Saturday, March 12, 2016

Tempo Runs Kicking My Ass

Back in the day, tempo/threshold runs were the easiest & most enjoyable workout on my weekly schedule. More often that not, that "comfortably hard" place that nestles about halfway between speedwork & easy maintenance felt like play time--I could open up my stride a little and really let myself run, but without having to push push push into that not-so-fun red line place that's necessary on the track. It was work, yes, and usually tough towards the end, but also exhilarating and super satisfying.

Well, lately I feel like those days are gone. And that's with my assigned tempo pace about 15-20 seconds slower per mile than it was three or four years ago. Now it's nothing but work, work, work all the time.

And by 'life' he means 'tempo runs.'

I think there are a few reasons for this.

    1) I'm in objectively less-good shape now than I've been in a while.

    2) I had a lot of months away from actual workouts, so my mental toughness is not really up to snuff, ergo everything feels harder on top of that.

    3) My current tempo pace (~7:40) is about the pace I was running half marathons in circa 2012-2013 and that's still how my brain thinks about that number. So when I see a workout like 3 x (2 miles @ 7:40/2:00 jog), I go, "Oh cool, two miles at HM pace, nbd." So on top of everything else, I go into it completely unprepared for how hard it's going to be and how hard it's going to feel.

(And yeah. It's kind of depressing to think about it, but 7:40 feels hard right now. Doable, but legit hard.)

On the plus side, heart rate wise, the effort level on paper looks about right, so I don't think this pace is harder than I should be running for tempos relative to my current fitness.

In general my pace was ~3-5 seconds too fast across the board (because I still haven't regained a good feel for the effort level so am relying more on GPS & also panicking sometimes about keeping the pace & hedging a little, probably), which is not the end of the world, though I'm hoping to improve my "inner pacer" as I do more of these workouts. (The first mile was uphill & into the wind so ~7:51ish, & likewise the last mile was downhill & with a tailwind so ~7:23ish. I wasn't sure pace-wise how much difference that should make so I just tried to keep the same effort level, ie, BUTT HARD.)

Also, fun nerdy biofact, I ran 600m repeats much faster at the track on Thursday and my HR never got above 183. Dunno if that means Tuesday was a lazy heart day or if yesterday was just one of those physically "off" days. (Which is possible. I was tired and my warm up & cool down miles were noticeably slower than usual.)

The good news is that in the end terrible workouts generally just motivate me to keep working hard to get back into shape! (Or, y'know. *Better* shape.)


  1. I can identify with underestimating the difficulty of speeds - I'm significantly slower now than before all the injuries, etc., and I still think of paces in the 6:50 - 7:00 range as HM pace and 7:30's as long run pace. NOT AT ALL. I really need to stop that - it's just a big let-down when I can't keep the pace!

  2. I still can't get over the first paragraph of this post. Tempo runs have never felt easy to me - so probably a good reason that I should do them! Maybe I was running them too hard? I've always tried doing them at 10K pace - because my 10Ks are almost an hour, and they say it's the pace you can hold for 60 min. But then other people say it's HM pace? I guess it depends on how fast you are.

    1. Yeah, I think part of the confusion is that "tempo run/pace" started off meaning one specific thing (the pace you could hold for an hour, run for say 20-45 minutes) but now people use it to mean a whole range of paces that fall anywhere between 10K & HM pace. My schedule always has a run on Fridays that called a tempo or threshold run that always falls somewhere in that general range, but the actual pace & workout varies. To be honest I don't really know what pace I could hold for exactly an hour right now--I just do what I'm told. :-/