Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: Race-Pace Miles

>> Thursday, September 11, 2014

I started preaching my love for "race-pace miles" at the start of 2013 after I won the MDRA Grand Prix running series in 2012. I had a big post about the 7 things I learned during my biggest running year ever, and I wanted to take out THEE more important point to re-share again. I've been doing a lot of race-pace miles in the last few weeks and it's been on my mind recently. So here's the most important thing I learned after racing the MDRA Grand Prix series 2 years ago:

Race-pace miles will make you faster AND keep you from becoming injured.
When do you say "this workout will make you faster AND keep you injury-free?" That doesn't happen. Intervals are great for making you faster, but they can take a toll on your body (my sore heel doesn't always like them). Running easier keeps you more injury-free, but that doesn't help your speed. Doing longer runs is great for your endurance, but that might flare up an overuse injury. What I'm trying to say is you NEVER hear "do this to stay healthy AND make you faster" with regards to a run workout! So this tip is magical!!

I started doing race-pace miles with Coach Jen Harrison 2 years ago in my quest for a sub-60 TC 10 Mile. And I really learned a lot about them since then just by doing them so much. This past year, I did 3 half-marathons and a 25K (15.5 miles), and I used workouts with race-pace miles leading up to all of those races (and I use them frequently on my stroller runs with my son). Speaking of my son...

Henry digging for raisins during his first 10K with me!
(We passed most of those people in front of us to finish 4th out of 300+.)

Let's say I want to run 13 miles - I'd maybe break it down like this: warm-up for 3 miles, up the pace for mile 4, and then run 6 miles around race pace (maybe all near a certain pace or maybe all descending a bit [like 6:30, 6:25, 6:15, 6:10, and then whatever I can for the last 2]), and finally I'd cool down for the last 3 miles.

They helped me get faster by teaching my body how to run at a certain pace. It's like I'm saying "Hey body - THIS is what you need to get used to doing. THIS PACE RIGHT HERE. Got it?" But being it's not super fast for the entire run, you'll save some stress on your body. And I've been more prone to "overdoing it" as I put the years on this body of mine...

They helped me stay injury-free because they "mixed-up" my long runs. I'm prone to overuse injuries, so if I just ran a 13 mile training run at 1 pace, I could easily get injured. But by mixing up the tempo, it really helps my body deal with that distance. I've often felt aches start to show up as I'm starting to build my speed, but being I'm only running at that pace for a bit, the aches go away when the speed changes. This might not help everyone, but it's really helped me. Henry and I do this on nearly every run together of 6 miles or more.

Oh, and I should note 2 more things with regards to "race-pace miles." First, it's EASIER to run LONGER doing this. How awesome is that! Look at my example above of "3 mile WU, build for a mile, 6 miles faster, CD for 3 miles." That doesn't sound too bad; you're only just thinking about the next few miles in the workout. But once you do that, you've covered 13 (potentially boring) miles! Second, this only works well (for me) for longer races, like 10 miles or up. Maybe even 10Ks too. Race-pace miles wouldn't have quite the same benefit for me if I tried doing a 6 mile run with the middle 2 at 5K pace. Use these in your longer-distance race training.

I felt the need to add an "amendment" to this entry the day after posting it. With regards to "race-pace miles," I don't run them "all out." I run them like I'm running the middle of a race. So if I'm doing 6 miles at race-pace, I'm not sprinting to the finish - THAT would get me injured. I save that sort of speed for tempo runs or shorter intervals. Instead, I'm "keeping it strong" throughout as if I were maybe running miles 3-8 of a half marathon. I finish the race-pace miles feeling well worked, but not dead.

This point was the longest one that I wrote about in my "things I learned" post, so check it out for my other tips. I think there's some good stuff in that post.

p.s. I did some race pace miles in a long run a few days ago:

I hope my upcoming TC 10 Mile race pace is somewhere in that 6:20 range! We'll see in a few weeks...


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