One Tempo Run to Rule Them All

The first tempo run of mesocycle 2 is endowed with special confidence-boosting/ confidence-crushing power. Mine was scheduled for last night, so I spent most of the day in a state of nervous distraction about which kind it would be. I don't usually dread tempo runs like I know lots of people do, but I acknowledge their power to throw some REAL TALK at me: about my training, my progress, and my goals. Tempo runs don't lie.

Maybe now's a good time to disclose that I'm trying to take 13 minutes off of my half marathon PR (1:57:58, from May 2012). That's one minute per mile, which is why I dedicated 18 whole weeks to train for the Wisconsin Half. 

I've struggled with confidence throughout this training cycle, mostly out of respect for my ambitious goal, but also because I don't have any recent race times to use to assess my fitness. I picked my target paces by plugging in my goal time (1:44:59) into my trusty McMillan Running Calculator and decided I'd just make myself hit whatever paces it spit out. In other words, I am taking a deductive approach -- figuring out what I need to be hitting during training to reach my goal -- rather than figuring out what I can hit during training and basing my goal on that. I know this is kind of dumb and can lead to overtraining, but at the time it seemed like the best approach --  especially during base-building, when all runs are easy runs and the paces are conservative by design.

My Pfitzinger plan told me to do 10 miles with five at 15k to HM pace last night. I am aiming for slightly lower mileage than the marathon plan I'm using, so I planned to do 8-9 miles total but keep the five 15k-HM pace miles in there. McMillan told me my 15k pace should be 7:50 and my HM pace should be 8:01.

Considering my five mile PR is 43:55 (8:47 pace), this is kind of terrifying.

So I spent all day marinating in doubt. My goal didn't seem so unrealistic when I was logging base miles, but faced with an impending Moment of Truth, my confidence started to unravel. That five mile PR came hard-earned at the end of a long summer of racing short distances. I logged into my running group's board and asked if anyone would be down to do 5 miles with me at an 8:20 pace.  I thought I could maybe hang at that pace, with the help of some peer pressure. Sadly, there were no takers.

I was going to face the moment of truth by myself.

If I could hang on to a 7:50 - 8:00 pace, then maybe I could actually make this sub-1:45 thing happen.

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Yeah, even with a couple stoplights thrown in, I broke my 5 mile PR last night. 

The best part is that I didn't feel like I was racing or running irresponsibly fast. I only checked my Garmin two or three times (once in the beginning and realized I needed to slow down right this second). It just felt like a comfortably hard tempo run. Nothing hurt. My breathing was getting labored by the end, but I could have kept up the pace for another mile or two. Grinning stupidly, I met up with my running group, which was assembling in the park just as I was wrapping up, for 3-4 social cool-down miles. 

80 days until Wisconsin!