For this abbreviated training cycle, I've completed three tempo runs. I'm defining "tempo" like Hanson's does - marathon pace. The generous pace should make these tempos not too difficult, but this summer they nearly killed me. As I ran in record-breaking heat and humidity, I struggled. I couldn't stay hydrated without stopping for water, which kind of destroyed the whole concept of a tempo - a non-stop run. After getting home, I usually felt terrible for the rest of the day. Once, I bonked during a tempo, and struggled home at 8 and 9 minutes paces. And my paces were a mess. I tried to run within a range of paces matching up to my range of acceptable race results, but my moving pace was too fast, and my pace if you included the water stops was too slow. An average of the two paces - found by extensive analysis - was 7:19, however: EXACTLY my eventual race pace. So despite the struggle, I decided that the tempo was a valuable tool, and decided to use it this winter, too. The only difference is that I was committed to completing real, non-stop tempos - and chose to determine pace by feel. If it felt like marathon effort, it was a tempo!
My first tempo was nine miles, and boy - what a difference the temperature makes. I did make a water stop two miles in, but I just zipped by the fountain with my watch still running: no harm done, and my pace reflected the slight slowing, just like it would if I paused to drink during a race. I did one loop in the park followed by an out-and-back on the levee, and felt great the whole time. I kept zoned in on feel, and not pace. While my first miles were a little slower, I actually sped up as I went along, finishing with a mile under seven! 7:10, 7:18 (water break plus slowing for traffic crossing magazine), 6:58, 7:08, 7:08, 7:08, 7:02, 7:04, 6:55. My overall 7:06 pace surprised me - that's my marathon PR pace!
The next week was much more of a challenge: it was 100 humidity and 70 degrees. When I reached the turnaround on the levee, which is a tight turn, I was tempted to slow to a walk and take a break. But I stuck with it for nine miles at 7:05. I think this one was a little forced, though: I kept looking at my watch and trying to match the week before's pace. I probably should have taken it easy.
The last tempo was a ten-miler, and it was key. I can get a pretty good idea of my race fitness from a ten mile tempo. The weather was better, and I felt strong the whole time. No watch stopping, and only a sip of water to interrupt the running: 7:11, 7:09, 7:02, 7:09, 7:06, 7:02, 6:58, 7:01, 6:58, 6:54. That's ten miles at 7:03, and I felt great the whole time!
What does this mean for next week's race? Well, not much: despite the frigid cold today, next week is going to be in the 70's (possibly 80 degrees in New Orleans, but Baton Rouge should be spared) and the weather combined with my lack of long run buildup might make for a tougher race than I'd like. But still - those tempos give me great confidence.
What's your confidence-booster pre-race?