Thursday, March 05, 2009

No Tempo

I don’t quite remember how this started, but ever since last year tempo runs and me don’t mix. We just don’t see eye-to-eye, metaphorically speaking. I’ve ranted and raved enough about this by now, and I guess I’ll spare you this time round. Let’s just state that my tempo runs aren’t tempo runs any more, and I’m not entirely sure how to fix this.

Sure, I’ve got the usual excuses. It was early on Wednesday, about 6:30 local time, and early morning hours aren’t conductive to fast running. Plus, the weather didn’t exactly help. In the middle of the warm-up, I started hearing precipitation fall against the trees and for several seconds couldn’t quite figure out why I wasn’t wet from the rain yet, until I finally realised that it was snowing, not raining. According to the weather pages the wind was at gale force levels, and I could never quite figure out where it came from – it usually seemed to come head on, of course. Oh, and it started hail stoning when I was about half a mile away from home, which is why I ended up with 9.9 miles. I did not feel like adding an extra 0.1 miles in those conditions just to get to a round number.

Anyway, I recently did start to worry about an important component missing from my training, namely sustained hard(ish) efforts. I did 2 or 3 runs at marathon effort and some short tempo runs before the hill sprints, but that was it, and it’s not a lot. The training schedule finally included a 10k time trial this week, but I was left wondering at what effort level that should be run. It was never going to be 10k race pace, I simply can’t do that without a number pinned to my chest. I always thought that tempo runs should be run at half-marathon pace, which would be 6:30 according to my PR, but I have run a 10-miler at 6:18 pace 2 months ago, which probably means that my HM PR is a bit soft. Never mind, I can’t seem to hit 6:30 in a training run, so I decided to run mainly by feel, and ideally the HR should be somewhere in the 160s.

What I ended up was 6:40 during the first half, and a big slowdown due to wind, snow, hills, fatigue and probably laziness on the second half, and I ended up with 6:58 average pace for the 10k segment, which is even slower than the planned marathon pace. Slightly worried I checked last year’s log, and was re-assured to find similar paces during the Dublin build-up. At the very least I don’t seem to have slowed down. I might break next week’s tempo run into 2 shorter segments (that’s what I did last year, even though I hated the break in the middle), and I’m thinking about swapping the tempo and speed sessions, i.e. do the speed sessions on Wednesday and the tempos on Sunday, because on Sunday I tend to run 2 hours later in the day, and the legs just feel so different. I do wonder if I should try and run a tempo run after work once a week, rather than do my entire running in the early morning. How I would do that without impacting on my family life I don't know, though. And let’s be clear, family will always come first.

Niamh refused to let my cycle to work because of the weather, and absolutely insisted on driving me. I didn’t think it was quite that bad, but gave in.

Today’s easy run was unremarkable. The weather forecast was bad, and I woke a few times in the night from the wind and rain but got lucky during the run. It remained dry until mile 6, and it only started raining more heavily on the last mile, which I can endure. This time I had to cycle to work, though.
4 Mar
9.9 miles, 1:12:59, 7:22 pace, HR 154
incl. 10k @ 6:58 pace, HR 162
5 Mar
8 miles, 1:07:07, 8:23 pace, HR 138


  1. I would have thought your tempo run over 10 miles should be around marathon pace, on alternating weeks maybe a 3-5 mile effort at faster than half marathon pace, i find running a circuit helps ie 2 x 5 miles etc...
    But it must be hard at 6.30 in the morning!

  2. Maybe you should try breaking up the tempo runs into tempo intervals. Instead of running a 5-mile tempo, run 2 x 2.5 miles with active recovery in between. The pace should be around 10k/half-marathon. If you run 10k pace for the entire 5 miles then you're basically racing a 10k, which is not the intent.

  3. I find the tempo sessions are too but I think they're very important. If the times aren't there stick with the effort as it will pay off. Almost six weeks and counting...

    I also agree with Rick, a 10 mile tempo is massive! The longest Jon has had me doing is 4x15' or a broken hour (alt. 10kP and MP). Don't be too hard on yourself.

  4. I think a sustained tempo run (the 10k or so you ran) is very good value. Running on perceived exertion might be better, rather than targeting a specific pace.

    Having said that, I reckon around HM race pace for 10k would be good running.

    Talk to Niamh about trying an afternoon session. Surely once per week wouldn't be too much - esp if you can squeeze the whole session into an hour. Otherwise, try the Sunday option. I think you'll get better times if your legs and body are fully "awake".

  5. I'm sure the tempo will be in your legs come Sunday and that's what matters. The training effect of the early morning tempo runs should be the same as late afternoon tempo runs irrespective of pace (it's all in the effort)


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