Posts Tagged ‘Tempo Runs’

It is not too often that I think about a single workout in such a way that it warrants its very own post here on the blog.  If that were the case, that is pretty much all we would ever be thinking about or talking about here at Run for Dom.  In the last 12 months we’ve had 332 workouts spread over those 365 days.  That is a lot of running, swimming and cycling.

But every once in awhile there is a workout that sticks with you.

The kind of effort that when I am slowing to a walk after my cool down and I lean against the lamp post a few houses down from ours to stretch my calves and hamstrings I think to myself, “you got faster today.”

Well Monday’s One Off – One On Workout was one of those days.

To narrow the focus even more it was not even the entire workout that was remarkable – but the final final “On” mile that made a great workout a special one.

It was 76 degrees on Monday morning with a stiff breeze blowing from the South, Southeast.  The way the route is laid out for this 8-mile run, I would be running the first two “On” miles with very little help.  The wind would be blowing into our face for the majority of miles two and four of the session.  Only helping ever so slightly over the final 400 meters of mile 4.

But on Mile 6 and Mile 8, my final two “On” miles, the wind would be neutral – blowing across the course as I ramped up my pace and dropped down approaching 5K Race pace.  It is tough to create the feeling of “race pace” when you are running alone in the early morning on a training run.  This is one of the drawbacks to training yourself and not part of a traditional workout group or running club.  You have to create your own intensity and push yourself to those limits without anyone alongside of you or running out in front to pull you along.

It makes for tough training, but in a way, I think it helps me late in smaller races when there is nobody to chase and nobody on my heels.  It is those moments where backing off just a hair starts to enter into your mind.  The difference between 6:05 pace and 6:15 pace can be measured in pain much easier than pace.  Those :10 can feel so much easier on the legs, lungs, heart and mind.  It is difficult to continue to summon maximum effort when you are your own pacer.

Running and training alone helps in those cases, but it does make workouts a challenge.

As I was running mile 5 or my third of four “Off” miles, I started to entertain the thought of a sub 6:00 minute final mile.  I knew that I was well ahead of the pace I set last Tuesday for this workout – where I ran my “On” miles in 6:52, 6:39, 6:30 amd 6:13.

I had opened things up on Monday morning with “On” miles of 6:28 and 6:14.  Pretty darn fast.  But would I have enough left on that final “On” mile to push to sub 6:00 min./mile pace?  I pressed the thought back down into the recesses of my mind and focused on the next “On” mile that was just about to start on the beep of my watch.

As I made the turn underneath the street lamp and glanced down at my watch, the mileage read 4.99.  I took four strides and at the sound of the beep marking the start of mile 6 I dropped back into my up-tempo pace.  My legs were firing and my breathing was back on rhythm.  A deep inhale followed by an exhale as my third stride landed on the ground.  5K cadence.

I navigated the two left turns that lead to a small incline before making the final right hand turn that puts me right back on our street.  Mile 6 finishes just a few houses before you reach our driveway.  I kept pushing through to the end of the neighbors yard and listened for the beep.  As it sounded I held my hand out under the street light and saw my split – 6:06.  I was really going to have to dig deep on the last one.

I slowed back to my recovery pace as I passed our house and picked my way to the end of the street and started the final “Off” mile that featured a slow climb out of our neighborhood.  I made the left on Avery Ranch Road and stayed on the sidewalk as the morning commuters were starting to fill the road.  My breathing had returned to normal and I braced for the final “On” mile.  Time to go to work.

At the beep I tucked my hips up underneath me and lengthened out my stride.  Landing my footstrike on the balls of my feet – you could barely hear my Adidas Aegis shoes hitting the road.  This was the first time I had worn the shoes since the Boston Marathon.

I powered through the first 1/4 mile and felt strong and solid.  The last 1/4 would run itself.  It was the middle half-mile where the battle to hold pace was going to take place on a lonely dark street at 6:00 a.m.

I climbed the last short hill, made the left hand turn past the barking dog that always greets me on my way to the jogging trail.  Just past his house I turned left for the final time and glanced down at my watch, 7.74 miles – I was ready to start the final quarter.

Breathing was starting to get ragged, but I kept the same rhythm, exhaling on every third footstrike.  I passed a woman walking her dog on the sidewalk and I could hear the sweat starting to squish in my running shoes with every footfall.

I jumped the curb to the entrance to the jogging trail, make a sharp right turn and after 7 or 8 strides I heard the final beep marking the end of mile 8.

I waited a few strides before I glanced down at my watch.  Hoping to see a sub 6:00 minute mile – but knowing it was going to be awfully close.


I slowly jogged the final .50 miles to the house along the trail enjoying every bit of the end of the workout.  An outlandish goal I had set after last week’s workout – I thought that if I stuck with this session I might have a shot to break through in 4 or 5 weeks.

