Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How's Your Intestinal Fortitude?

I don't really have a clear direction for this post, so bear with me as I try to find one. In the middle of my 12 mile run yesterday, I had 7 miles planned at Goal Half Marathon Pace, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 6:52/mi. I have pretty much nailed all of my previous GHMP and Goal Marathon Paced runs in the cycle. After those runs, I now kind of expect to hit everything as I feel great and have quite a bit of confidence with where I am at. We are just under 8 weeks away from the big day. Plus, I am in better running shape than I was at the beginning of training and have dropped about 8 pounds since the start of this cycle. I hope to be at 165 by the time the horn sounds on October 11th, so I have maybe another 4 or 5 pounds left to shed.

Anyway, back to the run. It was 71 degrees with 91% humidity when I left the house. Not really ideal. At all. I knew my heart rate would be elevated. Oh well, you never know what kind of weather race day will bring, so you have to suck it up and knock 'em down. I started with 2.5 nice and easy miles before I started my attempt of 7 at 6:52. The first mile is usually tough to gauge as I typically work down to that speed and then surpass it. I'll end up somewhere in the 6:15-6:30 range before I then start to get closer to 6:50, which will invariably take me closer to 7:00. By the time the Garmin dings Mile 1, I have no idea what the pace will say. On Tuesday it said 6:55. Not bad. Not too fast, just a touch too slow.

I figured I could keep right around there and avoid any major pacing swings for the next few miles. I figured wrong. Mile 2 was a poor 7:04. At that point, I started to let doubt creep in to my head just a bit. Compound the 10+ seconds over goal with the fact that I felt I was working harder and my heart rate reflected it. My HR zone for HMP miles is 159-177 and I was already up to 170. Crap.

The mental aspect of training (and more importantly, racing) is one that probably gets too little attention. 15+ seconds over goal two miles into a seven mile tempo run on an extremely humid day in the middle of August is a decent test. It's not mile 23 of the marathon when your legs are starting to feel like lead and your 7:15 pace (here's hoping) is on the verge of becoming a 7:30, but it will do.

How do you overcome this? Mental toughness will get you to a certain point. How much can you really will your body to do something? Can you? Does it hurt too much or is it just physically impossible?

I don't have the answers, but I like to think that the training I am putting in right now will allow me to dig a little deeper if(when?) the shit starts hitting the fan on October 11th. I'd really like to believe that my training is going well enough that the shit never hits the fan, but I am a realist. Things happen. For those of you newer to the blog, I am shooting for a 3:10 at Chicago this year. It would qualify me for Boston. It would also represent an improvement of 19 minutes over last year. 19 minutes is a huge number. I'd be a an idiot if I told you it wasn't. I'll be testing where I am at in a 10K and half marathon in the coming weeks to see if the 3:10 is a possibility. I have made several large changes in how I train from previous years to this year and hope they will get me the result I am looking for.

And now back to mile 2 of the GHP run. I decided to keep on trying to hit that 6:52. I was beginning to doubt it could happen, but wussing out at this point would do no good. I wasn't hurting. Just couldn't hit my pace. The phrase "intestinal fortitude" popped into my head at some point soon after the third mile started. I remember my brother Michael frequently referencing it during some sporting event back in the mid-to late 90's. Was it Mike Fratello - "The Czar of the Telestrator" - that used to say it back in the days of the Bulls championship runs? Or maybe it was Matt Millen before he turned the Lions into the worst franchise in the NFL. Maybe both of them? Either way, you could count on at least one a game from whoever it was.

So, it was time to see what kind of intestinal fortitude I had. As I was nearing the end of mile 3 and my Garmin would soon show my time, I figured I'd be sub 6:50 for sure. I was working even harder at this point. No luck - I put up a 6:52 and my AHR for the mile jumped to 174. I still did the math in my head to try to figure out how fast I would need to run the remaining miles to hit 6:52. I would aim for some 6:48-6:50's and hopefully turn it on the last mile.
That didn't happen.

Mile 4: 6:54, 175AHR
Mile 5: 6:53, 177AHR
So, after five miles, I was at the top of my HR zone and I still couldn't hit my goal pace.
Mile 6: 6:55, 177AHR
Jesus, now I was getting slower.

With one mile to go, I decided to see what I had left. I didn't pay attention to my heart rate either. I was sopping wet at this point and could feel sweat dripping down my legs. I managed to put up a 6:41 mile with a 183HR. Garmin claims this run averaged a 6:53 pace with a 175AHR.
I didn't feel bad after it was over and ran the last 2.6 home at an 8:20 pace.

Initially, I was a little disappointed. After I thought about it a little more, I think this was a good thing. I may have been getting a little too confident. A run like this humbles you and reminds you that there is still a lot of work to be done between now and October 11th. At the same time, I was able to gut it out and pretty much hit my goal pace. So I damn near hit the 6:52 in miserable conditions on what wasn't my best day. I think it's a good sign. A 7 mile tempo run in the midst of summer isn't an easy thing to do.
Last Week Recap
Monday- 9.6 GA @ 8:22 pace, 143AHR
Tuesday - 9.1 VO2 w/6x800 repeats @ 2:56 pace
Wednesday - 7.3 Recovery @ 9:16, 120AHR
Thursday - 7.5 GA w/10x100 strides @ 8:08 pace, 147AHR
Friday- 9.2 GA @ 8:20 pace, 141AHR
Saturday - 15.3 MLR @ 8:26, 149AHR
Sunday- Rest
58 total miles

This Week:
Monday- 6.5 Recovery @ 9:06, 125AHR
Tuesday - 12.1 Miles, middle 7LT @ 6:53, 175AHR
Wednesday - 13.3 MLR @ 8:18, 141AHR
Thursday - Recovery Double of 6 or 7 in the morning and 4 or 5 at lunch
Friday- Longest Run of the cycle - 22 Miles
Saturday - Recovery Run - 6ish
Sunday - Rest Day
70+ Total miles


Puerto Rican Kenyan said...

I hope you're feeling good about that killer tempo run. It was horrible out there that day. It's good to keep the right perspective about the work we still need to do before race day, but considering how it was that morning, you nailed that workout. And your LR today just reinforces how ready you are getting yourself for October 11.

TexasTaxMan said...

Zab - two thing about that run....1) It was a great tempo run considering the conditions and even though you were off of your GHP, it wasn't much at all; and 2) Running in those conditions, I think, gives you some trainng should you run into similar conditions in October. I think you did a good job and you finished strong. Nice job!

ExSoccerGuy said...

That was a great run, and the fact that you are thinking about intestinal fortitude at this stage means that you know that the physical aspect of your training is where it should be. You should have all the confidence in the world, but should temper it by not thinking that falling a few seconds short of goal during a hard mid-week run in far-from-ideal conditions means there's any reason to worry.

You've put a stellar training cycle together at this point, so keep it up.