Off Tempo (Again) - But a Plan!

With a bad head cold this week, I followed through on my plan to replace Wednesday's track workout with an easy paced 8.5 mile run. Just what the doctor ordered and coupled with some extra sleep this week, my cold is safely in the rearview.

My cross training workout yesterday was on the elliptical. Incidentally, the FIRST program doesn't recommend using ellipticals, as this doesn't give running muscles much of a rest. However, I had to work at home a few days this week and my bike was at the office, so.....

Anywho, today's plan called for a tempo run, and once again the FIRST's tempo plan kicked me in the tail. Despite handily completing their long runs and mostly succeeding on their interval workouts, I totally screwed up the tempo workout. The plan called for 3 tempo miles (in the middle of 3 easy miles) at 6:45 pace. I decided to go for 7:00, knowing the troubles I've been having on this workout. I hit the first mile, but mid-way into the second felt the wheels came off, and I finished the second in 7:30. By this point, my heartrate was lower than ideal for a tempo, so I phoned in the third mile at 8:12.

This latest failure prompted my e-mail to the FIRST guys:

I realize your website says you can't handle any more e-mail clients, but I'm hoping you might have time for a quick question.

I'm on my fifth week of your marathon program, aiming for a BQ of 3:15 in the marathon. Recent races indicate that I am "within range." I'm finding the long runs and paces to be very comfortable for me, confirmed by a low heart-rate. I'm also finding the track workouts challenging, but mostly attainable (I might falter on the last interval or two, but not by much.).

However, I'm struggling MIGHTILY on the tempo workouts. I'm often only able to get 50% of the tempo distance at the prescribed pace and sometimes worse.

In reading your book, I understand that struggling on the long runs means a lack of endurance and struggling on the track means a lack of speed, but I'm unsure what my particular problem would be and how best to improvise (if at all).

Incidentally, I do think the tempo work IS improving my comfort and heart rate on the long runs, but I'm wondering what I should do to maximize the tempo run, because I'm certain that I'm not getting the maximum benefit out of the workout.

Which generated a prompt response from Bill:

You are correct that the tempo work will improve your long runs and your

ability to maintain a faster pace in those long runs. You can maximize
the benefits from the tempo workout by following our guideline of running
at a sustained pace for the prescribed distance. If that sustained pace
is not the pace designated in Table 4.2 of our book, that's ok. The idea
is to improve your fitness level and to raise your lactate threshold.
It's important that you maintain a constant pace for 15-60 minutes. By
doing so, you will get fitter.

Keeping this in mind, I'm going to move my tempo efforts in the near term to 7:15. I think it's critical I get those sustained efforts in.

While I'm disappointed by my tempo performance, I'm still a huge fan of FIRST. I'm feeling extremely fresh most days and looking forward to this Sunday's 18-miler. Not sure what my pace will be, as I might move off-road for a trail run. If so, I'll just aim for the same HR from last week's 20 mile effort.


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