3 Keys To Unlock A Run PR

One tip: The most demanding workout of the week should challenge you above and below the pace that you will actually run on race day.

Photo: Photo: Nils Nilsen

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Ironman legend Scott Molina once advised me to run every day. At the time, I thought he was crazy. How could I run every day? My legs would fall off and I’d never recover. In fact, Scott’s advice became the cornerstone of my run program and enabled me to run the fastest overall splits at many triathlons.

You can also benefit from a few other valuable tips I’ve learned along the way:

1. Schedule run “blocks” into your big-picture program.  

The easiest way to increase your run frequency is to designate a month where you try to run daily, making the supplemental sessions 30 minutes at an easy pace. You will see results from inserting several of these run months into your annual training program. However, remember to be flexible and listen to your body if you start to feel an injury coming on. No single training session is worth jeopardizing your overall training consistency.

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2. Base your running program on your current race pace.

The next step is to understand how your existing program addresses the demands of your goal event. When you read “3×2 miles at race pace,” what speed comes to mind? For most of us, the combination of “race” and “pace” leads us to believe that we should run as fast as we can. However, are you sure that best-effort pace is truly your race pace?

I pulled up the results from three recent races: Ironman Melbourne, Ironman 70.3 Texas and the Los Angeles Triathlon. Athletes often base training targets on goal paces that are influenced by their fastest training partners and imaginations! But let’s examine the actual paces in the middle of the field—people are often amazed by what true race pace is in the mid-pack:

» Ironman runner at Melbourne 2012 = 9:00 to 11:00 per mile

» 70.3 runner at Galveston 2012 = 9:00 to 10:20 per mile

» Olympic-distance runner at Los Angeles 2011 = 8:00 to 9:00 per mile

Take an honest look at the pace you run to ground your workout effort in the reality of your current fitness.

RELATED: How To Pace Your Race

3. The most demanding workout of the week should challenge you above and below the pace that you will actually run on race day.

For all distances, I find that the most effective workout is a high-quality two-hour long run (for less experienced runners, strive to get your long run up to the two-hour mark, even if that means running slowly or integrating walking breaks). To simulate race-day stress, place main sets at the end of the workout. The purpose of placing the main sets late in the session is to create a habit of negative splitting the back half of your runs. All other run volume in this session should be an easy or steady effort. These workouts will help train your body to recover while running slightly slower than race pace, and expand your ability to tolerate pace changes around average race pace.

Ironman: Insert 3×25 minutes running 10 seconds per mile faster than average race pace. Recover with 5 minutes running 20 seconds per mile slower than average race pace.

70.3: Insert 2×4 miles where you alternate a mile 10–15 seconds per mile faster than average race pace with a mile 10–15 seconds slower than race pace for recovery. Power walk for 10 seconds after each mile and 60 seconds between sets.

Olympic: Insert 2×3 miles where you alternate a half-mile at 10 seconds per mile faster than average race pace with a half mile 10 seconds per miles slower than average race pace. Do 2 miles at 1 minute per mile slower than average race pace between sets.

These sessions are demanding but achievable when done as prescribed. A successful session will prove your ability to handle that specific pace, which will give you the confidence to extend your limits on race day.

RELATED: Dear Coach With Gordo Byrn

Gordo Byrn is the founder of Endurance Corner (Endurancecorner.com), a past champion of Ultraman Hawaii and co-author of Going Long.

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