I just came back from my weekly long run and frankly, it felt awful. I started with a less than positive attitude. My mantra was “this is going to hurt” when it would have probably been more beneficial to use “this is going to be a challenge, let’s go after it” instead. But that’s not where my mind was this morning.
Even so, I made sure I was properly hydrated, I ate a peanut butter smeared banana (my usual pre workout / long run / race ‘meal’) and hit the road. About half way, I was hurting. Three quarter of the way, I started having some doubts about my fitness level. And when I got finally through the run, when I looked at my watch and saw my average pace I asked myself, “is something wrong here?”
Slower paces could mean a lot of things. Vitamin or nutritional deficiency. A precursor to illness or injury. Problem in one’s personal life, even. Overtraining. And so on and so forth. My easy run today was a full minute slower per mile than my easy pace just a month ago when I was back home in Austin (I’m currently in Bucharest, Romania visiting family). A minute slower per mile! Yarrrr.
Thankfully, I keep a detailed running log (wink wink) and I looked through my training last summer. Similar plan, mostly easy miles, some strides and pickups to maintain my fast twitch muscle memory, but that’s about it. Nothing fancy, just tofu and potatoes. And lo and behold, apparently last year there was a similar shift around June. My easy pace slowed down significantly, and yet I had a fantastic training cycle once August came around. So how do you explain that?
The short answer is “it’s really, really hot outside.” The slightly longer answer is easy pace is easy, conversational, and should come naturally, rather than being forced. In the summer, that pace will invariably be slower. And frankly, from a getting ready for marathon training in my case, or cross country season in your case, it doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you’re actually running. One of the tenants of distance running is you can’t run too slow on easy days, but you can run too fast, and it should be avoided.
I guess where I’m going with this is, it’s summer, there are no races for many months yet, and pace doesn’t really matter right now. Some runs are going to suck, and what’s most important is that you accept the bad runs for what they are, not worry so much about pace, and enjoy the awesome, fun runs when they happen, because they will happen and they will be glorious.
Summer running is about base building, and getting ready for marathon training in my case, and cross country season in your case. So if you have a slow run today, don’t let it stop you from running tomorrow. It will get cooler (eventually!), you will get faster (just wait til September hits!), and if you missed it, your mind and body just thanked you for taking them out for a run.