Athlete Journal: Andrew Read, Entry 36 – My Longest Training Run

This week I ran the longest run that I will do before the Ironman. It went really well, but I’m still wondering how I’m going to manage 42km in just five short weeks.

Click here to read other journal entries and articles by Andrew Read, and look for his new journal every Monday as he trains for Ironman Melbourne.

Athlete Journal Entry 36: My Longest Training Run

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I have never done anything that has the same degree of emotional peaks and troughs as getting ready for Ironman.

Last week I wrote about how I was crushed with fatigue and there were days when I was struggling to go train. That in itself is a sign of how incredibly drained I was, as under normal circumstances I look for any chance to get in some exercise. But the last two weeks all I’ve wanted to do is the bare minimum of what my plan says and sleep as much as I can.

Over the last week things have changed a little. While I’ve still been tired I haven’t had that absolute depth of tiredness that I had the week before. What that says to me is quite simple – my body, having been pushed, has reached a new level where the workload is acceptable. Fantastic – that is the whole point of training.

But I’m not fully adapted yet. For instance, Saturday morning I had to run two and a half hours. This was a big thing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, that was the furthest I had ever run in one effort. Secondly, that’s actually going to be my longest continual run before Ironman.

So I’m pretty happy that I was able to run that long with no problems. That particular run is made more challenging by the fact that it is not a steady state run but rather gets harder and harder as time goes on. This replicates the feeling of having to push hard late in the race to maintain pace as well as becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you’ve never tried to move great distances quickly you won’t understand this, but it largely is a lesson in pain tolerance. Running fast just hurts and the better you are at accepting it the longer you’ll be able to go at high speed.

The second part is not so clear-cut. I’m ecstatic that my longest run is now done and I got through without hurting myself. However, with what feels like such limited running build up I am concerned that my legs just don’t have enough running in them for whatever will arrive at the 30km mark of the marathon.

They say in Ironman that the race doesn’t start until the run. But in marathon running they say that the race doesn’t start until the 30km (20mi) mark. What this says to me is that the final 10km of the marathon is going to be really painful. Getting to that point relatively easily seems to be the most important thing.

One thing I have learned, that is somewhat painful to admit, is that I run the same speed whether I ride first or not. My weekend long runs are nearly at the exact same pace as the 21km I had to run after a 90km ride and 1.9km swim at my Half Ironman. In a way that is a good thing, as I know that riding isn’t ruining my running overly. On the other hand it just goes to show what an awful runner I am because even fresh I’m not fast.

Looking back I would have to say that the biggest issue, by far, that I have faced in this journey has been lack of adequate running base. It would have been far smarter to have spent these last twelve months running far less – maybe 30-45 minutes during the week with 60-90 minutes as a long run. Instead I’ve been forced to push the pace and work quickly up to two-hour runs and have hard runs over an hour during the week. That has led to injuries and other problems that would have been avoided if I’d had a two-year plan instead of a twelve-month plan.

This coming week is an interrupted one that sees me hosting an FMS workshop at Read Performance Training. That means three full days off training, as the days are long and hectic. I’m using this as a recovery week and will train fully up to Thursday morning then have the next three days off before repeating the entire week the following week. From there it’s just four short weeks until the Ironman starts and I find out how much fitness and speed I’ve stored in this old carcass of mine.