Getting Up to Tempo

Sorry for the title, but I can’t resist a pun…

Last week was my first week of training toward the Danville 10K. My plan is essentially the same structurally as what I did for the Bank of the West Oakland 5K, just more of everything. However, for the first week of training, I didn’t want to jump into the deep end right away.

For example: for 5K training, I did fartlek intervals of 10 x (1 min on/1 min off). For the 10K, I’d like to get up to 20 repeats, but that seems like a big jump from 10. So, for the first week of training, I compromised and did 15 intervals. And wow – the difference between 10 and 15 repeats is huge! Ten intervals seem to go by so much faster. I think that getting up to 20 repeats will really help me with both speed and mental stamina.

My other workout of the week was a tempo run. For those who don’t know, a tempo run is supposed to be done at your lactic threshold, so they’re sometimes called anaerobic threshold runs. Because they challenge your system aerobically without overtaxing it, tempo runs are the bread and butter of every training plan, from the 5K up to full marathon. They can range from the classic 20 minute tempo, up to 75 minutes (with warm-up and cool-down, of course). Alternatively, you can do tempo intervals – usually something like 2 x 15-20 minutes with 4-5 minute jog recovery in between.

It seems like just about every running coach/website/blog recommends doing tempo runs, but if you look around, there’s a lot of varying information out there on how fast to do your tempo runs. Outside of getting tested at a exercise physiology lab or buying a device that measures your lactic acid levels, there doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule regarding tempo pace. Not to mention, your threshold may vary based on daily fluctuations in hydration, nutrition, rest, etc. And your lactic threshold will definitely change as you get fitter. A lot of articles I’ve read say that tempo pace for most people is somewhere between your 10K and half marathon pace. Some get more specific and say 10-15 seconds per mile slower than 10K pace. But if you haven’t run a 10K in a while, like me, then the best you can do is take your most recent race time, plug it into the McMillan Running calculator, get a predicted 10K pace and go from there. Another article by Jenny Hadfield describes running tempo by feel. Essentially, she recommends using the talk test to measure effort. While running below threshold, she says that it should be relatively easy to recite The Pledge of Allegiance. However, as you approach threshold, your breath gets more labored until you can only spit out one word at a time. That’s the tempo pace for the day, and the best part this approach is that it will adjust to your fitness accordingly. Plus, it’s free and easy. By the way, if you’re gasping for air, you’ve gone too far into anaerobic, and it’s time to rein it back in. (I also found this article by Mario Fraioli to be pretty helpful in terms of tweaking tempo workouts, depending on your race distance and weeks before race day.)

So, armed with this knowledge, I embarked on a 20-minute tempo run last Thursday morning. I warmed up with an easy mile, then started on my tempo, quietly reciting The Pledge under my breath as I increased my pace. I settled into a one-word-at-a-time pace, which turned out to be around 8:30/mile. According to McMillan, 8:30/mile is on the slow end of my tempo range, but I was happy with that pace for my first outing. Plus I was really consistent – 8:30 for the first mile, and 8:29 for the second. My only “complaint” is that I only ran for 17 minutes instead of 20 as planned. I mistook the Garmin auto-lap beep as the “end of interval” alert, so I pressed lap until I got to the cool down window. My old Garmin never did auto-laps during intervals, so I had no idea that this was going to happen. At first, I was really mad at my Garmin for “malfunctioning”, but then I realized it was my own fault. Ha! Oh, technology…

Finally, the other run worth noting from last week was a trail adventure with DD, Layla, and Kristen at Lake Chabot. DD ran her first marathon at Oakland 2 weeks ago, so she and I were both itching to get back on trails. Kristen was on daughter duty, so she did a couple of out and backs on the paved portion, while DD, Layla, and I did one lap around Lake Chabot. It was perfect weather and I had great company. Plus everything was green and the Lake appears to be back to normal levels again. I wore a new pair of Altra Lone Peak 2.5’s, and they were perfect right out of the box. Awesome shoes! Then we went to have brunch at Cannery Cafe, which IMO is the best brunch spot in the Hayward/Castro Valley Area in terms of food, wait, parking, etc.

Today (Monday), I came home early from work because I’m not feeling well. Hopefully, it’s just a one-off thing, but I noticed my resting heart rate was higher than normal this morning. I will probably take it easy tomorrow – either rest or scrap the workout and just run easy. Hope you all have a great week!




Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in Trail running, Training
2 comments on “Getting Up to Tempo
  1. Cathryn says:

    I wish I’d seen you running along, pledging allegiance 🙂

    • Jen says:

      Haha, that would be quite a sight!! I’m usually whispering instead of saying it out loud. Wouldn’t want to scare my neighbors! 😉

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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