Ask the Coach: Keeping Pace
Pacing trail workouts, raw food diets and proper foot placement
Photo by Jason Hatfield
I have been a competitive road runner and recently converted to trail running. I’m not sure how to calculate my pace for workouts. For example, if a workout suggests 20 to 25 seconds slower than 5K race pace, should I use my 5K road race pace, or run a time trial on a trail? And, how do I take the hills and terrain into account when figuring out training pace?
—Reid Axman, Phoenix, AZ
Training with pace gives runners a quantifiable goal. Many great pace calculators exist to help you figure out how fast a five-minute-50-second-mile runner might expect to run 800 meters.
Transitioning from the track to the trails, though, can be tough. The uneven terrain, mountain climbs and occasional bushwhacks don’t lend themselves to keeping a consistent pace. You need to shift your thinking. As endurance coach Gordo Byrn, founder of EnduranceCorner.com, says, “The key is to run the equivalent effort and release yourself from pace expectations.”
With each run, have a goal. Whether you intend to run easy or at race pace, choose your route accordingly. For example, a recovery run in which you keep your heart rate low is more easily accomplished on a flat trail without big climbs. “Downhills are great for working on quickness/cadence, and the uphills should be capped by effort/heart rate, rather than pace,” says Byrn.
The unpredictability of the trails means a single workout can run you through the entire gamut of heart-rate zones and effort levels. Therefore it’s easier to focus on overall effort. As Byrn says, “The trails are a specific skill, and pace at all efforts improves with trail time.”
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