I’d flagged this week as the start of my build phase, but now I think it was maybe my last “gimme” week—there wasn’t anything in the plan I haven’t done before and it was mostly a question of doing it now as proof that I could be ready in time for what comes next. So I guess I’ll call it a transition week?
My long run on Saturday was seven miles. I’ve done seven before, a handful of times, and I felt comfortable taking it on this time, even keeping an average pace a notch faster than last week’s six miler. The weather didn’t hurt—picture-perfect for running, overcast, low 60s, some breeze. In the past every time I’ve hit this kind of distance I think I’ve started to realize just how much the long run game is a mental one as it is a physical one. Running at a comfortable pace means feeling like I could, theoretically, physically do it forever; convincing myself, mentally, over and over again, that that is actually a good idea, a valid use of my time, and the actual goal is…weird. Realizing that Saturday’s last mile was going to be my middle mile during the half marathon in eight weeks was also quite the rude perspective shift!
Thursday was the first “race pace” run. A mile warm up, a mile cool down, a race pace mile sandwiched in the middle. (Hold the mayo.) (Yes, I’m a dad, have I mentioned that yet?) I’d set a minute-long pace range that I wanted to maintain for that middle mile that was meant to feel like a stretch while also giving me plenty of leeway to make it feel right. Turns out what felt right was a pace fifteen seconds faster than my target range. It felt good! It felt good to open back up some for the first time since the 5k; it was nice to feel like I hadn’t completely lost all the gains I made during that training period. Now, I really don’t believe the pace I ran Thursday was something I could actually maintain for 13 (and an oh and a point and a one-zero) miles; I mean, maybe it is, maybe I’m holding myself back, I know I’m perpetually concerned about over-doing it. (As my wife has put it, “Darby is very aware of his limits.") I don’t know. Either way, I do like those fast-but-not-absurd runs, and I’ve missed them since finishing the 5k training. Having that variety in the week is fun, a little spicy. I think I can safely slide my original target pace range forward by about 30 seconds. We’ll see what happens.
Tuesday night’s easy run continued the trend out of the previous week of my easy pace naturally starting to lift; it felt more like the race pace I expected to do on Thursday night (which probably translated to me pushing that mile faster on Thursday). I think I was running off some stress, too. Either way: faster than expected. Not the third-in-a-row ultra-low-heart-rate-Tuesday-run in a row I was on the lookout for, which is fine.
Looking ahead, things definitely actually for-real-real get interesting the next three weeks. I add a mile a week to the long runs each week (three weeks of new longest runs ever!), and a half mile a week to the race pace segment on Thursdays; Tuesdays will lock in at four miles for a while. Plus I’m pulling all my runs forward a day for the next two weeks, due to some weekend scheduling conflicts. Fingers crossed, that’s not a recipe for disaster.