Long Singles

Nope, not baseball. I know it started last week but I gave up on baseball a long time ago. We're talking running. First, a recap of the week.

I ran six times last week, which will probably surprise my running coach since two of the days were supposed to be cross-training days. Yesterday, I finished with an 8.3 mile run around Troy, Idaho. The route I did I call the Orchard Loop. It's one of my favorite runs, one that I did first a dozen years ago when I moved up from SoCal. The GPS called it "Hilly Medium Long." That's about right as there's not a flat stretch on the whole run. It is a remarkably pretty run, with views of Moscow Mountain, the greening wheat fields, and open road.

Back when I live in Troy, I ran a minimum of six days a week and averaged upwards of 300 miles per month. Needless to say, I went through a lot of shoes. I was also as fast as I had ever been. I only did one run a day with speed work on Tuesdays and a long run on Sunday. Most of the advice seems to suggest that once you cross the fifty mile a week barrier, you should consider switching to two-a-day runs. The thought has been that fitness is driven by the frequency of exercise bouts so a runner completing two workouts a day will develop more fitness than one doing the same mileage in a single bout.

I never switched. I hate morning runs and thought my regimen was working quite well. Now comes an article from RunnersWorld about Yuki Kawauchi, the Japanese runner who shocked the world in 2011, about his training philosophy. One run a day, one speed session, one long run, one trail run. The other three were longer runs between 70 and 100 minutes.

Sounds awfully familiar.

There are considerable advantages for the long distance runner to the single workout schedule at the physiological level. From the article, Hudson notes that studies have shown that the differences of enzymatic production from 60 to 80 minutes are enormous. The muscles and connective tissues also adapt, getting stronger to handle the increased load. On a personal note, when I was running like this, my legs and feet felt indestructible. (Question - do you consider your feet when training? Would love to hear comments.)

An important consideration is the pace of that single run. Most people are going to run them too fast, especially if they're used to doing doubles. The inclination is to run at the high end of the aerobic range, burning more glycogen than fat. The long singles are fat-burners for people looking to cover ground, a lot of it. Trying to tackle a 10-miler in the same way that you would try to handle a 10K is going to leave your fuel tank empty and increase the risk of injury. Psychologically, it can be hard to watch everyone fly past you as you grind out miles. The trick is to stay focused on what you plan to accomplish on the run.

Since I brought up fueling, if you decide that long singles are your ticket to the start line of a marathon or ultra, don't forget to refuel after every run. Your body will need it. The runs will deplete you and if you screw up the refueling it will bite you the next day.  

Hopefully I'll see you out there.

Run gently, friends.