Saturday, April 2, 2011

Another Tempo Run, Another Shake-Up in the Training Plan.


In Vermont, you have to take advantage of "nice" weather whenever it comes up.  Thursday was sunny and in the 40s.  It was also Tempo Run day. The "plan" put me on doing 6 miles -- 2 easy, 3 at Short-Tempo, 1 easy.  My target Easy pace was around 8:55 per mile and my target Short Tempo pace was around 7:25 per mile.

I ended up cutting the first Easy sector in half and planned out my 5 mile run from the gym.  The only pain about this route is that there are 13 road-crossings (didn't realize there were that many until I counted!).  Not all of them tend to be trouble, but there are two pretty major intersections that tend to either get you coming or going and interrupt the flow of the run.

Most of the time I run solo, but today my coworker & friend (Shannon) who is also training for the Vermont City Marathon was doing her tempo run as well.  We're using completely different plans, have completely different goals, and very different paces.  We joke that my "easy" pace is her "tempo" pace.  We were running the same 5 mile route and our best guess was that I was running about 1:00/mile faster, so the plan for the run was to give her a 4 minute head start, catch up at 4 miles and jog out the last 'easy' mile back to the gym.

I extended my warm-up for the 4 minute delay and set off on my run at what felt like a comfortable, easy pace.  Navigating the first few cross-overs was uneventful.  The first mile went down without issue and I kicked up the pace from comfortable to uncomfortable.  Shannon was wearing drivers-please-hit-me-while-you're-distracted-with-your-smartphone dark colors (I think the color of the Wickify shirt I was wearing was called Sunburst), so I had no idea how far 4 minutes translated to distance on the route.  The sight lines.for about 2 miles of the initial part of the run are pretty lousy, so I just set into my pace.

One thing I'm starting to get out of Tempo runs is pacing for distance.  I try to set a pace that I hope to be able to sustain for the prescribed distance and go.  Once I'm finished with the run, I do some analysis and figure out how close I was to my target pace.  My feeling is that I'm better off training with Tempo and Distance runs as at self-guided pace than trying to obsess during the run about hitting a specific time or pace.  Come race day, I need be able to feel out a suitable pace and, most importantly, know what going too fast feels like!

Back to the run.  I hit the traffic light at the major intersection perfectly and cruise through, almost without slowing my pace.  The sidewalk crosses the road about half a quarter mile down the road and it wasn't until I got to that point that I saw Shannon off in the distance, but not nearly far enough out to make the plan of catching her at mile 4 pan out.  After about another quarter mile, the route turns left and opens up for a bit before getting to a loop that's about 3/4 of a mile.  From that loop, it's a run back along the same route to the gym.  Once I got to that point, I knew I would catch her in the loop.

The loop has the only terrain to speak of of the run.  There's a slight uphill going in to in followed predictably by a slight downhill on the way back.  I'm not sure if she knew before turning on to to the loop how quickly I'd caught up, but she was able to see where I was when she made the turn in to the loop.  I chose to go the other way around the loop.  It was another intersection to cross and I had the light to go.  The uphill portion is a bit steeper this way and comes a bit sooner than going the other way around and I prefer running the gradual down-hill I get by going this way.  By reversing the loop we crossed paths at almost exactly the halfway point (2.5 miles) of the run.

The remainder of the Tempo portion of the run was relatively uneventful.  Nothing felt great, but nothing truly hurt either.  I got held up at the major intersection before I got a break in the traffic to cross and finish out the last few hundred yards of the tempo run.  At the end, I went up to pretty close to a dead sprint (for me) for about 100 yards before slowing down to a brisk walking pace.  I had built up enough of a gap that, once my heart rate had dropped down to my recovery zone, I turn around and jogged back to pick up Shannon at around the expected catch-up place.  

Surprisingly, the slower pace for the last mile was the hardest part of the whole run.  My shins got sore and I'm going to be REALLY disappointed if my Saucony's are crapping out already.  I'm going to hit the shoe store on Saturday and get re-evaluated for some shoes with a little more cushion for my long runs.

The end result for the run (graph below) was that I went out quite a bit "hotter" than I expected and ran my easy pace about 45 seconds too fast at an 8:07 pace.  At an average pace of about 7:07 per mile, my Tempo pace was also a bit quicker than my target.  The tempo portion of the run felt good, challenging, and sustainable.  I've been on my revised plan for a few weeks now and I'm going to take a look at my training log and adjust my pacing schedule back up a bit.  The goal of the FIRST plan is *not* to have easy workouts and, with this dialed-back pacing, I've had no problem hitting the paces. That says that I'm still not in the right place for a good, quality training plan.

8 weeks until the race.
8 weeks to get it right.
8 short weeks.

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