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A Tale of Two 10-Milers

August 26, 2011

On Tuesday, after successfully sleeping away anything that might have otherwise resembled jet-lag from the nearly 8 hours of flying the previous day, I woke up in Kona ready to run.  My training progression includes a downhill run once a week, with mileage steadily building.  Since the St. George Marathon has some long downhills, including most of the second half of the race, I want to get my leg, ankle, and hip muscles used to the constant impact for miles at a stretch.  Tuesday called for 10 miles downhill and we happen to be situated in a place basically made for the workout, with a super long, winding, nearly all downhill road that starts high in the cloud forest and ends basically at the ocean.

(The following pic has nothing to do with this post.  Not sure about the scope of services offered by the wedding planners in the greater Kona metropolitan area.)

Dropped off by Al near the top, I had a blissfully fast, relatively easy run that covered 10 miles in just 68 minutes. I ran the 6th mile in just 6:27; the slowest mile, at 7:03, was still well under marathon race pace. For me, that’s fast, averaging 6:52 per mile despite some forced slow downs due to traffic, steepness of grade, and turns.  Still, my 10K split beat my race PR and the total time was, by a long stretch, faster than I’ve ever run the distance.  My heart and lungs held up great and while I pushed myself the whole distance, I felt great from start to finish.  Well, most of me did.  My calves and, to a slightly lesser extent my shins and Achilles tendons , were started getting torn up just a couple of miles in.  I could feel the micro-tears in the muscle fibers (this is natural and how muscles get stronger) as I ran.  Walking, both immediately afterwards and the entire next day, was more painful than after any run I’ve done before, regardless of the distance.

This was all, for the most part, to be expected.  I definitely overdid it a bit, pretty much ignoring what was inevitable from running nearly as hard as I could on pavement while dropping about 400 feet per mile.  With proper recovery (yes, I iced and ate well and slept a lot), the muscles and connective tissue just come back stronger.  And stronger is what I want for my marathon.  But, there was the matter of another 4 weeks of training ahead, including another 10-miler today, less than 48 hours later.

This morning I got up and, encouraged by only half limping, I was determined to get in the scheduled 10-mile “pace” run.  The idea here is to run 10 miles at my projected marathon pace, basically 7:25/mile, but to do so on a more “reasonable” route.  I opted for part of the southern portion of the Ironman Championship marathon course, starting in the village in Kailua-Kona, heading 5 miles south on Ali’I Drive, and coming back.  This part of the course, from my brief online research, is said to be totally flat.  It was not.  It is also said to be hot and humid.  It was.  So, on recently battered legs, with my hydration pack, in temps rising to the mid-80s and sock-drenching humidity, and under the shade-less glare of the Hawaiian sun, I set out, thinking I was going to knock out the run on proper pace.

It is pretty clear where this story is going, or at least it should be to anyone who has set out to do something so clearly beyond his or her capability.  I started out with a 7:50 mile, telling myself I was just warming up and I’d speed up as the miles ticked off.  That strategy worked, actually.  For one mile.  The second mile was 7:44 so I just had to keep accelerating for the next 8 miles to hit my time.  No big deal.  Until I had to run 8 more miles.  By mile 3 I was soaking wet, and my body was going straight from warming up to overheating.  By the turnaround at mile 5 my average was at 8:30 per mile so I knew that my “pace” run was shot.

How I felt at the turnaround:

Just continuing to run the entire distance back became my new goal.  With the exception of slowing to a walk for about 45 seconds late in the run, in order to choke down a gel, I did at least run the whole route.  But the 10 miles took 1:34, a 9:30/mile pace.  For a long run, that’s moving along well.  For a run of similar length with buddies chatting along the way, it is acceptable.  But for something that falls in the “speed workout” column of a training plan, it is a failed effort.

Part of me is pissed and worried, with shaken confidence.  But really this is a “so what?” sort of situation.  The issue, in retrospect, has less to do with my fitness or motivation and more to do with overdoing it on Tuesday and not adjusting the training accordingly.  And “failed” workout or not, I did get in 10 solid miles and got to do it running an iconic route in one of the most beautiful places in America.  So not exactly a bad day, all considered.

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