Monday, January 15, 2018


My spider-like "spoke" route from Sunday.
Warning: Dull ramblings about long run strategies...

This weekend I ended up having to run my 12 miles by myself because I was out of town for the Sunstone run on Saturday. This long run would be exactly two weeks before the half and is one of the most important of the training cycle. It's where I would "peak" before a shorter long run next weekend in an attempt to taper a bit and go into the race fresh. Most of my long runs had been of the 10 mile variety. That is long enough to get you ready for a half (for a casual approach at least) and it is what Sunstone runs every weekend so it makes it easy. I did tack on an extra two to a Sunstone run about a month ago and I figured I should do so again just to make the 13 on race day seem a little easier.

Saturday night I began plotting my course. When you are running by yourself it is important to know where you are going to go ahead of time. That way you don't run too long or run too short and have to painfully go out for more after getting home. Anyways, there are two types of long run strategies and the pros and cons of each in my eyes:

Out and Back: Run half the distance you want to achieve, then turn around and run the exact same way back. Basically ends up looking like a giant squiggly line. The pros of this type of route are many. It is simple to execute and hard to get turned around. It works great on dedicated running paths. My favorite part is that usually halfway doesn't seem like that far. So by the time you hit, say, six miles, you still feel pretty good. Then you turn around and every step is a step closer to being done. The worst part of this run type is the repetition of scenery. If you are looking for variety as a distraction, this is not the run for you.

Loop: My favorite, but the harder to do than an out and back. Once you are beyond about seven or eight miles and want to avoid busy roads, this can get complicated. On one hand I like that, I memorize the route in my head and then have to pay attention to run it correctly. Another great feature is that you are running all new terrain the entire way. In terms of variety, you can't beat it! The downside is that there is no major milestone, like a turnaround. You can start feeling kind of desperate when you are 65% into your run and still so far from home.

Now, you can always combine the two and end up with a "Lollipop" route. There is also a strategy of combining multiple routes from a home base, whether they be loop or out and back. I've used this strategy in the past on long runs for marathon training, typically those in length of 16 miles or greater. When you are running these by yourself and have no supported aid stations, it is nice to loop around to the car and have some cold drinks and snacks before heading back out. Typically it is a good idea to have the second "trek" be shorter, so you are already more than halfway done at the pit stop. A good example of this strategy was my 21 mile run with Alejandro in 2013.

Basically, I lay this all out because I was really struggling with my route on Saturday night. Nothing sounded good and I was dreading the 12 miles alone. I was being a baby, I know! I've just gotten used to running with people on long runs. Now, I had done some out and back 10 milers by myself recently, but those were really starting to drag on. Sunday morning I woke up and decided I didn't want to do the 12 mile loop I had planned the night before. I wanted to try something new.

I came up with the idea of doing multiple two mile out and backs. That way I would always be, at most, a mile from my house. It would also be very satisfying in terms of the reward center of my brain. I was always, at greatest, a mile from some sort of an accomplishment. Either I was at the turnaround or back at my house. And only a mile, those come pretty quickly, so my spirits should remain pretty high! I also set out on distinct routes that were different from one another for variety and worked my way clockwise around the base of my house.

It ended up being pretty cool! The run did go by pretty quickly all told. It wasn't like "wow, I can't believe it's over!" but it wasn't the struggle like some runs are. My main goal was just not to make it look like a swastika and I think I was able to avoid that! Anyways, I could see the novelty of it wearing off with overuse, but I think I'll keep this idea on the back burner for another time I need some extra push to get out there. Normally, these "pit stop" runs have a singular stop, but why not five? I didn't actually stop except twice... once at mile 6 to check a sports score, and once at mile 10 to grab a quick drink. It was nice to have the option though!

Anyways, long story short, I am calling this a "Spoke" route. Copyright 2018 Thomas. Although I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of this. Regardless, the bulk of my Miami work is over now. I'll do 8 or 9 miles next weekend and then the weekend after is the race! What a difference a year makes in terms of my physical health!

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