The course starts uphill (into the wind which was quite noticeable) and curves slowly to the north. Ruffalo and about 30 others were ahead of me at the 1/4-mile mark I checked my Garmin and I was going out too fast, I was at 10.6 MPH – oops. I backed off a bit and was suddenly hit with the worst dry-mouth I had ever experienced. I could hardly open my mouth it was so dry and sticky. I thought I was done at that point – just on my way to the half-mile point. I tried to get saliva into my mouth and keep it there without swallowing – breathing through my nose alone. This slowed me down a bit but by the 3/4 mile point cured the dry mouth issue.

I hit the one-mile mark in 6:15. Somehow, I managed to hit the pace I wanted for the first mile. This is a hilly course and can be punishing so I worked my way up through people who were either not ready for the course or went out to fast. I tried to work the course to my advantage slowly picking people off one by one. I was struggling through the 2nd mile, with the thought of throwing in the towel, but worked through a number of people. I hit the second mile in 12:36 and I knew I had to somehow pick it back up and keep passing people. I noticed at about the 2.3-mile point I was clearly separated from the chase pack and was the trailing member of the lead pack. This was a bad mental thought to have.

I tried to reel in the guy in front of me and I slowly caught him and passed him then someone else caught me and I recognized him as the guy that beat me in my age group last year. I made the comment "there goes my age group win" and he stated he would be willing to tie. I told him; if you can beat me, beat me. I wanted to earn whatever award I could earn. Little did we realize someone else in our age group was way ahead of us. He then moved on ahead and I worked hard to keep the ground I had on anyone behind me. I was thinking that since this is chip timed the guy behind me might actually be on a shorter chip time than me so I worked that last .125 miles hard, it was uphill and into the wind but hey, everyone would have that same finish so I told myself "gut it out." I ran that .125 miles as best I could.

I did not PR and I did not win my age group. I dropped to third in my age group but I did move up to 14th overall. Only one person older than me beat me and I beat plenty of younger people. As I reflect on that race; given the conditions, my recent injury with off time, I am content with the outcome.

However, I am not done yet . . .

2 weeks off

This article was originally posted by Charlene at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

I don’t have a lot of running to post about lately as I had to take 2 weeks off after Green Bay. If you remember I was having trouble with my left calf for almost a week before the race and managed to get it to run properly after a lot of TLC and Biofreeze. Race was not bad but not great either and I naively thought that my left leg problems would just magically disappear post race.

Not so much. I was a little sore in the quads as normal the day after the race. I noticed that my calf had tightened up again. When I tried to run a mile 3 days after the race I found that my gait was just as awkward as it was the Thursday before the race. I tried a few stretches and noticed that my left foot would not dorsiflex at all. Some quick google research told me that in all certainty that trying to run when one cannot dorsiflex will cause horrible injury to one’s leg. Not that anyone would choose to run like that anyway as it is more of a hobble than a stride.

I made an appointment with Suzie, a sports massage therapist specializing in neuromuscular therapy. She worked on the calf for an hour and prescribed that I not run on it, relax, do gentle stretching, and stop living on Diet Coke. I was pretty worried after the appointment as after an hour of intense work the calf muscles still would not release.

But the very next morning I was able to dorsiflex!!!! I was so relieved. Each day I got back more range of motion and I went back to Suzie the following week and she suggested some more specific stretches that have really loosened up the entire leg.

Yesterday, I went for my 1st run in 2 weeks. It was super slow and just 3 miles but there was no pain at the back of the ankle and I had full range of motion from the start. Today I ran 6 miles and it was again frustratingly slow. Part of this is that I am terrified of hurting myself and cannot break out of a gentle jog. Also I think the leg was slowly tightening up in the weeks before the half and I need to figure out how to run with a leg that works instead of whatever I did to alter my gait to compensate beforehand. It sucks feeling like I am starting over just when I wanted to be gearing up for summer races. But I can run and that is what is important. I just have to keep telling myself that but I admit that my failure to improve for so very long now is really weighing me down. I am 35 years old and the clock is ticking. I trained all fall, winter and spring with hardly a twinge and now just as the racing season starts I am back at square one.

I do have some really good news and it is that my daughter’s 4×400 relay was 4th at State this last weekend. They ran a great time of 4:01 and we were so happy to see them on the podium. I had a great time at the State meet and got to watch a lot of really exciting and dramatic races. The level of competition was really high this year in all events. Over a dozen State records were broken.

The 20 mile long run

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Can you run a marathon PR without running a single 20 mile long run? Ask Allan. This spring, he twice ran under 4 hours after entering this year with a PR over 5 hours.

