Long Slow Run Part 2
In Part 1, I focused on preparing for the long slow run. I talked about how I do them on a Sunday – the day I have most free time – what I do to get ready – such as carb loading – and preparing for sun and sweat – suncream and vaseline!
Today, I’ll talk about how I physically run them and how I recover from them.
Hitting the Road
With my shoes on, my audio book on and my GPS on it’s time to hit the road. Usually, it takes me a few kilometres to warm my legs up and get into it. I do this by starting slower than the target pace and getting faster after a few ‘k. This day, I felt strong and decided to go straight for my target pace.
My target today was to average 5:30 min/km pace. This was to be over 15km with a ‘sure, see if I feel like it’ target of 20km distance. Later, we’ll see how I changed this plan slightly and what happened to my distance when I did.
Before we go, let’s talk about some sensible precautions.
I’d like to discuss two aspects of running safety:
- highway and pavement
- personal security
I stick mostly to urban streets when I am running. This means I have to take some basic and sensible precautions. This includes cars, bikes and other pavement users.
I keep my headphones on a level that doesn’t isolate me from the street environment. This means I can hear the other traffic. Whenever I cross a road, I look for bikes and cars. I keep an eye on private driveways ahead of me for cars entering/exiting. I use the pedestrian crossings where appropriate and I try not to ‘bully’ other pavement users out of my way. All sensible stuff.
Personal security is important. Even though I am a big guy, I avoid the ‘dodgy’ parts of town after dark. When I can see I am coming up behind someone facing away from me, I try to give them some advance warning by making a little extra noise. A cough or key jingle. This is so they have time to hear me coming and assess I’m not a mugger. It stops them getting scared of me.
Let’s do some running.
What gets measured gets managed
After our safety moment, let’s refresh my goals for this run. Run 15-20km at average pace of 5:30 min/km.
With the grace of a frolicking gazelle, off I went. How did I do? Thanks to the marvels of my GPS watch, I can show you.
All good till km 5 and then what the heck happened? Well, as I mentioned above, I decided to change my plan somewhat. Instead of going for a flat run, I saw some hills and said ‘I’m having you’. The slow down in target pace corresponds with hitting them thar hills.
Up to this point, I was keeping a nice relaxed cadence. When I got to these hills, I had to change my technique. I shortened my pace, I slowed down and I leaned forward. I fought my way up the hill – metre by metre, sweat pouring from me in greater quantities, my breath rattling out like a puffing steam train, till finally – my thighs ablaze with pain – I gave up and had to walk the last 1/4 of the way up.
Where I got this nice picture…
My legs gave out slightly so I walked for a wee while to give them a break and then I started running again. This time, it was down hill. Lean back, caution not to get carried away and short paces again. When I got down the bottom of the hill, I decided to give it another spin and went round the loop again.
I was very pleased because I got slightly further up the hill then last time but was still knackered. When I got back to the flat, I suddenly remembered it was time for an energy gel pack. I also decided to rest a little bit (by running slower).
I was at the 10k mark now. And I was starting to feel tired. I hadn’t been training effectively lately and knowing my body, it felt right that I should head for home. This is because I have learned that there comes a point when determination becomes masochism and if I injured myself, I wouldn’t be running again that week. Which would set me back.
So, I ran the last 5km home. When I had finished the 15km, I was still about 500m from my house. This was perfect. This was when recovery begins.
Getting over the Long Slow Run – recovery starts
My recovery starts before I get back in my house. I walk for about 5 minutes (about 500m). This does two things
- allows my legs to have a warm down
- gives my body time to cool down so I don’t drip sweat over my house (important when I used to have flatmates)
Getting over the Long Slow Run – refuelling starts
Once in the door, I’ve got a routine. I go to the fridge and take out my recovery drink. This is the one I made earlier. I take a sip – being careful not to gulp it all down. This is because I don’t want to overload my stomach before I do my stretching and Pilates exercises.
Sometimes, if I know I’m not going to be able to eat a balanced meal quickly after my run, I’ll prepare a protein shake. The long slow run takes it out of your body. It needs protein to repair the damage and it needs it quickly. Today, I knew I was going to cook straight after my stretching and shower, so I didn’t need to have any protein shakes ready.
When I do my longer runs (20k and above) or marathons, I will always have a protein shake. This is because after running those distances, I’m not able to eat solid food for several hours without getting queasy.
Getting over the Long Slow Run: Stretching
I used to have a fear of warming down with stretches. I read some advice from a magazine and gave it a go. And I swear those exercises caused me more harm then good. I got a bit of a complex about them and never used to do them. With hindsight, it was because I didn’t know what I was doing.
Then, last year, a friend in Sydney – Sally Stretch – showed me how to do them properly. Sally Stretch knows her stuff. She’s a professional sports masseuse, is learning to teach pilates and used to do triathlons for fun. And I will be forever grateful for her showing me how to stretch properly. And to her husband for the recovery beers afterwards.
As well as Sally Stretches routines, I use Pilates exercises. This was on Sally’s recommendation and the classes have been a revelation.
The key problem muscles in my legs have been the hamstrings and the quads (thigh) muscles. Pilates has loosened them up in a way I never thought possible. For example, I could never sit cross-legged before as it hurt like hell. Now I can!
Using Sally’s stretches and the Pilates, I take a leisurely 10-15 minutes to warm down. Then, I finish my rehydrating drink and it’s off for a shower. Or sometimes even a bath.
Rub-a-dub-dub, after the tub, time for some grub
I find that after the shower, I get cold real quick. I sometimes wonder if it’s a type of shock reaction from my body. Whatever it is, I make sure to wrap up warm and try to relax for a while. If I can, I’ll have some hot food or drinks. When I’m ready, I then have one of the best meals of the week – the recovery meal
The long run is not an excuse for me to gorge on any crap. That means I try to make a balanced meal. I aim for some meat – for protein. (any vegetarian protein suggestions are welcome), some carbs – usually kumara/sweet potato (called kumara down here) and veggies. Lots of veggies. With some butter.
Then, I get on with the rest of my Sunday. Which usually involves ironing.
Getting over the Long Slow Run: The day after
This is usually a complete no running day for me. I’m usually a bit stiff in my legs and might have some soreness in my feet. I’ve learned that a key thing about running is not running. So on a Monday, I’ll often go for a walk as light exercise helps the recovery period.
Then, on the Tuesday, it’s time to get back running.
The Long Slow Run is one of the most important parts of training for a marathon. In fact, probably the most important. It is time consuming, hard work and needs planning into your week. Without it, I don’t think I would have learned enough about myself or developed enough stamina to have run five marathons to date.
I hope you have found this short series of articles informative. As always, feel free to get in touch and Keep On Going.