The Perfect Long
What is your long workout? If you are training for a marathon do you need to build up to an 18, 20, 24, or do a full marathon leading into race day? How about if you are training to ride a century? Do you need to do a 3, 4, 5, or 6 hour training ride to get through the big day?
All these questions and for each person the case is different. Whenever somebody approaches me with these questions the first thing I ask is what are their goals. The training requirements are very different based on your training past and your goal for race day. Here are a few examples of my thought process.
Example 1) Active lifestyle and doing their first half with no time goal. This persons #1 goal is to build endurance and train the body to take the load of a “long” day race day. Talking to this person I would encourage them to build up to 50 miles over the course of the 12 weeks leading into the race building by 10% each week. On the run side I would make sure that the athlete is capable of doing a 10 mile walk.
Example 2) Swimmer growing up, done some Olympics, doing their 1st half, and wants to run the entire run. This is a challenge this one. The reason is they know how to go hard but pacing themselves is not their forte. I would make sure any former high school or collegiate swimmer or runner uses a heart rate monitor because they have no clue how to pace themselves…I know from personal experience. I would have the person build up to 60 miles and a half marathon in training but make sure they are on separate days. The number one priority on race day is to keep to the plan until the final 10k or 5k of the run.
Example 3) Strong Ironman performances the last two years, taking a “break” and racing the half distance. This person is my favorite person. I would have them start out early in the season with long rides of 60-75 miles and runs of 10-15 miles holding a great base, but once we get within 3 months of the race I would a long ride and run each a month and the rest work on tempo and speed. An athlete does not lose 2 years of endurance work in 6 months or a year, so ride the wave get some speed!
So what distance is the perfect long ride? For me 120 miles for an Ironman bike, 20 miles for a marathon. For the half I like 75 miles and 14 miles. For the Olympic distance I like 50 miles and 12 miles. For the sprint distance…I just like to have fun seeing if I can make it to the finish line without my eyes completely popping out of my head. Yet these distances are what I have become comfortable and successful with and it is not what I am doing every week. They are what I build up to and do occasionally once I start incorporating speed & tempo into my diet.