I’ve been asked a few times recently about long runs in marathon training. It seems people are beginning to question the need for the 20 mile long run. As anyone who knows me well, I’m celebrating these questions!

First, more about Allan and the story of his astonishing 66 minute PR, followed 62 days later by another 6 minute PR. Allan began running in 2011, completed a half marathon on a typical 12 week plan, then stopped running and fell into some bad health habits. In the spring of 2012, he began running again. After building up for a while, he again followed a standard marathon plan that included two 20 mile long runs. In October, he had some knee problems starting shortly after halfway and ended up walking a lot on his way to a 5:05 marathon.

In early December, we began working together. One of the first questions he asked me was about the long run. Having read up on the Hansons training philosophy, he was interested in how I felt about the need for the 20 mile long run. What a match! I don’t think he knew when he asked the question that I’ve long argued that 20 miles is not necessary. At that point, we planned to cap his long runs at 18 miles.

With his long runs capped, Allan was able to do more workouts and was able to get more intra-week consistency in his training. Previously, the long run was such a big part of his week that the rest of the week was largely about recovering from the prior long run and preparing for the next. By reducing his maximum long run distance by as little as 10%, we were able to put more focus into getting some real training done between the long runs.

I’m not going to claim the lack of the 20 mile long run was the only factor in these great improvements he achieved. There were many factors that led to a 72 minute improvement in 6 months. However, it should be obvious that he didn’t suffer by dropping the 20 mile long run.

That’s just the point. The 20 mile long run, while considered necessary by many, is too long for some runners. When the long run throws your whole week out of balance, it’s not doing you any good. By reducing the distance of the long run, even just a little, you can get more out of the rest of your week. Balance in training matters. If you can drop your long run by 2 miles but get an extra 10 miles a week and add a speed workout into the mix, you’re going to come out ahead, even in a long race like the marathon.

Now, the shorter long run isn’t for everyone. When I was running my best, my long runs were up to 30 miles but my weekly mileage was up to 150-160 miles at times and regularly topping 140. Another runner I’m coaching needs her long runs. If we don’t get enough 20 milers in, her marathon performances suffer. We found that through experience and adjusted accordingly.

So how do you know if you need 20 miles? First, consider your training balance. Is the long run about the only thing you can focus on or is it just another day in your overall training week? If it’s just another day, you’re probably fine where you are. If it’s the only thing you can focus on, you might be doing too much and a decrease in your long run distance may be warranted. Once you make this decision, try it and see how it works. Be sure to take advantage of the benefits of the shorter long run, though. Cutting the long run distance isn’t going to help without other changes. Get in some meaningful workouts with the extra energy you have, log a few more miles over the rest of the week, make the long runs mean more by adding some faster miles late in the runs. Figure out what your training is most lacking and make sure you are adding some of that in.

In the end, we are all different. Some people do in fact need long runs of 20 miles or even longer. The key I want you to take away from this is that not everyone does. Consider the possibility that you might only need 18 or even 16 miles. Weigh whether this shorter long run would allow you more balanced training that would not leave holes in your fitness on race day. Then don’t be afraid to go against convention. You might find out that a shorter long run allows you more well rounded training and will be one step toward a PR.

Green Bay Half

This article was originally posted by Charlene at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

To say the very least this was a stressful week.

Warning This race report contains a lot of grammar mistakes but i am tired and am poorly educated.

Sunday Night- Little ones came down with horrible cold

Monday Morning- Husband cut of part of finger at work….in Missouri

Monday Afternoon- Took daughter to ortho for possible Stress Fracture- got the yellow light for her to continue track

Tuesday very early a.m.- Husband returned from Missouri and discovery that maimed finger makes husband very crabby

Tuesday morning- Off to the ortho with Husband- No surgery required

Tuesday Afternoon- A stop at husband’s place of work where they frown on Workman’s comp and fingers maimed by saws

Later Tuesday afternoon- Relief that Daughter’s metatarsal survived Conference meet. Hopefully only 3 more to make it through

Wednesday- Crabby Husband, progressively sicker son, and a tight calf that threatens half marathon on Sunday

Thursday- Crabby Husband, sick son with a fever, and tight calf that takes 2 miles of "running" before stride is normal. All need TLC

Friday- Crabby Husband, sick son with a fever, and tight calf that only takes one mile of slow running to function correctly. All need TLC.

Saturday- Off to Green Bay, 11th Wedding Anniversary. Calf is good to go. Children still sick and husband is still crabby but all seem to be tolerating Water Park well.

* Husband is a very good guy and I do not mean to pick on him. A maimed finger makes anyone crabby. He was great this weekend to put up with my half marathon.

