Death to the tempo run

I've had my own private little running hell for the past nine-ish months.  Every Tuesday morning I wake up to do a tempo run.  And every time I have a tempo run longer than five miles on the plan I can basically guarantee you that halfway through I will have to stop to go to the bathroom.

This morning was no different.  I had eight miles on the plan and immediately knocked it down to seven because eight miles is kinda crazy before work.  I was feeling good leaving the house and hoped that it was a good sign for the rest of the run.  After a warm-up run to Astoria Park I hit the road by the river for the meat and potatoes of the run.  Sure enough, 3.6 miles in I had to stop and go back home.

(Note: there is a bathroom at Astoria Park, but it has three problems.  First, it doesn't open during the winter.  Second, duirng the time of year it does open, it doesn't open until 7am--at which time I'm done with any running.  Third, even though I have developed low standards for bathrooms, these bathrooms are pretty damn awful.)

So while I was standing there on Shore Boulevard trying to make sure I didn't ruin my pants I decided to swear off tempo runs--or at least how I have been doing tempo runs.

In the little pockets of free time at my desk I've been researching tempo runs and come away with a few key pointers.  First and foremost it seems that I do tempo runs for far too long.  Apparently tempo runs are supposed to last from 20 to 35 minutes (for the meat and potatoes of the workout).  The back half of my training plan has me running no less than 40 minutes of tempo on Tuesdays.  I've always been suspicious of the length of my tempo runs, but I've always shrugged it off as me being scared of a difficult workout.  Turns out there was some merit to my weariness.

I do seem to have the pace down right.  I run in the range of 8:00-7:40 per mile and I would describe that as "comfortably hard."  That pace is significantly faster and harder than other runs, but I'm comfortable enough to run for 60 minutes if I needed to.  However, it does seem that I have the paces matched up backwards: I do longer runs at the fast pace while I do shorter runs at the slower pace.

Also, I learned that it's acceptable to break a tempo run into two by taking a short recovery interval of 60 seconds (some articles went all the way up to seven minutes).  I always avoided breaking up my tempo runs.  If I stopped, I stopped for good.  If I kept running while I was losing steam I would just run myself into the ground.

There was a lot of talk about heart rates in the articles--and of course I can't find any of them now.  However, I remember reading that more seasoned runners (moi?) usually do tempos runs at 85-90% of max heart rate.  It would help if I knew my max heart rate.  I really have to put my heart rate monitor to better use than providing an additional line on my Garmin output chart.

So tonight I'm going to look at my juggarnaut training plan for DC/Wilmington and play around with the tempo runs.  I'll be trimming back the distance and rearranging the speed.  During workouts I'll take a longer warm-up and include sprints.  For the longer runs (5+ miles) I'll take a recovery interval in the middle.  I'll also try to figure out my max rate during repeats this Thursday morning (really should have done this back when I first got my heart rate monitor).


Krista said...

I'm lucky that poop issues rarely affect me when running but I know this is a really common problem for endurance athletes. I once went into the bathrooms in Astoria Park and they weren't "sooo" bad but usually I will just wait the 7 blocks it takes me to get home!

Jess said...

Once upon a time, I had some poop issues, but they all seem to have subsided. My guts toughened up I guess.

Biscuitman said...

Hi Rod

Check out this site/calculator to assist in determining the optimum pace for your workouts esp tempo.

if you are running them at the right pace, all the better if you can run them for longer.



PS - Thanks for putting me in your blog list

Kevin said...

I am using a FIRST plan for my marathon and they have short, mid, and long tempos all with different paces.

There is also a good xl spreadsheet at http://www.electricblues.com/html/runpro.html that will give you different paces for different length tempo runs along
with a whole bunch of other good stuff

Alinabi said...

I've seen great improvement in my lactate threshold with tempo sessions structured as follows: 20 min @ tempo; 4 min recovery; 15 min @ tempo; 3 min recovery; 10 min @ tempo; 2 min recovery; 5 min @ tempo

This works out to a total of 50 min @ tempo pace. I do it once a week and in the past year my lactate threshold has moved almost 45sec/mile

I am no stranger to intestinal troubles during runs, but they usually happen to me after at least 2 hours of running, so they never ruined my tempo sessions.