I seem to ask myself this fairly regularly as I progress through a training block. Is my training working? And my yardstick for measuring this 99 times out of a 100 is my pace. Unfortunately, my paces vary so much from day to day that it’s almost impossible for me to tell if I’m getting better. They say you should trust the process, but that can be a more than a little difficult at times. And really I’m more of a trust, but verify type person at the end of the day.

So verifying where I am, here are my paces from all my 20 mile training runs over the past couple months.

These paces are on the same 20 mile road course I used throughout this training cycle, which had about 1700 feet of elevation gain/loss per mile.

The chart above clearly shows a favorable trend, which is good (yay). But it’s not like I’ve gotten orders of magnitude better over the last 3 months at running 20 milers. I thought I was completely dialed in on February 13th only to follow it up with my slowest run by far the following week. Then a couple more at a 9:20 pace plus or minus. Comparing this to where I started though and I’m still probably within a normal standard deviation.

Average pace is a good way to approximate improvement, but it’s not the only way. It’s not shown on here, but I knocked out a 40 mile run on March 6th. It was mostly roads and I didn’t race it, but I only took 2 days off before moving right back into my normal training volumes. And my 20 miler the following weekend was right in line with where I had been. This was my “a-ha moment” that let me know that, yes, my training was really working. I can’t think of any time in my past where I could casually run 40 miles without being completely thrashed for a week or more afterwards.

So it’s working, but I also ask myself if its worth the effort. Now I run a lot, but 3 hours and a bit every Saturday morning is a lot of time to commit to improving my craft. And if these runs were all a complete grind that took me a couple days to recover from, then the answer would probably be nope. Not worth it. Looking back at these runs though, there have probably been only two or three that were a struggle from start to finish. Some were a struggle to start, but got rolling pretty good after 4 or 5 miles. Most of the runs were a lot like this weekend’s where I hit a groove early on and just cruised along until I got back home.

There are many things I could be doing with my time, but not many of them give me the sense of accomplishment I feel from knocking out an even split 20 miler. And none of them can better prepare me to run 100 miles. Three weeks from now I’ll know if all of this really worked or not.

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