I used to play the violin (and probably will in the future), and the second biggest struggle I had with performing was keeping a consistent tempo. (The biggest problem I had was playing in tune.) I was always rushing, or lagging, or both in the same piece.
I had the same issue during my tempo run. My “coach” (aka Hal Higdon) says that in a tempo run, “the pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about two-thirds into the workout and only for a few minutes.” He also says peak speed should be near, not at or above, race pace.
I failed at basically every part of what he prescribes for a tempo run. Sigh.
I am getting better at warming up. With shorter runs, adding a mile or so to my distance hasn’t been a big deal, and I’m getting more relaxed about my training times. For example, I warmed up for about half a mile on Thursday, and then stopped to do a little bit of stretching without pausing my watch. So it looks like I ran half a mile in 12 minutes when I download my stats, but I didn’t. (The only problem with not pausing my watch is it messes with my average heart rate stats, since my heart rate obviously decreases when I’m stopping to stretch.) Instead of worrying about what my “real” pace was during that half mile, I’m just shrugging it off.
After my warm-up, I did about 10 minutes of “easy” running at a 16:55 pace. I know this because I used the “lap” feature on my watch, which is something I need to do more. I’ve been letting it do auto-laps and just looked at the mile splits, but for speedwork I should be using it to gauge my real paces during pickups or hills or whatever. My average heart rate for the “easy” running section was 133 bpm, which was lower than I wanted it to be, but my legs felt like sandbags. I couldn’t get them to move faster. I suppose spending hours on my feet during my “rest day” Wednesday might be to blame.
I reached the 20 minute “tempo” portion, but I could seem to speed up at first. I was going uphill, which I realize was dumb, but I kept slowing down, then going too fast, then slowing down. There was no gradual increase in tempo. Whoops. I also went too fast toward the end, and ended up running sub-5k pace for about 0.2 miles, which won’t kill me or anything, but is yet another sign that I don’t have any idea how to regulate my pace.
I did another mile of “easy” running, which doubled as my cooldown, I guess. I don’t see much of a difference between easy running and cooling down. Since I am using my heart rate to dictate what an easy pace is (below my aerobic threshold), there might not be much difference.
I have to figure out a couple things before next week’s attempt at a tempo run. I need to find a flatter spot to run these things (I have an idea on that), and I need to plan out what kind of paces I’m thinking of striving for along the way. Do I want to start at 14:30, then progress to 14:00 over a few minutes, then 13:30, etc? I had a pretty good idea that I wanted to top out at 12:00 since right now I’m thinking my goal pace for this race will be 11:30 (I don’t know if that’s realistic or not, but I think since that’s right around my 5K pace right now, and I’ll have 2 months more training under my belt, it’s doable), but then I couldn’t stay there as I would either overshoot it or back off too far. With a better idea of the paces I want to progress through, more even terrain, and legs that aren’t dead, I think I can have a better tempo run next week.