Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tempo pace is not race pace

After last weekend's 5k, Sarah and I were talking about training in general.  One of the things that we were discussing was how training and racing are two components, and how tougher training sessions don't always result in bad results.  Moreover, she was telling about some of her teammates (who are on the local racing team) who push too hard in training.  They have killer workouts and push hard in the tempo runs, but then don't necessarily see the results in a race.  As Sarah said, "No one cares if you have an awesome workout if it doesn't show on the road."  A lot of this was to say, don't freak out with training runs - a few tougher ones won't wreck anything.
Legs are weird.  They take a lot of pounding - when we run, when we walk, standing giving lectures, all day, they are put through some sort of turmoil.  Yet, on the big days, they know what to do.
I always look back at races with some sort of shock and admiration for the legs.  There really is something to be said for muscle memory and fast-twitch fibers.  I don't know how legs learn what kind of paces are feasible.  Moreover, most of the time, my legs are able to pull out all of the stops on the days when it really counts.
I had a good workout on Tuesday.  My hamstrings still felt mighty sore, and while it felt like a lot of work, I hit the times I wanted.  2.5 mile warm up, 2000m cutdown (starting at 7:20 pace and getting faster with each lap), 2 lap easy jog, then 4 x 1200 (5:05, 5:04, 4:58, 4:53), 2.5 mile cool down = 10.5 miles  It was hard, and legs felt so heavy, but it was a great run.  It was about 70 out, and the promise of fall weather was approaching.  And, I was pretty pleased for the rest of the day - nothing like a double digit run with some fast laps to encourage me to push hard and get my work (in that case, grading a class set of papers) done.
I had to laugh then on Thursday, when all I had was a 4 mile run.  Legs were tired, tired, tired.  I've had  people say that those 4 miles should be a piece of cake - I could bang 'em out under half an hour.  But nope, legs said otherwise, and 8:35 pace it was.  Why would it really matter if I could get it done 5 minutes faster?
Today's run was a 9 mile run with 4 miles at 6:55 pace.  I haven't had a good tempo run since early August? Late July?  I was hoping that this would be a good return.  Since I moved, the Capital Crescent Trail, where I did a lot of tempo runs last year is a bit far.  Last Sunday on my long run, I discovered the Mount Vernon trail, which runs along the Potomac on the Virginia side.  I decided to try that for the tempo run.  The weather was gorgeous - slightly cold in sleeveless - but felt great.  Mile 1 - 6:56, mile 2 - 7:00 - a little slow, but I hoped I could pick things up on the way back.  Grabbed some gatorade (Pacers - the local running store had a fuel stop there!), and then kicked it up for the second half.  6:55 for mile 3 - back on track!  And the 4th mile, it was easy to convince myself to push, knowing it was going to be over in under 7 minutes.  6:41 - wahoo!
The tempo runs are so interesting when you think about them.  They are faster than an easy run, but they are not race pace.  And that is an important thing to remember.  6:55 pace is slower than 5k and 10k pace, but it is still a fast pace.  And the more I thought about it afterwards, it felt good.  I could take the freak-out option and feel nervous that in 3 weeks, I am running the Army Ten Miler and hoping to run faster than tempo pace for 10 miles, not 4.  Or, I could remember that tempo pace is not race pace.  It would be absolutely ridiculous to run close to race effort in training.  What would you do, try to PR on any given Saturday?  Insanity!  If you tried to run at race effort full-on before the race, you wouldn't be ready on race day.  Before Chris Solinsky ran 26:59 in the 10k, did he do that in practice?  No.  Did Ryan Hall run a sub one hour half marathon at home before the 2007 Houston Half?  No.  So why should I get so caught up in simulating race pace?
I won't.  Lesson learned.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent point about race pace versus workout pace and how fortunate that Pacers had a fluid station set up!