I know I mocked the whole ‘all you have to do is slow down’ to run an ultra thing less than a week ago, but I have to admit it sounded so damn logical that I had to give it a try.
Saturday, when motivation failed to get me to the mountains, my guilt strategy kicked in and I opted for some hill repeats. When I really want to punish myself, I head out to Spanish Banks/UBC endowment lands, where there are a couple of relentless hills that threaten your will to live.
The Question: If I slow my pace, will it actually enhance my endurance?
The verdict: A resounding yes!
My usual running pace is about 5 min/km and, at that pace, I can comfortably run 10-12km. Uphill, I’m usually closer to 5:30 min/km and downhill I can cruise at about 4:40 min/km.
On Saturday, my average overall pace was 5:53. On the steepest parts of the uphill sections I was closer to 7:30 min/km but most of the overall uphill sections averaged out to around 6 min/km. I even concentrated on downhill sections, and was able to bring my pace down to 5:35 min/km. At these paces, I very, very comfortably ran 17.26 km. I cannot stress enough how comfortable this distance felt (i.e. I felt like I could have run another 5 km easily).
What I Learned:
- You would think it would be easy to just enjoy a more leisurely run, but it goes against everything I believe in about running (i.e. faster = better runner). I have to shift my mindset around what ‘good’ running looks like. Anyone who knows me is fully aware that I am not good at slowing down. I walk quickly, even when I have nowhere to be. I drive quickly, even when I am not running late. I pretty much operate under the assumption that everything is a race. Going slowly not only seems like a waste of time, but also (and maybe even more importantly) seems like a sign of weakness. I absolutely equate speed and efficiency with competence. I knew this approach would be hard for me–and it was. Anytime someone passed me, I had to fight the urge to match their pace. When I felt strong enough to run faster, I had to fight against burning myself out.
- Even slowing my pace by 30 seconds/km makes an absolutely massive difference to stamina on uphill sections. Not once did I have to stop running. I may have felt like I was crawling, but at least I kept going!
- If I can run 17.26 km of hills after a night of bad eating (i.e. pub food) and mild celebration (i.e. pub drinks) and without a good night’s rest (i.e. restless sleep because of aforementioned pub food and drinks), imagine what I could do with proper diet and hydration and sleep!
So far, training experimentation has been victorious! What should I try next????