Monday, May 24, 2010

Is "comfortably hard" code for hard

So I’m trying to incorporate some tempo runs and speed work into my weekly mix. To get faster, you must run faster. Not that I’m all preoccupied with getting faster. But I want to get better. And with that comes faster. I think.

I’ve been doing some speed work for a while but I want more results. And everybody who is anybody (meaning the internet) says to do a weekly tempo run if you want to get faster and stronger. I actually had to look up what a tempo run was because I had no idea. People have mentioned them before and I just smiled and nodded my head like I knew exactly what they were talking about. Yes, I’ve been running less than a year so I should know EVERYTHING there is to know about running. Right? Right.

Now unfortunately, there is serious conflicting information out there regarding what a tempo run is, how you should do it, and for how long. Great. So how am I supposed to incorporate something into my schedule if I can’t figure out what it is?

Running Times magazine says:

Also known as an anaerobic threshold (AT) run or lactate-threshold run, the tempo run was popularized by Jack Daniels, Ph.D., about a decade ago. Here’s his definition, taken from Daniels’ Running Formula (Human Kinetics): "A tempo run is nothing more than 20 minutes of steady running at threshold pace." (He goes on to say that 20 minutes is ideal, but may be varied to suit the needs of a particular course.) Without getting too technical, threshold pace is the effort level just below which the body’s ability to clear lactate, a by-product of carbohydrate metabolism, can no longer keep up with lactate production. Daniels states that this pace is, for most people, about 25 to 30 seconds per mile slower than current 5K race pace.

(I kind of like the idea of being told how to run by a guy named Jack Daniels)

Runner’s World says:

A classic tempo or lactate-threshold run is a sustained, comfortably hard effort for two to four miles. The workouts below are geared toward experience levels and race goals.

And Hal Higdon says:

This is a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near 10-K race pace. A Tempo Run of 30 to 45 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, build to 15-20 minutes near the middle, then 5-10 minutes easy toward the end. The pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about two-thirds into the workout. Hold that peak only for a minute or two. I consider Tempo Runs to be the "Thinking Runner's Workout." A Tempo Run can be as hard or easy as you want to make it, and it has nothing to do with how long (in time) you run or how far. In fact, the times prescribed for Tempo Runs serve mainly as rough guidelines. Feel free to improvise. Improvisation is the heart of doing a Tempo Run correctly.


SO what is it? I still don’t know exactly. I don’t really know what my 10K pace is. Or my 5K pace. I guess I need to run more 10K’s and 5K’s to find out. But I do know they all say that your pace should be “comfortably hard.” But how long do I run “comfortably hard?”

I decided to start small. I measured in miles as opposed to time. It’s easier for me that way. So I ran an easy mile. Then I ran a “comfortably hard” mile. Then I ran an easy mile. The problem was I my easy mile was too fast and my comfortably hard mile was WAY too fast. I wanted to die during the last mile. I realize I say that a lot. But seriously. Wanted. To. Die. There was nothing comfortable about it. It was just hard. And since I don't think almost killing yourself is exactly the results I should be looking for, I will try again tomorrow.

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