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Techniques to try as marathon season approaches

Brom Hoban, Central Texas Running

Staff Writer
Austin 360

As marathon season approaches - Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio is eight weeks away - increasing numbers of Austin runners are gradually adding miles to their weekend workouts.

This is a strategy that yields numerous rewards.

Runs of two hours or more increase the capillary beds in calf muscles, which brings more oxygen to the muscles so you can run further with less effort.

Long runs increase the number of energy-producing mitochondria in working muscle cells. This helps build endurance. Another benefit from long runs is that the body adapts to burning fatty acids in addition to glycogen (carbohydrates) as an energy fuel.

This is important for marathoners, because the body stores about 2,000 calories of glycogen in your muscles, and running takes about 100 calories per mile. Runners who do not burn fat along with glycogen hit the figurative wall at 20 miles. In addition to adding distance, there are other techniques that can be used. Let's look at three: progression, degree of difficulty and total distance.

"If you've got a marathon under your belt and are now shooting for a time goal in your next marathon, you might try what I call `progression runs,' " says Rolando Roman, a 2:40 marathoner and local coach. "Start your long run slowly, and finish faster.

"A big mistake is to push hard early, and then slow down, because you may end up training yourself to finish slowly in the race."

Roman says for a long run of say, 22 miles, start 90 seconds per mile slower than your target marathon pace for the first six to seven miles.

Then begin dropping 15 to 20 seconds per mile every two to three miles for the remainder of the long run, working down to your marathon goal pace. Someone hoping to run 7 minutes per mile in the marathon would start off at around 8:30, and work down from there.

Another technique deals with the difficulty of the practice course.

"I like to find a very challenging course," says Michael Madison, a coach for Gilbert's Gazelles, a local training group. "One benefit of choosing a hilly course is that it makes it harder to find a rhythm, so it's a good mental workout. It forces you to focus on your pace," says Madison, who has run a 2:52 marathon.

A third technique focuses on the total distance of long training runs. Many experienced runners like to train at distances that exceed 20 miles.

"I usually do anywhere from 22-25 miles as my longest run before a marathon," says three-time Cowtown Marathon (2007-2009) and 2010 Austin Marathon champ Keith Pierce. "I think it is important to get used to the `time spent on your feet.' In other words, if I am hoping to run a marathon in 2:20, I think it is good to do at least one if not two runs of two hours and 20 minutes.

"A good confidence booster for me is to do a long run on a point-to-point course and finish with the last four to five miles at race pace. My favorite route is from my house in Cedar Park to the state Capitol building (about 25 miles)," Pierce says. "My wife, Stephanie, will pick me up and drive me back to the house. It is awesome to realize in the car how far I just ran," adds Pierce.

Notes: Dan Jess won the Gruene 10K Saturday in 34:49. Colton Connelly was second in 38:36. Elizabeth Post ran 42:42 for the women's win. Bridget Delarosa-Lopez was second in 43 minutes.

At Sunday's Run With The Heroes at Southpark Meadows, Rob Wetzel outkicked Lorin Wilson 15:27 to 15:37. Andrea Fisher ran 19:15 for the women's victory and Whitney Langston posted 21:53 for second.

Upcoming events

Saturday

• Wounded Warriors Run/Relay & 5K, 8 a.m. at Canyon Lake. See www.vfwpost8573.com .

• Country Roads 10K, 8 a.m. at Country Estates in San Marcos. See www.sanmarcosrunners.org/cr10k/ .

• Dilloman Triathlon, 8 a.m. at Pace Bend Park in Spicewood. See www.rbsportsllc.com .

• Water 2 Thrive 5K, 8:30 a.m. at the Hill Country Galleria. See www.austinrunners.org .

Sunday

• CASA Superhero Run, 8 a.m. at the Domain. See www.casatravis.org/CASA5K.aspx .