Long Runs with Speed Workouts – Weekly Recap – 1.19.20

Long Runs with Speed Workouts

I want to start out by saying a huge “thank you” to everyone who sent messages of support and shared my posts last week.  That definitely put some more pep in my step.  This week felt much better in terms of anxiety levels.  Having some more consistency and routine has been helpful.  It’s still a huge adjustment to have my husband working so much more, but we’re finding our groove.  I’m also excited to say that I had a really great long run with some pacing worked in.  I very rarely recommend long runs with speed workouts, but I’ll share more about that in a bit.

Related Post: Exercise and Anxiety

My training this week felt pretty amazing.  I didn’t have any work travel, and sleeping in my own bed and having reasonable work hours always helps my training.  The long weekend was also HEAVEN for me and my mental health.

I took my kiddo on a little field trip, where we went on a longish run/bike ride and went out for ice cream afterwards. Before heading home, we stopped at a nail salon, and I got a nice pedicure while he played on his Nintendo switch next to me (thank God for technology sometimes).  I love that he’s finally old enough to hang out with me and not need the full day to be about him playing.  It’s nice to spend time with him doing some things that are more enjoyable for me.

Long runs with speed workouts - runners feet
My amazing pedicure

I almost never spend on money on things like pedicures.  I’ve talked about how cheap I am, and how I even find creative ways to pay for my race registrations and save on destination racing expenses so that my family doesn’t have to budget extra money for my hobbies.  But this weekend, I knew I wanted to do something indulgent for myself during the long weekend.

I knew that my anxiety had been running the show for a few days, and it was time to really allow myself a few moments of self-care outside of running and working out. Exercise and mental health are my two passions, so I need to pay attention to both of them.

Since my feet are usually not in great shape (marathon training probs), I decided a pedicure was the way to go.  When I remembered the results from my last attempt to paint my own toenails (a dislocated rib that cost me a weeks’ worth of training), I knew I made the right decision.

Related Post: My Set Back

I also treated myself to a Vanilla Hazelnut coffee from Einstein Bros Bagels to go with my post-run egg sandwich. It’s a small thing, but it’s my favorite coffee, and it’s not located convenient to me. So it feels like a really special thing for me, and it’s something that makes me happy.

Long Runs with Speed Workouts - runners breakfast
Breakfast as self-care

I shared on Instagram that this week’s long run included a 2 x 2 mile repeat at marathon race pace, and honestly I was a little hesitant to share it. Long runs with speed workouts are not a great idea for newer runners, or during a base building phase of marathon training. I want to talk about the purpose of these kinds of workouts, when it is appropriate to implement them, and when not to.

Long Runs With Speed Workouts

When They’re a Bad Idea

When you are newer to long distance running, or are coming back to running after a break, it might be tempting to run your long runs at a challenging pace.  Conventional wisdom says that more is more, and that running long at a faster pace might yield faster results come race day.  Conventional wisdom, in this case, is about as accurate as a drunk person trying to do calculus

The best investment at this point in training is to focus on building and maintaining a strong endurance base.  The majority of failed races are not a result of inability to run fast, but inability to run far.

This doesn’t mean newer runners, or runners earlier in training can’t enjoy the benefits of speedwork.  It just means it needs to be kept separate from long runs.  Training Peaks has a great article on the rationale for keeping speedwork and long runs separate workouts, but the gist is that each workout should have a different focus for a while. 

Hansons Marathon Method review
Short track workouts build strength

Speedwork should be done for the sole purpose of muscle stimulus and building, as well as improving running form and economy.  This goal can be accomplished with very short intervals (runners everywhere rejoice).  Long runs should be done for the sole purpose of teaching the body to adjust to extended time on feet, and utilizing available energy over a long period of time.

Combining speed workouts with long runs too early can lead to over-fatigue, reducing the body’s ability to recover and complete the rest of the weeks workouts correctly.  It can also result in injury.  A fate worse than death for distance runners.  So, while it may be tempting to try and get some speedwork in those longer efforts, I would encourage you to engage in whatever restraint you possess. 

It’s not exciting, but keeping the ego in check might mean avoiding the fresh hell of a “Did Not Start.”

When They’re a Good Idea

If you have been running and training consistently for a long period of time, it is fairly likely that you have built a reasonable endurance base.  If you believe that you have started coming up on the diminishing returns of focusing on endurance, it may be time to consider incorporating some speedwork during your long runs.

There are a few other options to explore before speeding up during your long run.  The first would be traditional speedwork in the form of track workouts and tempo runs that are shorter in nature.  If you have not incorporated, and spent some time manipulating and adjusting, speedwork 1-2 times a week, I would recommend exploring this well before adding speedwork into long runs.

Having dedicated runs to shorter repeats at faster than goal race pace can give your body the muscle stimulus and adaptation that will help improve overall pacing, without quite as much stress and potential for injury. Track workouts can be intimidating, because running around like a greyhound is weird for someone who doesn’t have a track background.

But they are so powerful, and eventually kind of fun.  Tempo’s and fartlek runs are other options for incorporating speedwork.  If you’re interested in more information on the different types of speedwork and how to incorporate them into your training, check out this article, Six Most Common Types of Speedwork, from Women’s Running.

