Every training cycle is a new experiment. You might be getting faster. You might be getting slower. You might be coming off an injury. You might be attempting a new distance.
Each new cycle is different than the previous one and should be treated as such. However, there are a few key runs that I feel I must nail for the cycle to feel complete.
1) Long run
The long run is often the time-consuming monster that makes preparing for a race different than running for fitness. Depending on distance, speed, and necessary recovery, this can eat up nearly an entire day. But with each long run accomplished, I am that much closer to feeling ready to tackle the distance on race day. There is no cheating the long run.
2) Recovery run
A perfect recovery run should be a little clunky in the beginning and forgettable at the end. Often following a hard speed workout or a long run, the recovery run is a great gauge of fitness. I can often tell if I am pushing my workouts too hard if my recovery run feels tough. On the flipside, I can modify my goals if the recovery feels easy.
3) Easy run
Easy runs should feel, well, easy. They are maintenance runs between hard workouts, but different than recovery runs. Often short in distance and slow in pace, the perfect easy run leaves me feeling refreshed.
4) Speed work
Regardless of skill level, speed work is necessary for runners looking to get faster. Hitting goal speeds in these training sessions is great for the body and mind. I increase my cadence, challenge my form, and build my confidence all in one workout.
5) Bad run
I fully expect at least a few bad runs each training cycle. They have been dubbed “character building runs”. It’s these types of runs that are great for race training. Whether caused by weather, GI distress, sore calves, blistered feet, barking knees, or legs that feel attached to cinder blocks, finishing a bad run makes finishing a bad race possible.
6) Good run
Those runs that you feel strong, fast, and full of energy? It doesn’t seem like there are ever enough of them, but they are fantastic confidence builders during training cycles. They are what keeps us addicts coming back for more, hoping to catch a whiff of those sweet, sweet endorphins.
7) Dress rehearsal
I like to have at least two dress rehearsals before race day. It gives me the opportunity to change my gear if something isn’t working and gives me the opportunity to practice a few (or more) miles at race pace. Because some runs are 5’s and some runs are 6’s, it’s always better to have multiple dress rehearsals.