Get your pace face on

First of all, thank you to everyone who left such wonderful, supportive comments on my post about moving to Raleigh yesterday.  I was tearing up again this morning, reading them.  Big virtual bloggy hugs to all of you.  In a non-creepy way, of course.

This afternoon, though, it was time to dry the tears and steel myself for the first long tempo run I’ve done in a while: 7 miles total, with the first half at goal marathon pace and the rest at half-marathon pace.  Doesn’t that sound fun?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Well, it wasn’t fun.  If you want the details, see below.  But can we chat for a minute about this whole concept of goal marathon pace?  I feel like it’s come up a lot lately in my running circles!

Admittedly, GMP is kind of a new concept for me.  In all of my previous marathons, I haven’t really trained with a certain pace in mind.  Marathon pace was whatever pace I felt up for that day.  Of course I wanted to finish well, but I never incorporated pace-oriented work into my training.

But a marathon is a race.  And so there is a race pace.  And getting that pace through your thick skull is an important part of training.  Or so I am told.

This training cycle I am doing several GMP workouts – like tonight – as well as structuring other key runs around the concept.  Long runs, for instance, should be 60 seconds per mile slower than GMP.  At least.  Ditto recovery runs.

Or so I am told.

It can be challenging to enforce such pace parameters.  I think naturally, many people – including me! – get stuck on the notion that if I want to run a marathon at X pace, I should run my 20-miler at X pace.  But that’s a recipe for disaster.  Or, at a minimum, dead legs and runs that take several days to recover from.  (I learned this one the hard way by pushing my 20-miler a bit too hard last weekend, I think.)

Marathon training means increased mileage.  Something’s gotta give.  I’m coming around to the fact that my average pace might slow down a bit as I work my way from 30 and 40 mile weeks to 50 and 60 mile weeks.  And even with all of those miles, every run has a purpose: the GMP tempo at 7:45 pace and the recovery run at 9:15 pace are both important.  And the long run should be just that – long.  Not fast.  Just long.

I’d love for others to weigh in on this!  How do you approach marathon training?  Do you train with a GMP in mind?  As I said earlier, this is all sort of new to me.  In the past, I’ve always been of the “eh, throw in a long run or two in and that’s good enough” mindset.  But I don’t think I’ve lived up to my potential in my past marathons, either.

Whew, this turned in to a novel.  A nerdy running novel.  Sorry!

Moving on.

Today’s EAT: The hubs had dinner plans of his own tonight, so I threw together a solo snacky dinner when I got home from practice:

TJ’s Everything Pretzel Slims, hummus, cheese and a peach.  Snackalicious!  Seriously, those TJ’s pretzel thingys rock my face off.  Have you tried them?  They are perfect for dipping in hummus or eating with cheese!

I also crunched on a yummy ear of corn with butter and lots of salt.  I crave salt big time after a hard workout!

(Thanks, Megan, for sharing your CSA goodies.  The corn was delish.)

Today’s DRINK: I rehydrated with a glass of this Simonsig Cab:

I’m sure my snacky dinner didn’t really do it justice, as sipping this wine made me think of a filet or a rack of lamb!  But it was lovely to sip, regardless.

Today’s RUN: So, that whole pacing thing.  I kinda blew it tonight.

The assignment: 7 mile tempo run.  From 72nd on the West side, up to and across the 102 street transverse, then back down the East side to 72nd (3.7 miles) at GMP.  Then, two times around the lower loop (3.4 miles) at half-marathon pace.

The results: Well, if the assignment had been to go out too fast and then blow up at the end, I would have gotten an A+.

(BTW, a few people have asked how I get Garmin screens into my posts.  I use Jing, which is a free screen capture software, then simply crop the resulting image and insert it like any other pic!  In this case I also added the red stuff in Paint.  High tech stuff!)

Splits 2 through 5 were the supposed GMP.  7:37?  7:29?  Yeahhhhh.  Probably not.  I should be shooting for 7:45 to 8:00 here.

The thing was, it felt good.  I was having a lovely chat with some teammates and it didn’t feel hard and even as I glanced down at my wrist and noted that I was going too fast, I kept going with it.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I suspected that this would mean pain and suffering at the end of the workout.  I was right.

See: splits 7 and 8.  Oy.  My legs were stiff as hell and try as I might to get a bit of turnover going, it just felt impossible.  I do not want to feel like that when I’m 5 miles into my marathon.  I do not.

From that perspective, this workout was a good lesson.  Don’t go out too fast.  Just don’t.  Of course it feels fine at the time.  It will haunt you in the end.

May that lesson stick with me in the start corral in Chicago.

Today’s QUESTION: What’s your approach to pacing when you’re training for a long race? Obviously, I’m a-workin’ on it.  I think I know what I need to do – now it’s just a matter of doing it!

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14 responses to “Get your pace face on

  1. i like your snacky dinner. it looks like it would hit the spot 🙂

    and i definitely do not think your workout sounds like fun. it sounds awesome and great in terms of running well and training. but fun?! yeah not so much 😉

  2. I chose my current training plan primarily because it incorporated a GMP into the workouts. I did this because on the morning of my last race, though I’d been training hard and felt ready, I realized I had no idea what I was ready for. Yes, I was fit. Yes I could complete the distance without dying, but how fast was I supposed to run it? I had no idea! The realization completely freaked me out and so this time around I used the McMillian Running Calculator and a recent race time to determine my Marathon Pace and was able to work from there. I feel sooo much better knowing exactly what I’m training for this time around!

