We all know pacing is vital to our racing success. If you have ever gone out too fast in a race, you will always remember the physical consequences of “having nothing left with 5k to go"! But the reality is that there is no single physiological theory that can properly explain why fatigue happens and what limits our performance. Pacing is experience and training, not a biological limit: in other words pacing is a conscious decision and thus a “learn-able” skill. Pacing is not easily achieved by simply running more often or having a GPS watch, though tracking pace is made more easy and practical. Pacing is a learned skill purposely practiced during training sessions . The benefit of running with a group is to challenge ourselves, but be cautious, most of us are inclined to thinking we can run faster because our goals are time-driven. The goal is to run smarter in training by developing our “internal” pacing skills, especially if your goal is to run endurance events such as half and full marathons.
Last evening, our Edmonton Run Project had a 6km steady run. The purpose of a steady run is to gain the physiological benefit of improved aerobic fitness by strengthening our cardiovascular abilities and muscular endurance. Objectively, you should be running at 70 to 80% of maximum heart rate to gain this benefit. Running at a higher intensity of 80 to 90% is designed to increase VO2max. Subjectively, a steady run should feel “somewhat hard” and you should be able to maintain a conversation throughout.
Here are three pacing stories. Thanks Andre and Lindsey for sharing...
Objectively, this workout was 6.18 kilometers of running in a time of 34:16, with an average pace of 5:33 min/km (including 2 stops at lights). I “lapped” three running segments of about 10 minutes each to get a sense of my pace and how it changes over the 6 km – I was 5:27 for first 2.41km, 5:27 for middle 1.29km, and 5:27 for last 2.31km. Average heart rate was 81% and max heart rate was 90% at the end. I spent 75% of my time in zone 4 (149 bpm is low end of this zone) and only 17% in zone 3 (our intended 70-80% zone).
Subjectively, we started off as a group and everyone was talking (a good measure that we were running at “somewhat hard”). I started to feel people falling off pace between 4-5km. I decided to continue running at the same pace as a visual “guide post”. When my pace starts to slow, I think about picking up my cadence and tell myself (in my head) “quick, light feet”. I was looking at my watch to make sure I was not going too fast or slow, and this caused me to be a little “jumpy” in my pacing for the last part. I would suggest looking at your watch sparingly and review your training data later.
Objectively, this workout was 3.83 miles of running in a time of 34:53, with an average pace of 9:06 min/mi (5:36 min/km). Average heart rate was 165 bpm and max heart rate was 178 bpm at the end, and total calories burned were 598.
Subjectively, Andre started to fall off our starting pace around 4.5km. He started feeling uncomfortable as a result of eating too closely to a run workout. Noticing he had fallen off pace, a strategy Andre used was to give a big push at the end to catch up to the group – his heart rate spiked but he was almost done the distance to this was OK!
Objectively, this workout was 6.11 kilometers of running in a time of 34:28, thus an average pace of 5:29 min/km. Average heart rate was 160 bpm and max heart rate was 181 bpm at the end - there was a hill if you look at the elevation chart.
Subjectively, Lindsey started to fall off our starting pace around 5km. She mentioned that she would probably have gone a bit slower on her own. Seeing people ahead as a marker was “the only motivator to keep my pace up”. Lindsey felt her HR was pretty high for a steady run and could still talk but “didn't really want to”.
Finding your “just right” pace in a group setting