Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Fine Line

What to do, what to do . .

I remember when I was in junior college, our track team wore neon yellow t-shirts with a bright pink Nike slogan: Eat right, get lots of sleep, drink plenty of fluids, . . and go like hell!

We were conference champions that year, and I competed in 4 different events.
You just showed up for practice and did what the coach said.
I wish it were still so easy.

Now I design my own training plans, workouts, races, and nutrition. There are so many variables to factor in to know if I should be doing something different. I read a lot of training plans and updates on theories. Way back when, I received a college degree in Exercise Science, so I know a little about how my body adapts to training. I follow the 'no more than 10 percent' increase in training rule. I run the right amount of long runs before a marathon. I know I'm supposed to strength train in the off-season and stretch all the time.

My latest dilemma is pace. I typically run comfortably at around 8:30 pace - an average. It goes up and down. I know my long runs are slower and my speed and pace workouts are faster. What happens, though, when you have a week and you all of a sudden feel comfortable running faster? I know when I start out a marathon and it feels good to run faster and go with the crowd, that I'll end up paying for it later. So, in training, is it a mistake to be running faster if it feels good? How do you know if your conditioning level has simply improved, and that's why you're running faster. What if it feels really slow to run at the pace you were scheduled to run at? I'm talking - that comfortable 8:30 pace went down to under 8:00 this week - all week - culminating in my 10 miler at 7:52 pace. I head out, telling myself, "okay, slow . . . . " thinking that an easy 9:00 minute pace would be good for me, and slow and comfortable ends up at 8:00 minute pace, and then I pick it up.

That's all great and wonderful - I should be thrilled running so fast - in the back of my head I imagine how fast my next race could be. But my smart side says it's too fast too soon. So I took yesterday off. It's gonna screw up my mileage for the week, but I had to listen to my gut. And my legs don't feel so fresh. I know right there that it's obvious I should slow down - if I don't feel fresh - but then again, there are parts of any training plan when you are building or doing speedwork, and you don't always feel fresh. And going slower felt - well - slow. I even tried to do it on the track and pace it out really slow, and I went too fast. If I look at it logistically, it'd be like saying I did tempo runs all week. Bad news for injuries. But my question still remains - how do you know when your fitness level improves and you can train faster and not worry about the ramifications?


Angie said...

i wish i knew!

Kurt said...

I think you stick to the plan on pace but can vary it by adding more hills or something to make it more challenging. By running harder and faster you can risk an injury but that being said as you become faster your pace will improve.

That being said eat plenty of cheesecake, it helps solve all problems.

Bob said...

Great question, I have had runs and even short periods when I am just on and running fast feels easy. It generally passes.

I just know I get faster little by little if I just continue to push myself. Weather it be upping my mileage or bumping the intensity of speed work. But yes injury is the bug-a-boo.

But the bottom line is to run faster, you have to train faster otherwise you will always get what you always got. :-) So if you feel good, run fast is what I say.

Joe said...

I'd listen to your body and use perceived effort as the benchmark and not so much your actual pace. For example, if you're doing a long run, run at an easy feeling pace, whatever that pace is on that particular day. If you're doing a tempo run, run at a brisk feeling pace, whatever that pace in on that particular day. Of course, you should use your actual pace time as a double-check but don't stick to it religiously. Just run somewhat near the target pace on each training day. I think the purpose of pace times is to make your body run (or swim) at the prescribed perceived effort level, not the other way around.

At swim practice, Coach Brad usually gives us a choice of interval times for each set. Some days, I'll choose the faster one and other days I'll choose the slower one depending on how I feel that day.

Just my two cents.

Sarah said...

Wow, I have no idea. But good luck with that! : )

iliketoast said...

I was hoping ... as I read .... that there would be an answer at the end. *sigh* .... What about Heart Rate as a guide? Ok, that's one more question which might only add to the problem.

JustRun said...

Seems to me you just have to see how you feel. I'm definitely no expert but if faster feels good for several runs, there's got to be a reason why.

Danielle said...

I can't really answer it either...sorry...but I'm jealous...wow. That's awesome. I say go with what your body says though. I don't heart rate monitor train because I think I can tell what my body wants to do. There are days I hit 8 minute paces and that feels easy, other days 10 minutes feels like a struggle...if you feel fine, go with it and congrats!

D said...

Congrats on the new addition to your family. He certainly looks pretty cool! Can I secretly say that I can listen to 80s music all day long too! Ssshhh don't tell anyone.

You are having a good dilemma. I like what Joe typed. I think you should stay with what feels good. If during your long run an 8 min pace feels good and easy - do it! You are such a smart runner though - do what feels right.

Josh said...

Great question! And there's some good advice here.

I think that a heart rate monitor might be a good idea. Also, I agree that to race fast, you have to train fast too.

Cheesecake is good also. LOL!

Good luck and congrats on the quickened pace.

stephruns said...

funny you metnion this - i've been confronted with that urge to run faster lately and I just can't "hold it in" and let myself go. Of course I can't keep the pace up for the time planned running, so my runs are becoming shorter! But I'm not sure if I want to fight it - does this mean I am becoming a short distance runner??? Oh Gee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Unanswered questions...

IHateToast said...

oh jeepers. i have no clue.

i can't even judge 10% in terms of effort. distance is easier if it's marked, but speed? yeesh. hard stuff, wummun!

i do know that when i was on a high school x-c team, we always pantsed each other on wednesday. does that help?

miss petite america said...

i think there are people who would say to use a heart rate monitor...that that is the only true measure of how hard your body is working???

but what do i know? i don't use one...but then again, i'm never too concerned about going too fast either! :)