I headed out for a last long run this afternoon before the 10K race next weekend. I decided to try running at a "conversational" pace, which is what everyone seems to recommend for long runs, but I've almost always opted to run faster than that. I tried to keep my heart rate in the 150–160 range and not worry too much about the pace. The good thing about this pace is that it's really easy to maintain for long distances and still have energy reserves to tap into if needed. The bad thing is that it's a little boring; I didn't get much of a runner's high at all until around the 5-mile mark and I finally decided to kick things up a notch for the last 3/4 mile just to keep things a bit more interesting. I guess a conversational pace is probably more pleasant when there's someone to have a conversation with.
It's weird comparing this run to one from two weeks ago. The distance was the same, and my average pace was close (11:19 vs. 11:21), but my average heart rate was a full 10 bpm higher two weeks ago, and back then, I was really huffing and puffing towards the end, where today I felt like I could have easily kept going. In fact, I was barely breaking a sweat. Granted, I think I wasn't as well rested then, and was battling a headwind for longer, but it's hard not to think that at least some of the improvement is due to the training program working.
I didn't run far enough to see the cows today, but I did see some newly planted corn.