Training by Pace for the Run
By far and away the most accurate way for you to improve your run performance is to make sure that you know exactly what pace you are aiming for on each run.
Here at oxygenaddict.com, the specific run paces we use are E-pace, M-pace, T-pace and I-pace.
Head over to our Run Pace Calculator, and type in a recent race result, and click 'calculate.'
On the 'Training' tab, it lists these paces, each one specific to your own fitness.
E-pace is 'easy pace' - the key pace for most triathletes to train at. It's a comfortable, conversational pace. Key physiological benefits: The heart muscle is strengthened, muscles receive increased blood supplies and increase their ability to process oxygen delivered through the cardiovascular system.
M-pace is 'marathon' pace, used to help prepare runners for the demands of a long hard marathon race. It's also a very useful pace for triathletes, especially training for a 70.3 triathlon. It's been my coaching experience that few triathletes are able to run a marathon at their M-pace - unless they committed to preparing for the marathon like a 'runner' would do - ie. very high milage, running every day, often twice a day. For most triathletes, this is likely to be closer to their open half marathon pace.
T-pace is the pace you can sustain at functional Threshold. This type of training taxes your ability to tolerate and clear lactic acid. In a very motivated race, you might be able to hold this pace for an hour. In training, it is usually used for longer reps of 5-15 minutes, or 'comfortably fast' tempo runs of 3-4 miles.
I-pace is your pace at VO2max - the pace that forces your muscles to absorb the maximum amount of oxygen they can per minute. You might be able to hold this pace for 15 minutes when highly trained in a race. In training, we usually us it for reps of 3-5 minutes. This is the fastest running that we schedule for our runners at oxygenaddict.com due to the risk of injury and severe soreness greatly increasing above this pace.
To take the example of a runner who has a pb of 20 minutes for 5k:
T-pace - 1.43 per 400m, or 6.53 per mile.
I-pace - 1.34 per 400m, or 6.19 per mile
The aim of your training is to get the optimum result from the least possible training stress. Don't be tempted to push yourself 'a little faster' than either of these paces. Training a little faster than prescribed pace is possible (in the short term at least) - but you won't be doing yourself any extra good.
In the example above, our 20 minute 5km runner could choose to 'push himself' during a T-pace session, and run his 1 mile repeats in 6.40 per mile instead of his T-pace of 6.53. He would be physically capable of doing it - after all, his I-pace is 6.19 per mile. However, all he will accomplish is to increase the amount of time it takes to recover from the session. He will not increase the 'training effect' of his session by having 'pushed himself' a bit harder - in fact, going too hard early in a run session simply means that later in the session the athlete is too tired to even sustain T-pace - and the overall effect is a reduced training effect!
The lesson to take away from this - train at the pace prescribed for the session. It will give you the optimum result from the least possible training stress and will ensure you can recover quickly, so you can train again!