I finally GET the logic of pacing consistency!

A light bulb finally went off in my head yesterday and today and, after years of running, I finally GET the logic of pacing consistency.  Yipee!

One of the things Coach had us work on yesterday during our speed session is consistency in pacing.  Part of our workout yesterday was 2 x (4 x 400m) (with 45 second rest between intervals and 3 minutes rest between sets).  We could do any pace we wanted for the first 400m interval, but then the remaining 7 intervals had to be within 2 seconds of that pace.  When I read what the workout would be, and even while I was doing the workout, I was thinking to myself “How is running 400m consistently at a 6:20ish pace going to help me run an 8:20ish pace marathon?  Shouldn’t we be practicing consistency at our MP so we know what THAT feels like?”

But, based on my previous history of marathon (and other races!) blow ups, clearly I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, so I just kept quiet and did what I was told before and during the workout.  (As the woman who referred me to this coach said, “Trust in Coach MB and his plan and he will make you wicked fast”).

But I still wondered about the logic of consistency at that pace.

Then later in the day Coach sent an email about the workout and about continued work at pacing consistency at a variety of different speeds, even consistency in pacing on easy runs.  Which made me realize, it’s about finding the pace you are supposed to be at for whatever you are doing (easy run, 400m intervals, 10k, marathon pace, whatever) and then locking in on that pace  - feeling it and maintaining it.   When I look at most of my races, including the Heart of Summer 10k that I just did this past weekend, they are all perfect examples of how NOT to pace yourself in a race.  I start off too fast.  Then fade.  And even within each mile, I flucutate my pace quite a bit.  If I’m going too slow when I realize that a mile marker is coming up, I usually kick it in (and probably go anaerobic) to try to get closer to the time I want to be at.  And in virtually every race that I do, I’m CONSTANTLY checking garmin to see where I am pace-wise and I make adjustments accordingly.  Speed up.  Slow down.  Whatever.  I very rarely, if ever, find a groove in a race and just go with it.   Holy crap, when I think about how much I’m checking garmin and adjusting pace during a marathon, it’s no wonder that I blow up.  I’m wasting so much mental energy doing that.  And the physcial energy of the surges that I do to adjust my pace is also, obviously, a huge detriment to my racing.

So, what happened yesterday with the 400m intervals and pacing?  First interval was 1:36.  Next intervals were 1:35, 1:35, 1:35, 1:35, 1:35, 1:34, 1:34.  Victory!  AND, what makes this even more of a victory was that he made us take off our garmins for the last three intervals and just run by feel and I was still on pace.  (There was a group of 4 of us at this same pace, so it DID help to have everyone running together; I’d be curious to see if I could have done it – especially without the garmin – by myself).

So, just for fun on today’s run (by myself) I decided to test out consistency in pacing, listening to my body, getting into a groove/zone and maintaining that for the whole run.  The run was supposed to be 7  miles easy.  So I decided just to run the first mile at what FELT easy and then whatever pace that ended up at I would try to be within 5 – 8 seconds of for each of the next miles.  I forced myself not to look at garmin until it beeped at each mile (and, surprisingly, it was easy to not look!).

Results:

  • 9:01  (not shitting you, but during end of 1st mile, I told myself that if I had to guess what pace I was going, I would say 8:59.  Weird!)
  • 8:59 (tried to “feel” 9:01 pace and ended up doing it!)
  • 8:46 (got spacy and didn’t think about controlling pace; too fast)
  • 8:54 (tried to think more about pace and slow it down to 9:01; closer)
  • 9:02 (really tried to focus on feeling 9:01 pace this mile; victory!)
  • 8:59 (another victory!)
  • 9:02  (yipee!  I’m getting good at this!)
I was really surprised during this morning’s run that when I really focused on pacing, i was able to do it.  (I wasn’t dwelling on it constantly, just consciously thinking about it every 1/4 mile or so, checking my breathing to see if I “felt” like I was going at 9:00 pace and adjusting a bit if I felt like I was going too fast or too slow).  And the miles that were too fast were definitely because I got distracted and didn’t really think about pace until near what I thought was the end of each mile and then when I checked my breathing, I knew it was more labored than it should be for a 9:00 pace and so I tried to slow down, but still ended up with faster miles.
It’s funny, even though I have read a million books and heard a ton of stuff about pacing and consistency, it never really clicked until yesterday about just how important it is and until I started thinking about the mental and physical energy that I’ve been wasting in races with my inconsistent pacing.  I’m super excited to try another race soon to see if pacing consistently makes me race better.  (I don’t know why this writing switched to little font all the sudden and I can’t make it go away.  WTF?)
Happy Friday!  Crazy long hill workout tomorrow that will be fun to blog about.  Stay tuned!
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