Instead, I dropped a 5:57.4 mile at the end of a tough workout on my first “real” attempt.  Whether or not we are ready to run a course PR at Holland on Saturday or if we can muster a sub 19 minute 5K on that course we are going to find out.  Race day weather, health, nutrition and “having” or “not having” it on race day will of course all come into play as they always do.

But for this one morning in June.  We were faster than we’ve ever been, and that’s something.

As much fun as I had last weekend racing at the Harvest Fest 5K, I have to admit that I was a little more than disappointed in my performance.  Finishing second overall and first in my age group was fine from a “results” standpoint.  But as I’ve said numerous times over the past two years – the only person that I’m really “racing” on race-day is me.

First, Second or Fiftieth is pretty much irrelevant.  It is more a matter of me being happy with whether or not I race up to my capabilities.

Frankly, running a 19 minute 5K time on a flat course in near perfect weather just wasn’t good enough last weekend.  Now, I’m not about to go all “Reese Bobby” and declare that “If you’re not first, your last”, but I knew that I was capable of a lot more last weekend.

Sure I had a tough week of training leading up to the event and yes, running out front for the first two miles of the race was “different”.  But as I thought about the Harvest Fest Race this week during my training runs, the thing that stuck with me was that I don’t think I stayed as “mentally tough” as I would have liked.

I allowed my mind to wander during the middle portions of the race and with it, my pace “wandered”.  That kind of effort is simply not going to cut it this weekend at the IBM Uptown Classic.  If I am going to in fact break that 40:00 minute 10K time, I needed to toughen up.  Get back that “Eye of the Tiger” that I had back in Pittsburgh making my Boston Time in 2009 or at numerous times this summer as I posted PR after PR at the 10K and 5K distance.

Next Sunday is go time and the only thing that can stop me from achieving my goals next week frankly is me.  It was time to “get right” from a mental standpoint and with my last two “tough” training runs scheduled before race day – now was the time.

Saturday morning’s workout was my last real chance to log some “tempo” miles as I don’t want to push pace too hard too close to IBM.  There is a delicate balance between training hard and training foolish.  Leaving my best race out on Brushy Creek Trail a week before IBM didn’t make a lot of sense.

But that said, I needed to dial-in, focus and run strong.  Eye of the Tiger.

Saturday’s workout called for 6.2 miles :20-:30 seconds slower than IBM Goal Pace which is 6:26/mile.

I took “to the hills” for this workout, and decided to run the recently reopened Brushy Creek Trail.  The run would have a little bit of everything designed to slow me down.  The route featured lots of ups and downs, a climb over the Dam and back as well as a “soft course” with all of the new aggregate that the county has spread in trail repairs. 

Saturday’s run was a dress rehearsal as I wore what I expect to race in next Sunday with the exception of my Brooks T6 Racing flats.  I ran in my trainers which are a good 6 ounces heavier than my race shoes.

Splits were just about perfect at:

7:04, 6:38, 6:57, 6:50, 6:39, 6:38 and a closing 2/10 at 6:16 pace.  

Saturday Tempo

Total time 42:05 over the 10K course 6:47/mile, :21/mile slower than goal pace.  The best part of the run was the feeling that I could have clipped off another 2-3 miles at 6:30 pace with little trouble. 

My legs “were back” and I was loving it.

The rest of the day Saturday was spent with Dawn and Landry.  We ran some errands, picked up a new scarecrow, hay bale and pumpkins for the front yard.

We also managed to somehow lock the baby in the running truck (seriously) and made it home in time for the South Carolina vs. Alabama game.

Now as far as the truck-door locking incident, I will say this. 

Sh#% happens. 

I was not too worried as the air conditioning was running and we were only 20 seconds from getting in by me cracking through the sliding rear window in the Ford – but the local EMS guys were quick on the scene and able to get us in before Landry even batted an eye.  A little stressful obviously, but I think it is a rite of passage for new parents.

Landy playing "under the sea" at home

An added bonus was the fact that I didn’t have to spend  the rest of the day getting the window in the truck repaired – instead, Landry and I got to watch the Gamecocks take down the #1 team in the nation for the first time in football history at the school.  Maybe between the Phillies and Gamecocks, Landry arrived on the scene at precisely the right time in 2010.  Hopefully she will not have to endure the years of suffering that I have over the years rooting for those two star-crossed sports teams.

Sunday morning was equally glorious – tremendous weather, although a bit overcast at 6:00 a.m.  The roads and the trail were quite dark until sunrise around 7:00 a.m.  I was going to run this workout “by feel” and try to bring it in at a comfortable pace something right around 7:25 felt right after Saturday morning’s tempo work.

