ATC 295: Split Long Runs – Why and When Are They A Good Idea, Plus: Hamstring Healing, Bailing on Interval Workouts, and More

September 13, 2019


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  • EP is taking runners for a second Ragnar team! Email if you’re interested.
  • Zach Bitter just set the world record for the 100-mile (with an average 6:48 mile pace!)
  • Tawnee gratefully responds to a respectful listener critique of ATC 292 (regarding stereotypes and runner anxiety):
    • Rachel wrote:
      • Dear Tawnee, I’m a big fan of the Endurance Planet podcast and am so happy to have you back on the show! However, I was recently concerned about a couple of comments that you made on the recent episode ATC 292 in your response to Brennan’s question about running together with his partner. First, I was concerned that you immediately assumed her anxiety was about being attacked while running alone, even though the question itself didn’t mention the source of her anxiety, and there are so many possible factors (whether clinical or mundane) that it could be. Regardless of the reason for her anxiety, it seemed particularly unhelpful to then describe in detail all the safety risks for female runners when running alone, since that just has the potential to make her anxiety worse. Finally, and most importantly, I was really disappointed that you assumed homeless people and individuals with mental illness were the perpetrators of attacks along the trails near your parents’ house. Just because someone is unsheltered (likely due to economic and/or residential displacement) does NOT mean that they are unstable, violent, or anti-social — and particularly in light of current economic inequality, the housing affordability crisis (especially here in California), and displacement of low-income communities. Moreover, studies show that individuals with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence and/or crime, not the perpetrators, so describing the attackers on the trail as “loonies” just perpetuates harmful stereotypes. I appreciate you taking the time to read and consider this feedback, and I would love to hear any response you may have. In general, I deeply appreciate your sensitivity to issues of mental health, equity, and personal / spiritual well-being, so I hope this can add just a little bit to that.

Jessi asks:

Split Long runs – pros, cons and the why?

Hello! I was hoping you could speak a little to the theory of breaking up long runs for marathoners and ultrarunners. Here’s some context: I am training for a couple of 50 milers this year and hopefully building toward a 100 miler the year after and have heard a few interviews with Camille Herron and some other ultra runners. In those interviews they talked about breaking up a long run in to morning and afternoon sessions, and how for them, they contribute it to their success and lack of injury in the sport. I am curious about a couple of things:

(1) Is it just as simple as breaking say a 24 mile run into a 16 mile run and an 8 mile run later? Or how is it best to split those and how much time ideally would we want in between sessions? Does 16 + 8 = 24? Or would it be more like 16 + 10 or 12 to get the same benefit from split runs?

(1b) As far as training load goes, does a split run compare to a full long run? Is there any evidence that one is “better” or more efficient than another?

(2) Is there any evidence that this helps to prevent injury? I can see both sides…if you run the long run all at once, you have more time to recover before your next session, but your form may end up suffering more in the later half of the run. If you break apart the run, you will have less overall recovery time before your next session, but theoretically you will have better form in the latter part as you will have rested in between.

I’ve been battling an ongoing hamstring issue the past year (finally doing some PT to help strengthen and learn to fire the glutes more), and was wondering if this approach may help in that process by splitting up stress of a long run on my hamstring in to smaller segments. I would like to perhaps experiment with a split long run here or there, but was curious as to your take on its effectiveness. I have a little bit of an issue convincing my ego that 24 miles is the same as a 16 + 8 mile in terms of what I would get out of it in terms of ultra training, but at the same time I don’t want to reject it completely because I am too “proud” to split up runs (and not see those longer runs appear on my Garmin…psychologically for me its a confidence booster going into an ultra) when in reality it may be more beneficial down the road. Help?

