Not wanting the grass to grow under my feet this past long weekend I convinced myself to head out the door on Saturday for one last long run before the half. Seeing how I only planned to run 11 miles I figured I would take the opportunity to do a little race tune-up. I decided to start out a little faster than easy pace and try to keep the pace low for as long as I could hold on. I had just done tempo on Thursday, but only for 7 miles, so my goal was comfortably hard for the full 11.
After a half-mile warm-up the first mile ticked off in 7:30, second went by in 7:15, third 7:08 and still comfortable. At this point the trail mile markers end and I have to run based on feel, always a challenge given that the path climbs up the backside of a dam. I still felt strong though, so was able to push up the hill and reach the turnaround point in 40:37. This pace was perfect as I was just starting to feel fatigue in my legs and knew that it would be a challenge to keep everything together for the return split. By the time I hit the mile markers again I was moving fast, but feeling the cumulative effort. I continued to push the pace and managed to hit close to 7:00 for the final 3 miles, finishing the cool down with a slightly positive split, 1:21:35.
I believe that one of my greatest strengths in running is pacing and this workout plays right into that. Being able to relax at the start and come out hitting my pace right off the bat gives me the chance to finish strong. This means that I have to have an idea of what I can realistically run for a race. Running the tune-up gives me a chance to train both at once, first, gauge how race pace feels off the line and, second, what kind of effort I need to summon in order to finish at that pace.