In a recent blog post I challenged the scheduling of the long run on Sundays following the traditional long ride on Saturday. I’d like to stir things up again by encouraging you to stop running longer than 2.5hrs in your weekly long run.
Ironman® athletes will often receive advice from training partners or coaches who pretend to know the Ironman® game, telling athletes that they should schedule a weekly 3hr long run. This one piece of advice is probably the single most high risk, low return, ruin-your-training-week thing you can do to yourself.
Very Low Marginal Benefit
We schedule our Ironman® athletes for 2-3 x 2.25-2.5hr runs during their training for their goal race. You feel you need to do 3hrs. So let’s talk about what benefits you receive from that additional 30-45′ of running. But first…we’re going for a bike ride.
I email you on Friday to say we’re riding 2.5hrs on Saturday. But when I show up in your driveway at 7am Saturday I say “change of plans, we’re riding 3hrs instead.” Now, in your mind, is there a material difference, a significant marginal benefit, between a 2.5 and a 3hr ride? I would argue no, these rides are, for all purposes, the same ride, one is just 30′ longer. No big deal, I know that 30′ isn’t going to make or break my performance on race day, 6-12 weeks away. So if this is true on the bike, why should the run be any different? Is running 30-45′ longer on one run per week, for about 4-6wks of your 20+ weeks of Ironman® training going to create a material difference on race day? I say no.
Very High Marginal Risk/Cost
However, in my experience, your additional 30-45′ of running comes with a very high marginal risk of injury and potential cost to downstream workouts:
- If you’ve run 2.5hrs and then run 3hrs the next week…you know things hurt a lot more, and much more quickly, than in the first hour of your run. In other words, the difference in how you feel between minute 30 and minute 60 is…meh. 60 – 120′? 2 x “meh.” But things just get exponentially harder after 2hrs…and 2 x exponentially between 2.5-3hrs. Sorry, my Math for Marines class is limiting my use of metaphors to accurately describe how much more crappy you feel after 3hrs vs 2.5hrs 🙂 If you’ve been there, .you know what I’m talking about!
- This “exponentially more crappy” effect has a HUGE impact on downstream workouts, especially if you’re still doing your long runs on Sunday despite my advice in my last blog post! Your body doesn’t magically reset itself to “recovered!” on Monday morning just because you turn the page on another training week. If you continue to do stupid stuff on the weekends (6hr long rides, 3hr long runs), that stuff will absolutely effect your downstream workouts. Your Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday sessions become compromised. You may be able to get back on track by Thursday, just in time to do the same stupid stuff to yourself again…the cycle just repeats itself week after week but, hey, you’re following your training plan, hitting all the workouts and getting in the scheduled training hours. When you’re asleep under your desk at lunch on Monday…how’s that working for you?
So what do we get when we put our no-Sunday and no-3hr run guidance up against common Ironman® long run scheduling?
- You: long run on Sunday after a long ride on Saturday = another opportunity to practice running, slowly, on tired legs. At some point in your training, the combination of the length of the Saturday and Sunday sessions begins to significantly impact downstream workouts. In my experience, this bumping of heads begins to happen at about a 3.5-4hr long ride + 2hr long run. As you go north of this point, stand by because next week is really going to start to suck. You begin to lock yourself into a cycle of crappy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday workouts, maybe digging yourself out your hole by Thursday…just it time to put yourself back in the hole by the weekend. Congratulations, your fitness is now treading water, if not going backwards!
- TeamEN: Monday works with Tuesday works with Wednesday, etc, with the composition, timing, and volume of every workout carefully planned with much consideration given to how it ALL fits together across the training week. By separating the long run from the long bike, the TeamEN athlete is running on much less tired legs, enabling them to sustain higher paces during their long run. By limiting the volume of the run to 2-2.25, 2.5hrs at the most, that long run is able to accommodate some “get-faster” run training: half and full marathon paced intervals within the long run. Most importantly, the TeamEN athlete has effective Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday sessions.