At mile 2 my Garmin started acting very peculiar and was beeping at me incessantly.  When I glanced down under a street lamp, I could see that the display that has stared back at me faithfully for more than two years and 3,500 miles was in disarray.

I decided to “run quiet” from that point on and did not bother to play around with the device.  I’ll figure it out later when I get back I thought – no sense ruining a great run.  The miles ticked off and before I knew it I was back climbing up and over the dam at Brushy Creek Park.  With no technology to rely on, I decided to let me legs dictate pace and push through the end of the run.

When I hit the final mile I had the feeling that I was running strong, but really didn’t know if I was running at 7:30, 7:15 or 7:00 pace.  All I knew was my legs felt great, my mind was focused and breakfast was going to be on the table in a matter of moments.

As I heard the familiar beep as I approached the house, I knew I had reached mile 12 and I shut down the run.  Coasting to a stop I felt perfect.  No aches, no pains, no heavy breathing.  Perfect.  One week to go.

Sunday Long Run

After I was able to reboot my GPS, I saw that the run came in at 7:18 pace.  1:27:43.  A great Sunday run on the heels of a great tempo workout the day before.  As I cooled down and started to kick off my shoes on the front porch I realized that it was back.  I felt like I had found my “mojo” at exactly the right time.  The run went even better than I had thought when I took a look at the mile by mile breakdown:

7:29, 7:19, 7:15, 7:07, 7:28, 7:22, 7:24, 7:28, 7:22, 7:20, 7:16, 7:04, 7:02

Now if I could just remember to wear shorts with pockets in them to the store so I don’t end up locking the truck by accident we’ll really be ready for next weekend! 

Dadathoner, always learning.

I am running better than I ever have before. 

There, I said it. 

Normally I’m not a superstitious person.  I tend to believe that hard work is what pays off whether you are hoping to improve at your job, your relationships or of course your running.  But it does seem that whenever you start really feeling good about yourself – that four letter word LIFE seems to reach up and drag you back down a few steps. 

I have been holding off on writing this post ever since the NOCC Balance 5K the day before Landry was born as I didn’t want to “jinx it”, but when I look back on my training logs from last year, my weekly mileage totals and my race results, I may be getting older, but I am most definitely getting stronger and faster. 

Age 43, who would have thought that would be possible.  Certainly not me. 

Cougar Country Classic 5K - 18:12

Recently I have had a few running friends ask me to help them develop training plans and race day strategies.  This has been a great opportunity to give back to other runners as they look to improve, as it really is about paying it forward in life.  

As much as I have enjoyed the opportunity to pass on some “coaching”, it has benefitted me greatly as I have been able to really look at my own training – and determine what workouts have proven to be the most beneficial. 

I’ve taken a step back and looked  at where I have gotten the most “bang for my buck” when it comes to my training runs – and how I have been able to maximize the impact from each of my 5 run days per week. 

Since I fully recovered from back to back marathons this spring and started what I have been calling my “Pre-Austin Marathon Training Cycle”, as Austin training begins October 18th, I have stuck to the schedule below: 

Monday – Rest/Cycle/Strength Training 

Tuesday – Tempo Run 

Wednesday – Marathon Pace Run/Strength Training 

Thursday – Hill Repeats 

Friday – Rest/Cycle/Strength Training 

Saturday – Tempo Run or BQ Pace Run 

Sunday – Long Run 

This schedule has given me a great mix of workouts that as I sprinkled in 5K and 10K races over the last few months, has allowed me to work on improving all aspects of my running for the first time really, ever. 

Pre-Austin Marathon Training Schedule

Speed has been addressed in my Tempo Runs and Racing, Strength during my Hill Repeats, Stamina in my Marathon Pace Runs and Endurance during my Sunday long runs. 

Each workout has had a goal and purpose as I have avoided running any “junk miles” or “throwaway workouts”.  The type that don’t do much other than add miles to your training plan and look good crossed off of the refrigerator.  I’ve tried to make every run count this summer and the results are definitely there. 

But if I was forced to pick just one workout to keep in my training plan and get rid of all the others, which is completely unfair along the lines of asking me to only eat one type of meal for the rest of my life, I would have to pick Tempo Runs. 

Tempo Tuesday has become such an important part of my training plan that I cannot imagine giving it up. 

After an off-day from running on Monday I have relatively fresh legs for the workout.  I usually do not have any lingering soreness or any aches and pains and I have been able to really focus in 100% on the goal for that morning. 

A tempo run is a workout that will benefit all runners from 5K racers to Marathoners.  It seems counterintuitive to think that one workout could be so versatile – but the Tempo Run truly is. 

The Tempo Run teaches your body to run faster before fatiguing. 

Now, a lot of studies have been done by scientists and runners much more sophisticated and smarter than I am that show the best predictor of distance running performance is your lactate threshold or LT. 

