Sometimes it all comes together….other days not so much!

As I mentioned I don’t talk too much about my training in specifics, one of the reasons is that I see some other bloggers talking about splits for speed work or tempo runs (and I absolutely get why they do it….sometimes it is difficult to discuss a workout without mentioning pace) however I feel like it usually makes me think “OMG, that chick is crazy fast” followed by the comparison of “I will never be able to run a sub *insert relevant number here* mile!” probably the opposite of the inspiration that they were hoping I would get from their killer workout! Here is what most of them are NOT telling you (or me!) – that is one of their one or two key workouts of the week (speed work, tempo run etc.), they are running on the remaining days but it is at a slower pace. In the training plan that my coach sends me these other runs are designated to be run at “training pace”.
Interestingly there is some research that suggests that a  given run can run approximately 20% of their weekly volume (mins or miles) at this higher intensity level. This is one of the reasons the elite runners train at elevated weekly mileage levels, the more miles you are running – the more miles you can run at higher intensity and therefore, in theory at least, the greater the training effect.
So what does training pace mean? Is there a formula to figure it out within +/- 5 sec/mile? Sadly and (as I have come to appreciate in the last year) happily the answer is NO! Training pace is essentially a perceived exertion level – you may have heard people talking about conversation pace? A pace at which you can just sustain a conversation – that is basically training pace. For reference, this conversation would be more like “…I……not..really…..sure…….whether we….were….meant…to….have…..tu….rned….there” not “OMG, and then do you know what he said? He told me that I spend too much time running and I should really concentrate more on housework? Can you believe it? Housework! So I told him that if he wanted a maid….he should have dated one!” You get the idea! 😉 The min/mile pace that this corresponds to will be different on any given day, based on the previous workouts and your cardiovascular and muscular recovery (as well as a myriad of other factors). One of the biggest things I took away from discussing this with my coach was how, even for her, this pace ranged by several minutes per mile.
The idea of training pace/perceived exertion level took me a long time to come to terms with – I am still learning/reminding myself about it! When I first started working with Megan, training for the Chicago Marathon last year, my comfort zone was the 6-10 mile training run….so I’d go out and blast these training pace runs, feeling v proud of the pace that I was holding and then I’d hit the track and die a death (not meeting the prescribed paces). To make myself feel better I’d hit the next training pace run hard and repeat. At some point something clicked, that pace was largely irrelevant on these runs – yes, you want to be giving it an honest effort and not slacking off but not every run can be record breaking. The nice thing about perceived effort – is it is independent of temperature, humidity, road conditions, elevation and can easily be taken to the trails. The other nice thing is that once in a great while, it surprises you – and often when you feel like you are dragging, and your legs feel like lead! you look down and see some stunning pace number! I usually wonder first if my watch is broken or there is some kind of solar flare action that I am unaware of, then I smile to myself and remind myself how much I love perceived effort running! 😉
So….some days it comes together for an epically paced training run, and other days the pace is depressing and you might be better not wearing a watch! 😉 The important thing is that you are out there, putting in the effort….breathing the fresh air, and don’t compare your behind the scenes training pace with someone else’s mile repeat pace!

3 thoughts on “Sometimes it all comes together….other days not so much!

  1. Enjoyed the article. It reaffirms some thoughts I had (have). Two weeks ago, in 80 degree heat, I wasn’t able to finish a 10-mile run. (Stopped after 7 miles, and walked the last 3 miles home.) The heat during the whole week left me dehydrated. Once the weather cooled down a bit, I was back at it without missing a beat. Some days are good; some days not so much. Getting better at reading my body. I agree with you, being out and being active is the most important thing.

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