Between my 20 miler last Wednesday, a 12 miler on Friday, a 9.1 mile run on Sunday and the 18 mile tempo run with Brian today, I've done 59 miles in the past 7 days. The longest 7 day running distance I did when training for Corning and Niagara was 53 miles, so I've definitely taken the training up a notch.
And it feels like it too. Maybe its the weather (a bit warmer -- around -2 C/28 F. today) or the fact that that we aren't running on snow/slush covered roads as much, but I just feel more confident about my running in the past week or so.
Today was the long tempo run that I've been dreading. The plan was to do 18 miles, including 1 mile of warmup, 5 miles each at 8:40, 8:20 and 8:00 per mile (marathon pace), and then 2 miles of cool-down. While a week ago, I could barely keep up to Brian and we finished the 20 miler with an average 8:32 pace, today I had no problem keeping up.
Because of the snow-covered gravel roads, we decided to stick with paved roads for the run. The paved roads were wet, but generally clear of snow because of all the sunshine we've had the last couple of days. There was a slight wind -- about 10 km/hour -- from the south, but by the time we were done, it was coming from the north. But it wasn't really enough to be much of a factor.
Our first mile was easy at just under a 9:00/mile pace. We then stepped it up to 8:40 and, looking back at the GPS results, its amazing how close we kept to that pace for the next five miles: 8:32, 8:46, 8:38, 8:39 and 8:38. This run was also generally uphill, but we were able to keep the pace pretty consistently.
The next 5 miles were to be at 8:20 pace. We instantly stepped up the pace and had to actually slow ourselves down at the start until we got into the 8:20 "groove". We did 8:20, 8:19, 8:15, 8:14 and 8:19 miles -- again, surprisingly consistent. This particular run was a net "flat" since it was an "out-and-back" part of our route.
Now the tough part: Marathon pace for 5 miles. But, in fact, it wasn't that tough. The first 3 miles at marathon pace were relatively flat and we knocked off 7:54, 7:56 and 7:53 miles. The next 2.5 miles was generally downhill so I stepped it up even further and knocked off 7:39, 7:32 and 7:41 (half mile).
Finally, we did a mile-and-a-half of cool-down at an easy pace of roughly 9:20/mile.
Overall, we did the 18 mile run at an 8:21 pace -- but if you take out the warm-up and cool-down, our "running" pace was 8:14 per mile. It was the ease at which we transitioned from one pace to the next that amazed me -- not to mention the fact that I still had lots of "gas in the tank" at 16 miles to keep rolling along at a much better than marathon pace -- even during the uphill segments.
So, at Virgina Beach it will likely come down to the weather (again). I'm certainly feeling confident in my training. I have Brian coaching me along to keep my pace in check. We have a strategy that make sense, aiming for a couple of minutes "in the bank" by the halfway point (i.e. run 7:55/mile for the first 13 miles to give us a little wiggle room at the end). And with the training we've done, I'm hoping we'll hit mile 23 and _know_ that we have my BQ in the bank, and we can step it up at the end.
That's the plan, anyhow.