Monday, May 18, 2009

Q&A: The Third Question – LSD Pacing
The Benefit of Training Slow(er)

Thanks all for your congrats and supportive comments on my 10K PR race report. For your sake I’m going to stop questioning why I run these short races as I inexplicably do well even when I don’t specifically train for them. What I am going to do instead is answer more reader questions…

Over the weekend, I received a question from a reader on marathon training that intrigued me a bit because it addresses something I feel I need to work on in my next training cycle. She asks…So what’s your take on the whole idea behind the long slow distance (LSD) runs. Using all the calculators, etc, they always say to do long runs pretty slow, much slower than I do them. How do you approach your long runs? Do you run them at the prescribed slow pace (30-45+ sec slower than marathon pace) or do you just run by feel and effort? I am never sore after my long runs, and don't quite get down to marathon pace until the end of them, but am I losing the whole idea behind them since I am not getting as much time on my feet?

Well, I did a bit of research on this one because I KNOW I have made similar mistakes in the past. Unless I’m running with a friend who’s slower than me, I always find myself running a lot faster than the recommended pace when I’m out for a long run. Sometimes it’s because it just feels easier to run faster. Other times it’s because I just want to get the torture test over with as quickly as possible. Most of the time though, I have to admit, it’s simply due to laziness and lack of focus on keeping a relaxed pace. Again, I have this addiction to speed sometimes that’s ready hard to get a hold of!

So why is this bad? Why is it not good to do your 20 mile runs at 7:10 pace if your goal pace is 6:52 and your recommended LSD pace is between 7:22 and 8:00 miles? Well, first you have to understand the intended benefits of an LSD, which Pfitzinger outlines here. If I were to incorporate all of these objective into a single theme, it’d be to increase the body’s ability to sustain peak performance for an extended period of time. The key thing to realize is that the LSD is meant to be a constructive, rather than a destructive mechanism of training. What this means is that in the theoretical sense, you are supposed to have more muscle mass at the end of your LSD than at the beginning, which in essence means your body should be actively recovering while you’re running! So if you’re running your long runs at a pace that is faster than your muscle recovery pace, you’re engaging your aerobic system to bring down glycogen and destroying muscle fibers which essentially defeats the purpose of an LSD. Does this make sense? (This is not to be confused with marathon-pace training which is meant to be a hard race simulation type of workout that should be part of the race preparation phase of training and not the endurance building phase which an LSD is meant to be a part of.)

A second reason to keep the effort slow on your LSD is to decrease the necessary recovery time from this workout to the next. What is the point of running an LSD run hard (an oxymoron of sorts?) if it will take you a couple of days to recover and create a hiccup in your marathon training? Again, it goes back to the idea of keeping LSD as a constructive run rather than a destructive one (like intervals and tempo runs)

A third reason why it’s helpful to hold back your pace on LSDs, or so I’ve learned, is to simulate the situation on race day when you must similarly restrain your effort during the early miles even though you’re feeling so great and strong right after the long taper. It’s an opportunity to learn discipline and focus, which as I’ve come to learn, is so very important for success in a long distance race, such as a marathon. Finally, as the mileage increases, from 16 to 18 to 20 to 22 and perhaps 24 miles, the long run pace should feel appropriately hard by the end. If it isn’t, and you find yourself having to fight through the slow pace even after the 20 and 22 miles, your marathon race pace may need some adjusting.

Going forward, my recommendation and my plan for surviving the LSD, is to follow instructions and hold back the pace for the first half before gradually speeding up to about MP +10-20 seconds/mile in the second half. I will probably resort to running with others for the first half in order to keep my heart rate at a conversational pace and running the rest on my own if I want to finish somewhat faster. I can’t and I shouldn’t trust myself to run by effort and feel anymore for these LSD runs.

Thanks to the reader for her question. I hope this was somewhat informative. (For those who would like to know what their appropriate long run pace should be based on your marathon goal and/or a recent race performance, you can plug your numbers in the McMillan Calculator or the Training Calculator at Runners’ World.)

21 comments:

D10 said...

Great post Lam. I have wondered about this and for reasons like your own, I have failed to really run a LSD.

And, congrats on a great PR.

Running and living said...

Great post, Lam! I have read of one other reason. Slow running trains your slow twich muscles, while fast running trains your fast twich muscles. The fast twich muscles use "sugar" while the low twich use "fat". By going slow, you train your body to use fat and conserve the glycogen for later use. Nonetheless, I have never been able to go as slow as my training plan wants me to go during the first few long runs. I also believe that running a 20 miler at MP has helped me have a good marathon experience. I think it is OK to experiment a bit as long as you are listening to your body and certainly not going all out (like I used to do bc of my speed addiction). Ana-Maria

Spike said...