  3. Your posts make me want to train for another marathon next year. This year was my first, and I had some issues with my knee during my training, so my only goal was to finish. I’d love to train again with a focus on getting a good (to me!) finish time.

  4. I’m guilty of the “do the long runs at marathon pace” mentality, because I guess I’m implicitly suspicious of training that involves me doing only 4-7 miles at a time at GMP. And then doing my long runs… slow? The Emil Zatopek quote comes to mind: “Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow.” But then again, people wouldn’t prescribe the “60-90 seconds per mile slower” thing over and over in training plans if it didn’t work, right? Good luck with the move — sorry to hear it is shaking up a lifestyle/location you are enjoying!

  5. Marathon rule #1: Don’t do anything stupid.

    Marathon rule #2: Don’t go faster than goal pace in the first half – if not longer. If you do, see #1.

    I’m about where you are in terms of GMP and the fastest I’ve EVER done a 20 in training? I think I hit about 8:19 pace, and that was due to running MP+ over the last 5-7 miles. I’ve also done long runs at over 9:00 pace. I think the idea is to get the endurance set and still have enough to run harder during the week. Hell, I’ve heard convincing arguments about why people shouldn’t go beyond 18 in training. I don’t know that I necesarily agree, but I think the idea is beyond about 18 miles…you don’t really gain an endurance benefit, but you do tire yourself out and potentially hurt other, faster workouts.

    • Oh! I forgot to add:

      For every 4 long runs, I schedule ONE that has a significant portion at faster than marathon pace.

      For Chicago I did a 20k at slower than half marathon pace and added on 6 more miles, and in two weeks I’m doing a hilly half that I’m estimating will be at about 7:20ish pace with the goal of adding 6 more miles on. For Boston I only did ONE of these: a 15k at the same pace I did the 20k at two weeks ago, though I made it a 21 mile day. The net effect was that my 21 miles was done at around 8:40ish pace, which was around where I did most of my long runs anyhow. For NYC last year I did two half marathons: one at GMP, one a bit faster and made them 16-18 mile days. The rest of my long runs where in the range I described: from the 8:10s to over 9:00, depending on how much MP I threw in…if any.

      My typical MP run is something more like 10-13 miles at mid week, often in progression form.

      This works for me, but your mileage may vary. Pun intended. ;p

  6. Hmmm, this sounds all too familiar 😉
    I think I pretty much covered my thoughts about it on my blog-I feel the point of long runs are to build endurance, time on your feet, yet not trash your legs-hence the easier pace, and that MP work is best for shorter runs. It worked in my first 2…

  7. Well, I would have loved to try this workout (grumble grumble traffic grumble), but I understand what you’re saying. These long workouts with the “marathon” portion are allll about patience. I feel very antsy running marathon pace. It’s not slow enough to be comfortable, and not quick enough to feel like a workout. Which makes me glad I’m not training for a marathon! I’m not sure I understand the utility of training at marathon pace in these things other than to fatigue your legs for the 1/2 marathon portion. I guess it builds endurance, too, but the whole thing is just so hard on the body!

  8. You know how I feel about this whole pace issue thing!!
    I wish I had learned this 11 weeks ago! I’ve been training all wrong. I am guilty of thinking that I need to run GMP for my long runs, not 60 seconds slower! I am hoping it’s not too late to turn this around and finish off then next 7 weeks right!

    Tomorrow I run 18 miles. I am going to do everything in my power to ensure I run an 8:45-9 pace! I am even going to lap my Garmin so I can see what my pace was for each mile. I’ll definitely let you know how it goes.

    And thanks again for the advice you posted in response to my blog post. I really, really apperciate!

  9. I picked up those pretzel things from Trader Joe’s too. They weren’t my favorite, but they were pretty tasty when dipped in cream cheese. 😉

  10. Notes from the Fatty File

    I have no advice on longer runs and pace because I’m a total running newb. But I had to chime in and say I LOVE the TJ’s pretzel slims. Pretzels + diet coke (sometimes dipped in the coke, don’t judge) was my all-night paper-writing fuel in college. I love the pretzel slims with TJ’s horseradish hummus or slivers of avocado. Yums. Also, even though I’m a very new runner, I love reading about your long runs!

  11. Nothing says summer like corn. I had some amazing grilled corn last night….YUM!! Snacky dinners rock.

  12. I’m a little late in the game on this, but how sad that you are leaving! I was looking forward to “running” in to you again during training through the fall 🙂 I haven’t done much visiting to N.C., but I hear it’s beautiful and I’m sure you’ll do great there! And, no gross NYC winters!
    As far as pacing goes, I’m still trying to figure this out myself! I’m realizing that my easy runs need to be a bit easier, and my “harder” runs need to be a bit harder. my long run pace is fairly consistent and comfortable though. I actually am not sure what my marathon pace is…should probably figure this out soon… 🙂

  13. Dude, we are all working at it. God knows I don’t have pacing figured out.

    Good job on the run. Look at it as a a tempo at marathon pace (combined). It was a big workout and the 2 loops at the end were less than pleasant.

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