I don't often delve too deep into the number on this blog. Honestly, I'm more interested in how we as runners approach long runs, races, running in general, and other philosophical or mental aspects of the sport. I also love the overwhelming support and encouragement bloggers share with one another (well...this guy and this guy have some issues to work out).
But, I won't pretend that I don't look at the numbers or think about them. I just know to never get too caught up in them. And the story below is illustrative as to why getting caught up in the numbers is a bad idea.*
Thus far this training cycle I've done three 20M+ runs, a 20M, a 22M, and a 22M. My average pace went 7:09/M, 7:14/M, 7:18/M. You could argue I'm trending downwards, notwithstanding the fact that I'm in better running shape than I was three weeks ago when I ran my 20M. So what accounts for this? A few things. First, my first 22M run was the weekend following my 20M. Back-to-back 20M runs is demanding, and a slight drop off is understandable. While this weekend I decided to return to the Lansing area and run my Hills of Death route (pictured below). So, despite being my slowest average, my 7:18/M pace is significantly better than I've ever run on that route (besting my 7:43/M top spot from last year).
And, yet, I don't feel overly optimistic about my HoD run because of the way I fell apart over the last seven miles. As you can see from the graph below, I started to really 'chunk-up' time during the last third of the run.
Still, at mile 20 I had a 7:15/M average; but the last two miles (also the first two miles) were unshoveled sidewalk lightly covered in a fresh layer of snow--the kind that conceals ice and matted down clumps of snow perfect for rolling an ankle. On my way out I nearly fell three times. By the time I returned to these miles I was unable to pick it up or even run fast enough to maintain the 7:40ish average I had for miles 17-20. Basically, the first time through the hills went well, but on the second round the hills ground me up like a piece of low quality processed meat.
In case you ever want to run this fun little 11M out/back, you just start at the MAC and head north on Hagadorn to Grand River. Take Grand River east to Park Lake Road. Follow Park Lake north until you get to a road called Coleman (you cannot miss Coleman because you look to the right and see three angry hills). Go east on Coleman until it dead ends, run west back on Coleman to Park Lake and turn north again. Take Park Lake north until you hit the I-69 ramps. Turn around, then enjoy the hills again. The elevation gain is 2523, the loss is 2546, with a net of -17. Below is the elevation chart for my first 22M. NOTE: This route involves lots of road running. Basically, there are no sidewalks on Park Lake or Coleman north of Lake Lansing. If you are not comfortable running on roads, this is not a route for you. As always, be safe out there.
Above is the elevation graph for my first 22M run around the greater Howell area. Elevation gain is 2178, elevation loss is 2190, net is - 12. Now, compare the above two routes to another 'difficult' route.
Elevation gain is 1129, loss is 1545, and the net is -416.
* In Part B of this post I'll talk in depth about trends form five different marathon training cycles.
** Down goes another potentially lucrative endorsement deal.