Tempo runs have notoriously been my kryptonite. Sure I claim long runs my arch nemesis, but tempos always seem to have a way of breaking me and totally blinding me to any of the promising aspects of my training. I’ve come in slumped shoulders and head hanging in (painful) defeat more often than not, and for a workout that seems the most directly translatable to races, it’s not a great feeling.
I can balls out interval, grunt up hills, and progression fast finish run like a champ (most times), but ask me to run at a moderate-hard steady state for an extended period of time and I crumble.
Like most things, I’m sure the problem is 99% in my head. I go in completely fearing the workout, envisioning myself in the 8th layer of pain train hell where incessant Garmin beeps tell me I’m not good enough while I dry heave in the bushes.
How’s that for imagery?
(wanted to MS paint a pic of that for you but too tired, sorry)
So it’s no wonder I put off this week’s tempo until the last possible minute, finally heading out at 9pm simply because I didn’t want to admit to y’all I skipped it in favor of a nap and lazy night on the couch.
here’s a pic of my holey sock and Morton’s Toe, not entirely unrelated to the story since I did wear them on the run, but pretty pointless other than to break up this otherwise photo-less post.
The moonlight and sporadic street lights weren’t quite enough for a clear read on my Garmin screen, so I decided to throw out the pace plan (slightly faster than half marathon pace) and try to run based on effort. Tempo effort = “this hurts, but I can hang here a while longer”
- p.s. I feel like “run on effort” is totally the hippie runner equivalent of “finding your om” or aligning your chakras or something
Mile one I focused on finding a rhythm, where a slight burn proved my legs were working and my breath quickened but was controlled. I thought about my form – head up, shoulders down, hands hips to nips, knees up, kick your heel – and just tried to settle in.
When Garmin beeped I resisted the urge to check the split, knowing the number would either stress me into speeding up or scare me into slowing down.
For a three mile tempo, obviously similar to a 5k, this next stretch is really what sucks. You’re starting to hurt, are less than halfway done, and aren’t too committed to not consider bagging it. It seems impossible to hang on like this for 10+ more minutes.
When I turned at halfway the slight headwind became a tail and it was all the boost I needed. I refocused on form and trying to maintain that level of uncomfortable-but-manageable effort. No numbers telling me too fast or too slow, just my own conscience voting whether I was working hard enough.
At the 2 mile beep I found myself instinctively picking up the pace. I knew I shouldn’t – constant even-paced miles were the goal here, but I worried that without the data cluing me in that maybe I was slowing down? What felt like 80% effort at the start surely would feel harder by the finish.
That last mile was hard, but I just kept repeating “don’t give in now. don’t give in now.” Just like gutting out those last repeats at the track, I didn’t want to look back on this moment of the run with regret.
7:30, 7:29, 7:13
I jogged through a few mile cool down, writing this post in my head (no attempt at siri dictation this time) as a means of processing the workout. Conclusion? The times I’ve been posting haven’t been significantly better or worse than previous training cycles, but I feel like I’m making huge strides in my mental game this go round. And knowing that’s one of the big, fat, gaping holes in my marathon game? More encouraging than anything Garmin can tell me.