With just about a week left before the Rev3 Maine Half Iron, I have been working on my race speeds. Doing this is probably the hardest thing about my training. I typically train all out, balls to the wall and leave it out there every day. I know it's not the smartest training and I shouldn't be doing that, but it's just something that I always do and feel like it benefits me more than going for an easy run or bike. I read an article recently about how athlete's "easy" days are too easy, but more importantly athletes "hard" days are too hard. I usually fall into the every day is too hard.
Because of how I train, practicing my "race pace" is often painfully boring or hard to hold myself back. For example, my race pace for the half iron run split is going to be around the 6:40-6:45 pace. Well, that's the planned pace, we'll see how it goes on race day. However, when I train, my mile splits are typically anywhere from 6:15-6:30's depending on the length of run, course, how I feel, etc. But I barely bring myself down to that 6:45 split, except for marathon season where I am hovering around 6:55's for distances over 17 miles. So in order to hit my race pace goals, I desperately need to work on my pacing, both on the bike and the run.
This past weekend, I went out for my last "long" bike ride before the race. I would have liked to schedule one more in, but because I have to travel for work this weekend, then the wife, Riley and I are driving up to Maine on Sunday, I can't find time to fit in a long bike. Knowing this, I worked on 2 things. First, not crashing. Sunday was the first day I felt really comfortable on the bike again. I mean, really comfortable. Not, hey, I kind of know what I'm doing. Not alright, I can do this. It was, "let's go". Let's hit that pavement and put some serious miles down. I'm very happy about that. It was a nice confidence boost.
Second thing I worked on was pacing, cadence, and gearing on the bike. I tried to envision race day and knowing I would have a half marathon after the bike, I didn't want to blow my load on the bike. As a result, during my ride, I typically was in one gear easier than I train in for most of the ride. There were points were I definitely wanted to fly and pushed it at those spots, as well as other areas where the hills were killer and I really wanted to attack the hills to make sure I knew I was ready, but overall the ride felt somewhat easier than I'm used to. I ended up going for a quick 3 mile run as an unintended brick workout after the ride was done, but all in all I was happy how I cycled and felt good throughout the ride and even during my run. I found my sweet spot for how hard I should be working and what gears I should be in for this long of a race. In fact, my run was waaaaay too fast after the ride, but that was something I started focusing on next.
Working on my run race pace is a lot harder for me than working on cycling race pace. We all have those days where everything just seems right and your runs are smoother, faster, crisper than normal. That's been my week this week. I keep trying to hold myself back but my legs just keep going faster. I finally had about 3 runs this week where I forced myself to be between 6:37-6:44 miles. I will say this, when working on that specific pace, I enjoyed the runs a lot more than normal. I felt like Superman. I felt like I could go forever. Isn't it weird that when I want to run a 6:45 mile for a marathon it's the hardest thing in the world, but now that it's a shorter distance, I felt like it was so easy?
I know I shouldn't always going all out when training, but during my first few race pace runs this week, I felt like I was losing fitness. How weird is that? I finally came to realize I wasn't losing any fitness and I know I can crank out fast miles if I wanted to, but right now that isn't the goal. My goal is to find that rhythm where I can feel great for the first 8 miles of the half marathon part and then start to increase my pace. I don't want to lose it early in the run so I definitely came to grips with my race plan.
Race pace vs. training pace is just so difficult. Let's just hope I continue to figure it out over the next 9 days so everything goes right on that Sunday.