Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why a 15 mile race is is a good test distance for the marathon

Mike and I were talking about how our races went Saturday morning when I made the comment that 15 miles is a good test distance for a fall marathon. Out of that conversation, I thought I would share some of the major points with everyone else.

Why is a 15 mile race a good barometer for a successful fall marathon?

Well, I see a couple of reasons but first, let me fill in some back ground information.

In our case, we both are racing OBX which is roughly 8 weeks or 2 months out.

During those 8 weeks incredible gains can be made in both aerobic capacity and stamina.

But one has to know what changes are needed in order to adjust their training plan properly.

This is where a 15 mile race like the Charleston Distance run comes into play.

15 miles is longer than half marathon by 1.9 miles but that 1.9 mile can make a world of difference in how a body feels. As I approach 15 miles, this where my body transitions from burning carbs to burning fats. This is the section of the race where I am either starting to feel pretty good about my day or I realize my body isn't ready for this challenge.

If I have been doing my long runs then my body probably isn't hurting from the race pounding at this point. Usually, the quads and the feet start to feel the stress of the effort.

If I have been doing my tempo runs, then my body should be able to handle the lactic acid build and allow me to maintain my marathon race pace.

Addressing the stamina point first, I felt okay physically. The pounding of the race didn't bother me too much on race day. My legs were tired and a little sore but then I just ran 15 miles. I should not expect them to feel too great.

However, to the 2nd point, the body's ability to handle the lactic acid build up, I didn't fare so well here. Most everyone has run a race or a workout where their legs started to feel a little wobbly coming to the finish, but give them a 2 minutes and their fine. That's what happened to me Saturday. Those last 2 miles my legs were wobbly. In fact, they were a lot wobbly. My training schedule hasn't had a lot of tempo runs and in Saturday's race the lack of tempo runs showed up. At least partially, it showed up. A big mitigating factor was the humidity hovering between 92% and 100%. The body tries to cool its self by sweating but when the humidity is so high, there no place for the moisture to go. Without the sweat evaporating, runners tend overheat. So while the body is circulating the blood to the skin to cool it, there is less blood going to the muscles and lactic tends to build up in the blood stream. When it does, we all slow down.

Now, that I have a feel for what I need to do next in my training plan, I will swap out some of the shorter speedy workouts for some 8 to 10 mile tempos. OBX will be next test case where I will find out if it works. I'm crossing my fingers.

Sharing one thought at time,

The Cool Down Runner

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