The “everyman” explanation for lactate threshold is the speed you are able to run before lactic acid begins to accumulate in the blood.  Once that lactic acid level builds to a certain point, your muscles fatigue and you slow down.  

By regularly including tempo runs into your training schedule, you will increase the speed that you can run before lactic acid begins to slow you down. 

This only occurs by “running faster” – it will not improve by simply running more and more miles at the same slower pace.  You will improve your endurance and stamina by stretching your long runs from 8 to 10 to 12 to 14 to 16 miles.  But you will not necessarily decrease the pace at which you can run those miles. 

To put it simply, if you want to race fast, you have to train fast. 

Cruising - 5:50 pace

Tempo runs have been my go-to workout over the past three months to do just that.  Get faster. 

So what is a Tempo Run?  Truly it doesn’t have to be a complicated workout.  You will hear a lot about interval training and Yasso 800’s – which are all great workouts.  But to add a traditional Tempo Run to your training plan you don’t need a track, a coach or fancy GPS timer.  The idea is to run somewhere between 20 minutes and 35 minutes at “Tempo Pace” after a warm-up mile or two.  After the “Tempo” portion of your run, you will want to run a cool-down mile or two. 

More on what “Tempo Pace” is in a second. 

If these workouts are not a part of your training program today you may want to start gradually with a tempo run that features the “tempo portion” of just two miles.  Then add a half a mile every other week until you reach 4 miles at your tempo pace. 

More experienced runners may want their tempo portion to stretch up to 5 or 6 miles.  Like anything, as you improve the workout will get easier, so you need to keep challenging yourself to keep improving. 

Some runners like to break their “tempo portion” of the run into two parts – taking a 45-60 second break from tempo pace in the middle.  An example of this would be a 1 mile warm up, two miles at tempo pace, a 60 second recovery jog, two miles at tempo pace and a closing cool down mile.  

This would make the workout a bit more manageable as you begin to stretch those distances.  Again, the key is to run at that Tempo Pace for an extended period of time, allowing your body to adapt to the pace and improve your Lactate Threshold. 

So how do you know what your Tempo pace is? 

Well, traditionalists say that a solid tempo pace is :30 seconds per mile slower than your 5K Race pace or :20 seconds per mile slower than your 10K race pace. 

If you do not know what your race pace is for those distances, you can use what is known as “perceived effort”.  A tempo run should be run at a “comfortably hard” pace.  I know, I know, what the heck does that mean.  

That means that you should feel like you are running fast enough so that you know you’re working hard, but if you had to, you could keep up the pace for up to an hour.  If you are running with another person you’re able to say a few words here and there, but you can’t really “chat”.  

I usually gauge this by the fact that I can say, “Good Morning” to an approaching runner without being out of breath, but I most certainly couldn’t recite the preamble to the Gettysburg Address. 

Tuesday’s Tempo Run this week took me out of the comfort zone of the Brushy Creek Trail and onto the road near our home.  Since Hermine blew through Austin dumping unprecedented rains on our area – our trail is in very, very poor condition.  Erosion, ruts, standing water, fall offs, pretty dangerous for a pre-dawn runner like myself.  So we took to the streets of Avery Ranch and covered a hilly course for our Tempo Run this week. 

Ideally I like to run this workout on flat terrain, so that I can measure my mile splits evenly.  That was not possible this week, so instead I focused on keeping my effort the same over my 6.2 mile Tempo Run, knowing my times would be slightly faster on the downhill and slightly slower on the uphill miles of the run. 

This is a key workout building towards our run at that elusive sub 40:00 minute 10K time at the IBM in October. 

Tempo Tuesday

Tempo miles Thursday: 

6:43 (+43 feet)
6:37 (-35 feet)
6:44 (+37 feet)
6:37 (-36 feet)
6:59 (+59 feet)
6:42 (-48 feet)
Final .20 at 6:22 pace 

Shooting for a 6:26 pace at IBM, our tempo run came in right on target, about :15-:20 seconds slower than our 10K goal pace.  Add in the hills, 78 degree temperature and 88% humidity, as well as a 14-mile long run on Sunday and I would say we have a really good shot at reaching our goal at the IBM Uptown Classic. 

Today is Thursday, which means hill repeats.  Another great workout and one that is helping us gain great confidence for all the climbing we will be doing during the middle stages of the Austin Marathon in February. 

Like I said before, we’ve never felt better, never run faster, never been stronger – now all we have to do is keep up the hard work for another 5 months, stay healthy and we should be in fine shape to honor Dom in the right way on February 20th.  

My goal is to never race again without Dom’s name on my shoes and his memory in my heart. 

Thanks for the added push this summer Dom – I miss you every day.