Friday, June 19, 2009

Was it a tempo run or a pace run?

This morning on my training schedule: 8 mile tempo or pace run. Which one did I do? Well, I'm not quite sure. Here's Hal Higdon's definitions of the two types of runs.

Tempo Runs: This is a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near 10-K race pace. A Tempo Run of 40 to 60 minutes would begin with 10-20 minutes easy running, build to 20-30 minutes near the middle, then 5-10 minutes easy toward the end. The pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about two-thirds into the workout. Hold that peak only for a minute or two. I consider Tempo Runs to be the "Thinking Runner's Workout." A Tempo Run can be as hard or easy as you want to make it, and it has nothing to do with how long (in time) you run or how far. In fact, the times prescribed for Tempo Runs serve mainly as rough guidelines. Feel free to improvise. Improvisation is the heart of doing a Tempo Run correctly.

Pace: A lot of runners look at my training schedules and ask, "What do you mean by 'pace?'" I mean "race pace," the pace at which you expect to run the half marathon. Some workouts are designed as pace runs to get you used to running the pace you will run in the race. In Week 10, for example, I ask you to do "5 m race pace." Hopefully that is self-explanatory. You might want to do a short warm-up before starting each of these pace runs.

What I planned to do, and pretty much achieved, is run the eight miles at the following gradually increasing paces (per mile): 10:00, 9:45, 9:30, 9:15, 9:00 for three miles, then the final mile at recovery pace, whatever that might turn out to be.

My actual results (for a total of 8.4 miles) were: 10:15, 9:41, 9:21, 9:10, 8:47, 8:49, 8:43, 9:15, 9:31 (for .4 miles). The last two numbers are the recovery miles.

Oddly enough, the hardest mile for me to keep close to goal pace was actually the first one. In the beginning I found myself either running significantly faster than 10-minute pace, or, when I slowed myself down, significantly slower! I think I actually manage to hover in the 10-minute range quite a bit, but when you average in my messy beginning, it came out to 10:15. I probably would have had to finish at a faster pace to get my 10-minute average, but that would have interfered with my progression to the 9:45 pace. So I'm okay with 10:15. In this situation, slower is better.

My second mile pace was much easier to accomplish. Partly I think this was due to a long hill in the middle, which kept me from going too much faster than the 9:45 pace. By the top I had dropped to a 10-minute pace, but then I started down the other side, so that evened things out to the final 9:41.

Miles three and four were, again, not too hard to pace. Both were slightly faster than I intended—9:21 and 9:10 instead of 9:30 and 9:15—but they were definitely in the ballpark, and at this point, a little faster was fine. I was still accomplishing the gradual pace build-up that I was seeking, with plenty of juice in the tank for the miles to come.

In mile four I was nearing the end of the first "loop" of my run. My route today was twice around the Jennings Park loop in Marysville, which is just slightly less than four miles around, but easy to tweak to make a full four miles. I was very close to four miles when I got to the main entrance to Jennings Park, and I decided to take this opportunity to make a bathroom stop at the park. When I ran into the parking lot I was so close to the four miles I decided to run back and forth through the parking area until I officially finished mile four, before I stopped the watch for the bathroom.

And by the time I did stop the watch I was quite sure I wanted to use the bathroom. So imagine my dismay when I found the park bathrooms still locked! (At least the ones on this side of the park.) I guess they don't open them up at 6:30 in the morning. Which makes sense for purposes of avoiding vandalisms, vagrants and whatnot, but is a bad deal for early morning runners!

I deliberated my options. The next two publicly accessible restrooms that I could think of were at Thriftway and the YMCA, both of which were two or more miles away from me. That might not work well for me, under the circumstances. The best plan, I decided, was to go back to Rod's house (only a few blocks off my route anyway) and use the bathroom there.

Which I did (a very wise decision) and then continued on my way. I was now in the 9-minute mile segment of my run. I was slightly worried about getting back up to speed after my stop (although I don't know why I would be, I stop for bathrooms frequently, it's part of my running routine), but actually it wasn't difficult at all. Once I've warmed up with a few miles it's almost easier to push myself to run a little bit fast than it is to hold myself back to a slower pace.

