Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fastest tempo ever

Lately I've been lucky enough to find workout partners for nearly every run. I love running with people, and the support they give me definitely helps me go faster and farther than I would otherwise. But I knew it would be a longshot finding someone interested in the workout I had planned for this morning. The schedule called for a 6-mile tempo run. With my recent PR in the 5K, I knew I should reconsider the pace for the run, so I loaded up McMillan Running. McMillan allows you to enter your PR at any distance, then gives you projected times at other distances. But the most useful feature is hidden: You click on "training paces" and it tells you how fast you should be running when you are working out.

McMillan gives paces for three types of tempos -- "Tempo intervals," "Tempo run," and "Steady-state run." A "Tempo" for McMillan ranges from 25-40 minutes. My run was going to be just at the upper end of that, and for me McMillan recommends a pace of 6:02 to 6:17. Ouch! But the pace for "Steady-State," which runs 25-90 minutes, was a little more reasonable -- 6:17 to 6:32. I still didn't think I was going to find anyone who was interested in a 6:32 pace, but I went ahead and posted the workout to our running group, just in case. The message I got back was basically "uh, no thanks."

So I figured I would just warm up with Ashley (we both live about a mile from the usual starting-point for group runs), then run my tempo solo, and meet up with the group again at the end. As a bonus incentive, Chad and Michelle would be doing a 4.7-mile loop at around an 8:30 pace, so if I really crushed it on my 6.38-mile tempo loop, I just might catch them at the end.

I took off solo, heading downhill on the first mile. I was hoping to do a little better than a 6:32 pace, since that was the top end of my steady-state pace. Mile 1 felt pretty good at a 6:19 pace. Mile 2 would tell me a little more about how I was feeling today, because it involved the first major climb. I didn't slow down much, finishing in 6:24. Next was another downhill mile, which again felt great at 6:15. Miles 4 and 5 would involve some serious climbing. The first part of 4 was flat, but then I turned on to the locally infamous Robert Walker Drive, the start of a long, gradual uphill. To add to the challenge, I was now running into a headwind. Somehow I maintained the pace, finishing Mile 4 in 6:25. But Mile 5 continues uphill, and the headwind continued. I now realized that I had run every mile under 6:26, which means I was under 40-minute 10K pace. Could I do even better, and complete the 6.38-mile loop under 40 minutes? First I'd have to make it up this hill.

Somehow I kept up the pace, finishing Mile 5 in 6:26. If I was going to catch Michelle and Chad, it'd be in the next mile or so. Right now I was just focusing on maintaining speed and cresting one last small hill in Mile 6. As I headed back into town, I could see a pair of runners ahead in the darkness. Could it be Chad and Michelle? I finished Mile 6 in 6:25. Just over a third of a mile to go, and I could now see clearly that Chad and Michelle were ahead of me. I picked up the pace, striding past them as confidently as possible, cruising into town at a 5:59 pace.

I wasn't gasping for breath when I stopped, but I could definitely feel that this had been a substantial effort. How good was it? I didn't know, exactly, because my tempo run was combined with the easy warm-up I had done earlier. I did some quick math and came up with 40:13 for the 6.38-mile loop (later, looking at my GPS data, I saw that it was actually 40:20). Dang! I had just missed breaking 40 minutes. But still, I was quite pleased, because my previous PR on the DART loop was 42:55. I had crushed that! My overall pace for the tempo was 6:21, which would easily break 40 minutes for a 10K.

That's the pace I'd like to be running in a week and a half, when I do the Thunder Road Half Marathon. Do I think I can sustain it for a half? I'd say definitely for a flat race. Thunder Road isn't flat, though. On the other hand, I will have other runners to key off of at Thunder Road, so that will probably motivate me to keep up the pace a little better than running by myself in the dark. In other words, we'll just have to wait and see.

Details of today's workout are below.

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