My training program (PDF) is built upon scientific research and is designed to be followed to a T. But just the other day I read an interesting article in either Runner's World or Running Times magazine about how Kara Goucher**, arguably the best female American distance runner in the country today, has stopped following science so closely when it comes to running and has started to mimic how champion African runners train. That is, to run as hard and fast as is comfortable for the distance and not worry about paces and split times and data so much (I can't find the article online after a cursory search... sometimes it takes a while for print articles to make it online... although it might help to remember where exactly I saw it).
As I was running this morning I was having a really hard time keeping my pace slow. Especially when some college-aged girl zipped past me. She wasn't wearing a hydration belt so I figured she wasn't going as far as I was, but there was no way I wanted her to be faster than me. So I started to speed up. But then I thought about what I was doing and slowed down. But then I thought hey, I feel good and sped up. And then I looked at my Garmin and saw I was still about 3 miles just from my turnaround point and slowed down. As for the girl, I gave up and she went on without me, but judging from where she passed me going the other way on her way back there's no way she was in it for more than 5-6 miles. It's a good thing I didn't make it a point to show her the what for because I might have had to crawl the last three miles of my run.
But the issue of whether to run to a set, prescribed pace or to run at a pace that felt good stuck with me the entire run. With about 4 miles to go I got tired of going through the pros and cons of each in my head and just ran a pace that felt good and comfortable, without really trying to kill myself (Kara may be trying to compete with African champion runners but I'm sure not).
I don't know how it's going to work for me down the line or what's going to happen on race day, but when you run 11 miles with your first half split (5.5 miles) at 51:34 (9:23 pace) and your second half split at 49:45 (9:03 pace), how can you not consider that a successful training run? But according to my program today's run was an utter failure because I didn't maintain a consistent 9:45 pace.
Instead of trying to over think it all what I believe I'm going to do is follow the script for my speed and tempo runs during the week and just run what feels right on my long runs. It might the exactly wrong thing to do, but hey, it's just for fun.
By the way, this morning's weather and trail conditions were virtually identical to last weeks when I soldiered through a 10 miler that was just ok. Maybe I'm getting acclimated to steamy warm runs just in time for the weather to start cooling off. Figures.
**I know Kara Goucher is an undeniably great runner, and she seems like a nice person and all from the glowing profiles I've read about her, and I don't want her husband to come looking to kick my ass, but she really reminds me of that girlfriend of Jerry's in Seinfeld that one time who was two-faced: