Today I did my first tempo run since late July. I was nervous.
Since be reasonable is my new mantra, I decided to do a reasonable tempo run as my first trip back into that territory: 7 miles with 2 x 1 mile at tempo pace, with 5 minutes rest between them. Since I am doing most of my runs at the gym these days, it’s anyone’s guess how fast or slow a particular treadmill is.
But you know what? I don’t give a shit about pace anymore. That’s my other new mantra: I don’t give a shit about pace anymore. Effort’s where it’s at, baby. After two years of doing lots of standard training runs, I felt pretty confident that I would be able to lock into “tempo effort”: 89-90% of MHR.
One advantage of going to the gym is that the treadmills there can tell you your heart rate via little metal sensor grip thingies. My treadmill at home doesn’t have that feature (and the HR strap never worked). I trust those readouts. But when it came to paces, today’s treadmill was a liar, and a lousy one at that.
The plan was to do a 2.5 mile warmup at <75% MHR, then a half mile cut down in pace from whatever that was to “tempo pace” (whatever that was). I started out at “9:50” pace, which should feel like a stroll, but my MHR was already in the mid-to-upper 70%s. I slowed things down to “10:20” and held at around 75% for 2.5 miles.
The old, stubborn, data-obsessed Julie would have ignored this obvious evidence of calibration craziness. She would have said, “Dammit, tempo pace should be around 7:00 for me, so that’s what I’m going to set the treadmill to.” Sure, I would have been able to write “7:00 pace” in my training log, but at what cost? Running that “pace” on that machine would have me at too high an effort. And not getting the benefit of the workout. And feeling bad about myself.
And what’s the point of that? Have I not learned anything over the past few years?
I have! I have!
I guessed that what the treadmill said was 7:19 would be a good place to start. I ran a mile at that speed. It started to feel like real work about 5 minutes in. I finished up the first mile and took my HR: 89%. Good stuff; even after six months away from it, I still know how tempo effort should feel. I did my five minute jog back at “10:20.” Then launched into the second mile. After a third of a mile, I was getting that old, “Oh, fuck, I hate this. I want to stop” feeling. That was too early to be feeling that. HR says? 91%. It was hot in that room. The effort was too high. I dialed down to “7:24” — and spent the rest of the mile reminding myself that this is supposed to be hard, not to bail on it, it’s mental training, blah blah blah — and finished up at 90%.
I know I was running faster than ~7:20. How much faster? I don’t care. I ran the right effort for the workout. That’s all that matters. The paces will take care of themselves.