A good run late this afternoon: 9.64 miles, 10:20 average pace (avg HR 142).
I was thinking a lot during the first few miles about this question of long slow runs. I feel I really benefited from the lowish-HR focus I had in September and October--it was nothing fancy, and I never really got it that low (it was more on the principle of "keep Jenny's HR in the 140s"--the park loop has a fair bit of elevation change, I find it very difficult to stay really slow enough to keep the HR at 140 unless it's quite flat; slowing down when I hit 150 is about as good as I can manage), but it was great. I've sped back up again over the last month or so, though, partly because I haven't had the concentration and willpower that are needed to do it properly and partly because of running with friends who are faster than I am and who are also mostly racing shorter distances.
The mental thing that made me able to enforce the slowness rule in September was that after reading everyone's August-September blog posts leading up to IM Kentucky and IM Wisconsin I was in a sheer frenzy of desire to do an Iron-distance race! A frenzy, I tell you!
(It is not that I am not still in thrall to the idea. I am. But it's going to be a while--two and a half years from now, I'm thinking, I want to do it well and I want not to get an injury--so there's no point getting all het up about it!)
So in September and October the thing that I'd hold in my mind--this is embarrassing!--was that what I was working on was the perfect sort of loping pace that I would have for my iron run several years from now, a smooth and easy and highly efficient gait that could basically be maintained for an almost infinitely long time. You know--what my ancestor did as she covered ground on the savannah taking a message to the neighboring nomadic tribe about an illness spreading among the animal herds, or whatever! The Iron lope!
And then if I do a lot of it over the next few years, it will be totally locked in to my body's memory so that when I have to run that marathon after having already insanely exerted myself I will just be able to go on autopilot and lope along...
Really when writers talk about runners loping they are talking about very fast runners, but the lope I'm thinking of is let's say 11:00 mile pace (on a not-too-hilly route). I can already more or less lope at 10:00 on a flat run when I haven't been doing something else, and I will hope to continue improving my comfortable speeds, but post-massive-amount-of-swimming-and-biking lope is a different story and 11:00 seems more prudent than 10:30...
Of course it's enjoyable to run quite fast for quite a long time (that's why half-marathons are such a satisfying distance to race), but the thing about loping is that it's really more oriented towards function than to feeling, it has to feel good but it's also about getting yourself somewhere with the most sensible apportioning of energy, and without making any demands beyond the minimum on your aerobic and fueling systems.
Once you think about it that way, it is hard to see what the appeal is in working on anything other than the lope!
This will be my last post for 2007--I am going to be off-line in South Carolina for two days, I might sneak in a run but there will be no blogging--so I will take this opportunity again to wish everyone a very happy and healthy year in 2008, but also a lot of loping. Loping on the road and in the pool, but also in life--cover a lot of ground, use your resources wisely, enjoy yourself...