I listen to Mystery Coach, which is why I sometimes don't listen to Mystery Coach. He's mentioned in a few emails that since he isn't standing on the infield while I'm doing a track workout or running alongside me during longer efforts that his coaching paces or distances can be changed depending on the circumstances and how my body is feeling. In other words, I'm supposed to use my head a bit.
For track workouts this is an easy deal, as when I'm able to settle in and run relaxed I don't mind if the splits are a bit off in either direction. I try to listen to the body and make what I hope are appropriate micro-adjustments, which in turn hopefully give me the right stimulus. Where it gets more difficult is during the long runs, as I fear I end up running either faster or longer (or both) for positive mental reinforcement rather than any real physiological gain. I like the feeling of starting to tire half-way through or so, then dealing with that fatigue while speeding up through the end of the run. I'm just talking about a few seconds per mile or so, but it's enough to drill the episode into my head: "I'm getting tired but I'm getting faster, and when I'm done there's still more in me." I imagine this gray area of fatigue in the middle or latter stages as the hang-time between two distant take-off and landing ramps. With enough fitness I can focus on just maintaining my trajectory in the air and be confident that I'll make the landing. Miles 20 to 26 of the marathon in a nutshell.
Am I over-thinking it? Probably. Am I over-doing it? That's a more appropriate question, and one the coach is probably mulling over when he tells me to proceed with caution.
This morning the coach had up to 20 miles in mind, and mentioned that 7 minute pace was plenty fast enough. At 6am it was still only 28 degrees, so I wimped out and pulled out all the stops with my blizzard-wear (hat-gloves-tights-two shirts) and hit the road while it was still dark. I kept the pace relaxed, and things went well on the convoluted loop that took me down to my brother's house for a glass of water at 11 miles before meandering back towards home. At mile 16 I was starting to tire as I climbed up through Gut-Check Alley, then a stiff side-stitch came on to make things worse. When the stitch finally let up at mile 18 I could see the landing ramp as I started feeling better, but then I made the mistake of thinking about the 20 miler last week and what will probably be another 20 miler next weekend (two weeks out from the marathon). Stopping at 20 three weeks in a row just didn't sit right from a confidence standpoint, so I pushed the ramp out another two miles. "There's still more in me", I thought. Here we go again, bear with me coach.
Training: 22 miles, 2h30m, 6:49 pace