As for the race. This training cycle has been okay. I was able to add speed work in for the first time since I had PF two years ago. I admit my MLRs were lacking due to the cold wet spring. Long runs were all successful and I did not have a single one that I wanted to hitchhike home from. I did a consistent weekly tempo run but found week to week that their range of pace was much larger than normal. I somewhat suspect that the tight calf that I did not notice til this week may have been impacting this. I tend not to notice knots and tight muscles til they make something else hurt or it is totally undeniable that it is affecting my gait. I think I averaged around 55 miles a week since the 1st of the year. I did a 19:06 5k a few weeks ago that was almost a solo effort on crumbly streets that rivaled those of Columbus. But I just did not feel that magic that one feels when they are ready to throw down a really great race. This worried me but I felt really confident that I was going to finally break 1:30 for the half. Achieving this milestone has been really hard for me as I am not very good at races this long. I am very consistent though with my last 4 being either 1:30 or 1:31. But I have not been able to improve even though I train much better now than 4 half marathons ago.

This morning when I headed out to walk to Lambeau Field it was already warm out even though I was just dressed in a sports bra and shorts. I was expecting to be a little bit cold since it was just a little past 6 in the morning. I jogged to the Stadium and immediately found almost everyone I knew from this area that was running the half or the full. This is no small feat with a crowd of 8000 but this always seems to happen.

I settle into the preferred start corral next to my friend Rick who was signed up for the full We planned to run together as he was going to attempt a sub 3 just a month after Boston. The race started and we settled into a 6:51 pace for the first 6 miles. It was confusing though as the mile markers were really far off from our watches. We were not sure what was off but I think after talking to others after the race that both were. And then the 5 mile mat was short of five miles by at least a tenth of a mile or more. That is why online my average pace for the first 5 is 6:44. My real aprox pace of 6:51 felt really easy and we hooked up with another guy attempting sub 3 and we passed a ton of people. It felt powerful to pass as a group of 3. It was sunny and quite warm. The first 5 had a fair amount of shade though. After six though we all drifted apart. I took a gel about then and it did not go down that great and I fell a bit behind and my pace settle into the high 6:50s. Rick took off ahead and the other guy fell far behind me.

These miles were sunny with a headwind that did offer some relief and gentle inclines and declines that I was feeling a bit more than I should of. As I got to nine miles I passed my first walker. I have never passed someone walking in a half before. Once I got to ten miles I knew that I had no chance of breaking 1:30 and my pace suffered with this knowledge and I slowed to a range of 7:06 to 7:08 for the remaining miles. It was nice though to not have any miles slower than 7:08. I still passed more people than who passed me. I was surprised at the number of walkers the last two miles. Going through the stadium was a bit of a distraction though. This is the second time I have done a lap through a stadium to then finish outside and each time I think it has negatively affected my race as it seems to be just an obstacle that distracts me from focusing on closing to the finish. Any lap right before a finish line is a tease for me.

I finished in 1:31:27. Rick was waiting for me as he decided that he did not want to try to complete the full. I think lots of people decided that. I ended up 3rd in my age group, 18th woman overall, and 88th out of around 5500 half marathon runners. We found my family and then went for a post race massage. I felt a tad bit sick and my brain was not working right so we went back to the hotel where I changed and ate a few slices of pizza.

We then returned so I could cheer in my friends in the full. I watched the full about a mile and a half from finish. I started watching about 3:20 into the race and there was plenty of suffering to behold. I would say that almost half of the runners were walking at this point. Many people looked like they wanted to cry. It was not as hot as last year but it was warm and humid for a mass of runners that trained in 30s all spring. My friend Heather was walking when I saw her and I jumped in with flip flops and a diet coke in hand and ran with her to the finish. This actually felt really really good on my calves. Running through Lambeau Field the second time was a lot more fun and Heather finished right around 4:08.

We then went to wait for everyone else back at the point I found Heather and two friends were passing by right then. One was crying and Heather’s husband ran with her to the stadium. The next two came by an hour later and I cheered for them and then hurried back to the stadium as we had to get home as husband still had to drive to Missouri tonight. I did stop and snag my Age Group medal and it was gigantic. Each child now had a medal and all was good in their world. They really enjoyed Lambeau Field.

What I take away from this is that I have failed to improve at this distance for a long time now. It sucks to never improve even though I know I am fitter, have more endurance, and have came a long way since a few years ago. I have no races to prove any of that though. I think a lot of my problem is that I have a short attention span and lose focus easily. Or maybe I just focus better when I am alone. Other things I do wrong are not mixing up things enough in training and just the fact that I just may not be as suited for longer distances as much as I am for 5k. I think I will put off my next half marathon and just focus on short stuff for awhile and hopefully bust through a few old PRs this summer and fall. I always seem to do best when I race into shape and it makes me mentally much together.