Long Runs with Speed Workouts - marathon training - intermediate marathon training
This weeks amazing long run

If you have been incorporating some traditional speed workouts into your running routine for a while, have a solid endurance base, and are looking to add more speed into your training, THEN it may be time to consider the long runs. There are a couple of methods for incorporating speedwork into your long runs. A method I like to use in both racing and training is to do a 30-60 second pick up every mile. I’m not shooting for a specific pace, but every mile I pick up the pace for 30-60 seconds.

This allows me to briefly increase speed without throwing my breathing way off, and lets me utilize some fast-twitch muscles instead of slow-twitch for a bit.  It also gives me something to break up the monotony of running the same pace for hours.  Over the course of a marathon, those little pick ups can add up to a nice little cushion as well.  I start to practice the pick ups on my long runs about 6 weeks before the race to give myself some time to get used to it.

Related Post: Hansons Marathon Method Review

The other method is to incorporate some longer repeats at race pace or faster.  When I do this, I generally take into account how I’m feeling, what my workouts for the week have been, and how far I am running.  I only incorporate speedwork in my long runs a handful of times per training block, and it is usually on one of my shorter long runs.  All of this helps make sure I keep myself in check, because I have the tendency to want to push as hard as I can without any sense (I do not recommend doing this).  I tend to default to 2-3 rounds of 2-4 mile repeats at just slightly faster than goal race pace.

If you’re thinking about trying to include some speedwork into your long runs, do it cautiously.  No one PR’s a race they don’t run because they speedwork’d themselves into IT Band Syndrome.

This Weeks Workouts

long runs with speed workouts

Total Miles: 48
Hansons Marathon Method, Week 8
How the Runs Felt
My runs this week felt good. My tempo run was my most challenging, as per usual. I’ve been incorporating some more hilly running routes on my easy runs to help build my legs muscles, and I think it is starting to pay off. Running up hills better have positive results, because I’m not a fan in the moment.

The back to back 10 milers are always a little challenging for me as well. Running a casual 10 miles before work is no easy feat.  Especially when I sit at a desk for most of the day.  I feel pretty stiff every time I get up from my desk, which gives me a great excuse to call it an early night on Fridays.

My body seems to be holding up well with this whole back to back to marathon thing, but I’m still cautiously optimistic.  My calves are fairly tight, and I am definitely starting to experience some of that lovely cumulative fatigue.  But I’m hoping that I’ll be able to keep everything running smoothly through the rest of this training cycle.

This week, I decided to share some of my morning run routine on my IG stories. It’s a slightly shorter and faster version of my pre-long run routine that I posted last week. If you’re interested in taking a look, I’ve saved it into my “Marathon Training” highlight folder.

Despite some muscle fatigue and soreness, this week was pretty great.

What I’ve Been Listening To
This week, I listened to a recent Ginger Runner Live podcast, where Ethan and Kim talked with coach David Roche.  It was one of the most useful and informative podcasts in the sport that I’ve listened to in a long time, and I really enjoyed it.  I’m definitely looking forward to some ultra-marathon training and trail running after this marathon cycle.  The Officer’s Wife and Disorganized Crime have also been really entertaining.

I know I’ll have some treadmill runs scheduled next week, because I have some work travel planned.  So if you have any Hulu/Netflix/Disney+ recommendations, please share!

How the WODs felt
This week had a lot of higher rep, lower body programming. Friday’s workout was particularly brutal. I will say I lifted heavier on my front squat without a belt than I have in a really long time. But at this point, my legs are pretty much lifeless. I survived, though, and I guess in CrossFit, that is a win.

Crossfitters who Run
Working on some overhead stuff this week

What Went Well
Like I said, this week was much better for me mentally.  Having an extra day off work to take care of a few things, spend some time with my kiddo, and get a pedicure was really beneficial.  My nutrition this week was also really consistent, and I wasn’t missing any meals or eating a bunch of takeout.  I have to say that my recent Instant Pot purchase has made cooking healthy dinners so much easier.

I was also able to get in a good amount of core work, and while I don’t have a six pack immediately (disappointing), I know having a stronger core makes running faster so much easier.

What Went Shitty
I realized this week that I have lost a WHOLE lot of flexibility.  I prioritize getting in some stretching and mobility work several times a week, but I just don’t think I’m stretching for long enough.  My calves and hamstrings in particular are struggling lately.  My husband also helps me get some of the tightness worked out with our Hypervolt, but this hasn’t happened as much with him working more.  I know, sad, sad story.  I can’t get my usual calf massage because my husband is too busy working.  It’s heart-breaking.  I trust you’ll support me in my difficult time.

Long runs with speed workouts
Definitely lacking some mobility

Plans to Improve Next Week  
Next week will involve some more work travel for me, so I plan to give myself some grace and know that I might not be able to work in everything I’d like.   The one thing that I NEED to prioritize above all is getting in my stretching.  Because at the current rate I’m going, I will be wheelchair ready in approximately 6 months.

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