Saturday, August 20, 2005

Training to get Over "The Wall"

I guess anyone who has hung around long distance runners long enough has heard about hitting “the wall”, particularly during a marathon. There are numerous theories on this, most associate running low on glycogen somewhere between 1½ hours of running and the finish line. For others it is reaching a point where you feel like you just can’t take another step.

In any case I have been thinking lately how I might simulate these conditions in training (without negative effects). I thought about my first long runs at the beginning of the year, where I kept going out too fast – that’s it!

So with this in mind I headed out the door this morning at 6:30 a.m., shortly after a rain, already 19C/66F, and almost 100% humid. I picked up the pace almost immediately, I wanted to finish the first 11K/9M at least at half-marathon pace (5:30/K, 8:50/M), which is 30-40 seconds faster per kilometer than my normal long run pace. Considering the humidity I figured this would wear me out significantly to where I could simulate “wall” conditions.

I reached the 11K/9M point in 59:30, a pace of 5:25/K (8:42/M). I was totally drenched in sweat from the high humidity and rapidly rising temperatures. By the 15K/9.3M point I was already getting tired, no energy left. I reached the 21K point with a time of 1:55:45, an average pace of 5:31/K (8:52/M), almost as fast as my best half-marathon.

By this time I was wiped out, my legs hurt from the asphalt, I had already finished the liter of sport drink that I had with me. My energy was totally spent, I seriously considered taking a walk break. Mission accomplished!

The last 3K/2M were incredibly hard. I was utterly amazed at my lack of energy - my goodness I had just run 36K/22M the weekend before (okay at a slower pace)! I kept up the pace the best I could, my legs ached, my mind started playing games with me, telling me to slow down, take a break, stop. I can’t say that I necessarily hit the wall, but I did reach a point where my body started balking at the idea of continuing to run!

In any case I finally made it home, total time for the 24K/15M - 2:13:35. Average pace for the distance 5:34/K (8.57/M). Despite drinking a liter of sport drink on the run I still sweated off 2kg (4.4lbs) during the run. After getting some fluids and food I felt fine again. Legs are a little sore, but I should be good to go by tomorrow.

So what did I achieve? Well for at least the last 15-20 minutes of the run I reached a point where my condition was fairly close to the last 10K of my first marathon. I think this was important preparation for my upcoming marathon. It definetely reminded me of the importance to stay at my planned pace (6:00/K, 9:39/M).

Next weekend my last long run (at planned marathon pace), at least 36K/22M, can’t wait!!

Way to dig in and push it Jack. The wall sucks, I hit it big time on my first and hopefully doing my second next year it will be a smaller wall.

Have a great weekend!
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