My times for the three "9-minute" miles were a very acceptable 8:47, 8:49, and 8:43. Unlike the miles where I was trying to maintain a slower pace, I did not attempt to restrain myself from faster speeds when they happened—I saw some sub-8 and mid-8 paces on my Garmin several times. That helped with averaging on the slower uphill sections (on the long hill, I dipped to a 10-minute pace at the very top, but managed to stay close to 9-minute pace for most of it, I think).

After I finished mile seven I was official into recovery mode, but I still had some downhill left on my route so I stayed pretty speedy for a while. That's probably why my average pace for that mile was still up at 9:15. Then, thanks to my little "detours" around mile four, I still had 4/10 of a mile before I was done, and that was at 9:31 pace, a pretty typical easy pace for me.

So, would that be considered a tempo or a pace run? I think I'm voting for tempo, thanks to the gradual buildup to a sustained faster pace (although this would be more of an ideal half marathon pace than 10K pace). It is also not inconsistent with the definition of tempo run in this Runner's World article, which is "a slow 15-minute warmup, followed by at least 20 minutes at a challenging but manageable pace, then a 15-minute cooldown" (obviously referring to a short tempo run). I think that a sub-9 minute pace is a "challenging but manageable pace" for me, or "comfortably hard" (another phrase from the article). I might try for an 8:30 pace (which is my desired 10K pace) the next time I do a "comfortably hard" tempo run, though. At times during this run I was easily doing 8:15, but sustaining that pace would definitely be "challenging"!

So, for a future tempo run I need to pick up the fast pace a little more (and possibly throw in a mile at 5K pace, just for fun, before I go into cool-down), and to do a pace run I should stick to a shorter warm-up (1.5 to 2 miles, I would think works for me, it takes that long before I can reliably run at any kind of accelerated pace), and then go about five miles* at a 9-minute pace (and then a recovery mile or two).

If it's not apparent here, my goal pace for the half marathon is a 9-minute pace or slightly faster. (I would love to be even faster than that, of course, but I am still operating in the real world.) If I can stay in that neighborhood I could get under two hours, even if I was a little slower than planned (as we all know, the pace for a two-hour half is 9:09).

I was quite proud of myself this morning for reasons unrelated to my running speed. I had to get to work before 9:00 (which is not typical on a Friday), yet I managed to get up early enough to spend an hour and a half running, get ready for work (including some good work on my hair), fix an English muffin with almond butter and sliced banana (which, granted, I ate in the car), and still get to work ten minutes earlier than I usually do!

Today our 30-day dry streak ended, starting with mist at 6 a.m., building to a solid rain by the end of my run (kind of like a tempo rain, wouldn't you say?). It really didn't bother me, although I'm glad it wasn't raining hard when I started, as I think it would have been way more difficult to go out in that case! I was dripping when I finished, and it wasn't just sweat. The only thing that did bother me was my glasses, which were wet from the mist and rain on the outside, and steamed up on the inside (thanks to the heat emanating from my flushed, hot face). Yet another reason to go get contacts (which I don't really want to wear full-time, just for skiing and running in the rain, mostly).

We really needed the rain, and it's not cold out (mid-60's), but I hope it lets up over the weekend because it could really put a damper on weekend activities (or more precisely, dampen them). I have some plans involving bicycling and running on Sunday, and I'd prefer to do it dry (at least the biking part). So we shall see how things progress.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and Happy Father's Day to my dad and all the other fathers out there!

*Depending on the intended length of my run.

1 comment:

the Gwilliam Family said...

Thank you for clearing up the tempo run for me. I am not new to running, but I am planning on running a 5K this 4th of July. I'm not necessarily worried about how long it takes me to finish, just that I can finish it in a decent amount of time. All of these sites and magazines talk about tempo pace & tempo runs and its gets sort of confusing. But I think that from reading your blog I have a clearer idea of what I should be shooting for. Thanks - great blog by the way! I'm glad I found it. Keep running:)