What the Coaches Say:

  • You’re allowing the next session to influence what you’re doing right now. Don’t be so rigid about the workout structure. Do your best today and possibly bump the next session if you’re not feeling recovered.
  • There’s not a ton of research on this approach, just anecdotal evidence. The best thing you can do is try the method and see if it works for you as an n=1.
  • A little ego is ok. You need to build confidence and see if you can do this. Tawnee says the only caveat is when ego causes you to get injured. Exert discipline with your ego.
    • One way to tame ego is to be ok with an “ok” workout.
  • To split a 50-miler, Lucho recommends shooting for 25 miles the first day, but going further if you feel good. Then the next day is just making up the difference. Remember, you’re running within a range, not shooting for an exact mileage each day. Let the mileage come to you.
    • This approach allows you to get the volume in without as much risk of injury.
  • Keep in mind, when you’re going long like this, the difference between 35 and 30 miles is negligible. It’s not worth risking an injury to push those extra miles because you’re “supposed” to.
  • Tawnee thinks split running is a particularly great approach for runners looking to push volume greater than they ever have before.
    • You could even do a “triple run”: with an AM and PM run on the same day then an AM run the following day, equalling three runs in 24-hours. That’s more gentle than just running 20 miles straight, but uses the principle of cumulative fatigue to increase your fitness.
  • It’s important to strengthen the hamstring, but it’s even more important to figure out why you’re having the issue.
    •   Over-striding, perhaps?

Anonymous asks:

Hitting intervals and stiffening during long run

Sending much love out to all that you do. I’ve been listening since the original guy started podcasting this show. I’ve missed very few episodes since then. I appreciate Lucho’s and your thoughtful answering of the variety of questions you receive and also just your conversations with each other. I can’t begin to tell you how much education y’all have provided.

I’ve had a million questions or requests for points of clarification over the years but this is my first time writing in with any of them. Fortunately most of the questions were eventually answered or they were forgotten! Feel free to choose all, some, or none of these to answer!

First my background (only if you need it for the question(s):

Mid-60s male

Triathlon for more than a decade

Done over 10 Ironman races (usually in top 25% of age group but never a Kona qualifier)

Have probably overemphasized zone 2 and MAF training at the expense of high end speed. (Not probably, most certainly!)

The Questions that i have not heard answers for:

There have been previous questions about marathon pace, training pace, etc. How would you determine what your “race pace” and your “training pace” should be when training for something like the run on an Ironman or 70.3? Is there a resource or table or calculator or something to put someone in the ballpark? With training, would you emphasize HR or perceived effort instead of actual pace?

I’ve heard you talk about pulling the plug on a run interval/track workout when you stopped hitting target times. Are there benefits (such as mental toughness) for continuing the workout even when you miss your pace? And how does this apply to a swim workout? Shouldn’t you finish the swim anyway? (Back in my competitive swimming days, if we missed the interval we just stopped getting rest but had to keep going until we finished the set.)

During a longer run my range of motion gradually declines. (God help me if my shoes become untied!) Would it be smart to stretch and/or do dynamic movements? It seems like stretching is not the way to go but maybe something like butt kicks and knee slaps would. Would that improve or revive the run?

What the Coaches Say:

  • If you’ve chosen the correct interval, then yes you should stop when you’re not hitting it. If you’re failing then that means you’re not doing yourself any favors to keep going. Save “mental toughness” training for race-specific workouts (like long bricks).
  • You might be able to change an interval session to a threshold session if you’re not hitting the intervals, but this isn’t for “mental toughness.”
  • Lucho does optional FTP tests, where you start off with a 20’ interval at best effort on the bike. If you’re failing at that then you dial back to mid-zone 4 and do it for 2×20’.
    • He never does that for track workouts though.
  • Swim intervals are different because it’s not as hard on your body. You can probably continue to push through a swim workout, even if you’re not hitting the intervals. Just don’t push through shoulder issues.
  • There’s a downside to mental toughness: if you continue to plow through workouts when you’re tired and not performing then you’ll dig yourself into a hole and not be able to perform at all eventually.
  • For tightening up on the run, an isometric (flexing the muscle) would probably be best. Doing something like a walking lunge into a RDL hold would work well, or just standing up on your toes. Back planks (reverse supermans) will also help. Knee slaps and bounding will be good for knees and calves.
    • Definitely avoid static stretching!
    • Also be wary of tension in your traps/shoulder. Shake arms out during long runs.

One Comment

  • HeWhoRuns says:

    Recently discovered your podcasts thanks to Florian of Extramilest. Glad to have found ya 🙂 With regards to splitting runs, just want to make sure I understand the takeaway: If the one day long run is too much, it's OK and maybe even preferable to spread it out over two days ; If the goal is to increase your overall weekly volume, then two runs per day is a good way to accomplish the weekly increase. Did I get that right? –Chris

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