Regarding discipline and focus at the start of a race. For me, it’s like the gun goes off and obliterates my discipline and causes my focus to shift to “you’re faster than that person, why are they in front of you? Who cares if they will fade at mile two, you should overexert yourself and pass them right now!!!” Sometimes it gets ugly. That is why I’m going to begin lobbying to discontinue the use of cap guns to start races—that should solve the problem.

Cowboy Hazel said...

Another take on this (which I plan to use in my next round of marathon training) is to do almost all the training run at the normal slow pace, but then to speed up to a little faster than marathon pace for the last 3 miles. This supposedly teaches you to be able to push hard at the end and also to run at your marathon pace after being fatigued.

Cheetah Girl said...

Thanks for the great info.. It seems kind of obvious in hindsight because it def. makes since! Wish I would have read this yesterday.. I ran a 9.5 miler and exerted myself to go fast pretty much the whole time...whoops.

M2Marathon said...

Lam this is a great post and simply answers some of the questions I had about the pacing suggested on the training calculator I did. THANKS!!!

Jamie said...

Thanks for this Lam! I have often wondered how much it hurt me (if at all) to just run on how I feel during the long run instead of the suggested pace. I have very rarely been able to maintain the LSD. I try to hold back the first half and pick it up, maybe a little too much and too soon, the 2nd half of training runs.

lindsay said...

great explanation of lsd's and the importance of doing them right. it's hard to not get caught up in your pace and wanting to aim for goal pace all the time. i need to reiterate some of these points with myself as i focus on each day's run instead of just looking ahead to race day.

Chic Runner said...

Lam, gave you a shoutout today because I feel like so many people can learn from you! Thanks for so many great posts and being so inspiring! :)

Katie said...

Great post! I've done the research for LSD runs and know how important they are. I do, however, have trouble following through. This time around I'll be training with a partner that's a little slower than me so I'll be forced to run slower.

Ms. V. said...

Have you thought of coaching as your side job? You're amazing. I've been reading but not commenting lately. Thnx for the kind words.

aron said...

your reader has the best questions :) thank you so much for another great post!

i am in the same boat with most that i don't think i do them slow enough. i have just been re-reading that portion of my pfitz book too on long runs, so i am going to check out your link as well. it's nice to see on paper WHY running them slower is so important.

seems like the progression run i usually do is ok, just needs to be a slower progression and start off and end up at a slower speed.

J said...

Hey Lam, thanks for the advice and it is always welcome! Ok so for tempo runs I am supposed to pick a tempo and run at that pace for the designated time. that pace that I choose should not be my 15k or half marathon pace (both are the same for me cause I want to run about an 8 minute/mile pace for each). my warm up and cool down were about a 8:31-9 min/mile pace today and then the tempo run was prolly at a pace just under 8 minutes. I wasn't going all out but just pushing it a little. I do feel that I often train too fast (a side affect of being a sprinter I guess) but I just want to be prepared...This is a hard transition to distance runner from 800m runner : (

Run For Life said...

I always thought LSD was a way to torture us runners with the mental games that come along with it. (jk!) Thanks for your input!

Susan said...

I'm another one of those runners who knows that they should run slower during long runs, but I don't! I'm not sure I'm over the idea that I'll be able to run a marathon at X:XX pace if I run X:XX + 30-90 seconds. Hard to wrap my mind around, but definitely something I need to work on for my next marathon.

X-Country2 said...

Another great post! These Q&As have been so informative.

Marlene said...

I found this post to be really helpful... it's something I often wonder about because I always find that my prescribed long run paces are too slow. Thanks for a well-rounded answer.

Also, big congrats on your recent 10K PR! Smokin' fast!

Heather said...

I agree with everything in your post. I just have such a hard time following it!
In the next couple of months I will be focusing on LSD runs in preparation for several 50k races I'll be doing this summer. It isn't easy to run slow!!

RoadBunner said...

Awesome post! Thanks so much! In the past I usually run my long runs faster than the marathon pace I pulled off during a race. This obviously means something is wrong. I am following a plan now that is forcing me to be a little more conscious of my pacing.

joyRuN said...

Excellent information! I don't think you can really simulate the long period of time your legs take a pounding during a marathon as during the LSD.

Tara said...

great post! I have never run any of my long runs at the pace recommended..really gives me insight on to why this is important!

 
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