Saturday, November 26, 2011

Training slower but racing faster

Today's run (street) 3.55 miles

One thing that I've learned this year is that the speed I usually run isn't the same as how fast I can run. This year I've observed two things that don't seem to correlate. First, my average training pace (by observation, not by studying my running logs) has slowed down about 10 seconds per mile. The other observation is that my race paces have improved noticeably in almost every race this year compared to previous years.

I'm not sure what this means but it may have something to do with the quality of my training runs that may be a bit slower, but have more focus. The legendary running coach Jack Daniels said "Every run should have a purpose" and I try to follow that philosophy with my daily workouts. If I need to prepare for a hilly race I try to run hills. If I ran hard the day before, I look to run my next session easy to speed up recovery.

The true explanation for my slower training - faster race pace may be far more simple. Since I started using my Garmin FR210 GPS watch, my mileage is usually under-recorded between 2-5% which makes my pace look slower. When I bother to map my true distance using Gmaps, I see that variance. If I don't, I tend to accept and believe that I'm running slower than I actually am.

I got out around 8:30 this morning after debating whether I should run or do a core workout and (possibly) an elliptical session later. My legs were tired so I considered the lower impact option. But the weather was cool and the skies were clear so I headed out the door thinking I'd take it easy and not worry about my pace.

The run was easy, in fact I slipped into a few periods where I was so lost in thought that I felt like I was sleep-running. I focused on opening my stride but I didn't think much about my speed. When I finished my run I was surprised to see that I'd averaged slightly more than 9:00 a mile. That's not particularly fast, but the pace was about :40 per mile faster than it felt. Perhaps all the racing I've done of late has helped in my daily training. That almost 9:00 minute pace was a nice surprise. Sometimes a slow run feels fast, and a fast run feels slow.

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