Propel Run Performance with Properly Paced Training
January 13, 2020

Whether you're training for a local sprint or a full IRONMAN, training at the right intensity levels in your run sessions will pay off big time! But how do you know when to run 'hard', when to run 'easy', what exactly is 'hard' or 'easy', how long to hold different intensities, and when it's better to use heartrate or pace? In this episode, we'll drill down on these and other topics with run experts Jeff Raines and Elizabeth James.


TriDot Podcast .12

Propel Run Performance with Properly Paced Training

This is the TriDot Podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.

Andrew: Welcome everyone. I am super excited that you joined us today. We have a great show lined up talking all about how to pace yourself and your run training. My first guest today is coach Jeff Raines. Jeff has a Masters of Science in exercise physiology and can still throw down a sub 16 minute 5K and a one hour and 15 minutes half marathon. He's fast y’all. He has qualified for Boston multiple times and has over 30 Ironman event finishes to his credit. He was a D1 Collegiate Runner and is one of my favorite people to talk to about running. Jeff, thanks so much for hopping back on the podcast to talk running.

Jeff: Hey, feels good to be back. Thank you. I'm excited to hit the ground running here today with our podcast.

Andrew: Next up is pro triathlete, Elizabeth James. Elizabeth is a Kona and Boston Marathon qualifier who has a recent marathon PR of three hours and 59 seconds. Elizabeth is on a quest to complete a marathon in all 50 states, and with 18 states down is already well on her way. Elizabeth, thanks for joining us today.

Elizabeth: Again, thank you so much for having me. I'm always excited to talk about triathlon and I get super excited for talking about everything related to running, so let's dive right in.

Andrew: And who am I? I am your host Andrew, the average triathlete voice of the people and captain of the mid pack. Listen, y'all every good workout starts with a warm up peaks with a set and concludes with a nice refreshing cool down. And that is exactly what we aim for here on the TriDot Podcast. Today, we’ll warm up with a fun hypothetical question that will help you get to know coach Jeff Raines and coach Elizabeth James. Then we'll move on to our conversation about pacing in our run training. Before cooling down with a segment we call Triathlon Mythbusters. Lots to cover. Let's get it going.

Time to warm up. Let's get moving.

Andrew: All right. Elizabeth, Jeff, put your creative thinking caps on because today, we're going to warm up with this. If you could cherry pick your favorite swim, bike and run courses and put them together to build your ideal Ironman Racecourse, what would your perfect course look like? Elizabeth, let's start with you.

Elizabeth: Gosh, okay. Perfect course, cherry picked so I can choose any-- [crosstalk]

Andrew: What swim course would you want, what bike course would you want, what run course would you want, smash them together, Ironman perfection. What are you going with?

Elizabeth: I'm loving this question. So, swim, that one's an easy choice for me. Chattanooga swim, down current, straight shot, that's definitely going to be swim course.

Andrew: Always a crowd pleaser, the down river swim.

Elizabeth: Oh, yeah, exactly. Bike course, this one, I'm going to go with Kona. Gosh, I mean, challenging, has a whole bunch of different elements that are big factors there, the wind, the heat the climb up to Hawi but gosh, it's breathtaking, it's beautiful. So, let's go. Chattanooga swim, Kona bike, and then I'm going to go with the Wisconsin run course to conclude it.

Andrew: Wisconsin run.

Elizabeth: Yes. Yeah. So, I mean running downtown Madison, I love college football so running through Camp Randall stadium is great. I love the part that's out there by the lake, so we're going to have my ideal course be Chattanooga swim, Kona bike, and then the Wisconsin run course.

Andrew: I do want to distinguish, I think those are all great choices and those are all courses you've raced on, which is important.

Elizabeth: Yes, that’s true.

Andrew: I want this to be courses you've raced on and I will say this if you've done a half Ironman event, and you just loved the particular run, bike, swim of a half Ironman event and I guess this applies to you Jeff, cuz you're going next. If there's a half where you're like, you know what, maybe there's not a run course as I loved as much as this half, I'll accept any Ironman event answer. Because I think in this context, we would assume you would do the half Ironman course twice and all of a sudden it becomes a full distance, if you get what I'm saying. So, Jeff, moving on to you. What is your ideal perfect Ironman Racecourse?

Jeff: Good question. And I guess you would have to define perfect course, perfect being fast, good finish time or perfect just being oh, man I am at peace on this course, I love this course.

Andrew: Jeff just thinks so deeply about everything I have to ask him.

Jeff: Now, I will say the fairly similar to Elizabeth being a downstream swim, Augusta. The year I did it was warm, not wetsuit. [crosstalk] Augusta, Georgia half Ironman, very fast swim course even without a wetsuit. Great experience there. Bike course, goodness. I really enjoyed the old Ironman Texas bike course through the Sam Houston National Forest. It is now less scenic on the toll road.

Andrew: It's now up and down the toll road. The party on the hardy.

Jeff: Exactly. So, I enjoyed that old course. Also Vineman, the old Vineman course, the bike course was probably my favorite as far as scenic, hills, technical, just everything about that. So, those will be my two,

Andrew: So, Jeff Raines enjoys a bike ride through the woods, that's what I'm gathering.

Jeff: Exactly. Run course, I always enjoy running around water, be it around a lake, up and down a river. So, I enjoyed Miami running near the shore, half Ironman there. I also enjoyed the run at Vineman as well. And I do have to add sorry, one thing, the Vineman, the old Vineman swim course was probably one of my funnest experiences.

Andrew: Which Vineman was in California, correct?

Jeff: Correct, Napa and the old Russian River course. There's about 10 feet of fog above the cool water and just swimming in that was quite the experience.

Andrew: Oh, wow. Sounds like a horror movie to me, I don’t know. Probably most athletes who fear the swim course. I'm going to say this for me, so I've-- kind of obvious answers for me because I've done three half Ironman so far, have not done a full and so I'm going to kind of cherry pick for my three half Ironman experiences. But my favorite swim so far, we went over to New Zealand and did Ironman 70.3 New Zealand, and the swim in the lake, just the most beautiful lake. It's a volcanic lake, so it's just crystal clear, light blue water, you can see all the way down the lake bottom, it is nice and cool. So, in a wetsuit, it feels wonderful. It is nice and flat. Like I told my wife like if we lived here, I feel like I would try to find a way to get in this lake every single day to go for a swim because it was just so wonderful being out there. And so then for the bike, I'm going to say 70.3 Waco.

Now, here's my motivation for that but Jeff this gets at where you were talking about it depends on your motivation, right? Are you talking the most beautiful course, the most-- So, I have dainty sit bones. I don't want to sit on the bike any longer than I have to on a race and I PR’d my bike split in 70.3 Waco. I hit a 242 which was my current best. And so for me, it was a nice fast course. I got my sit bones off the bike faster than any other course so I really enjoyed-- If I could go back I would do that one over the others. And then for the run, I went out and did, my wife wanted to honeymoon in Greece when we got married. Well, we couldn't afford it then but we made it happen when Ironman put a half Ironman in Greece. And so we went over there, made a nice vacation out of it, and the run course at Ironman Greece was just to die for. It was a beautiful, it wasn't a loop course. It was an actual true half Ironman not looping at all. It kind of went down the coast and up the beach and around like through this environmentally nationally protected Marsh area and just really cool, unique. Racing in Greece is really cool because instead of, you know, in America in the states when you're cheering somebody on, you're like “Go, you can do it, you're awesome.” What they would say over there, all the Europeans were like “Bravo you the best, you the best.” And so just running through these little Greek towns where they were just screaming bravo at you, I don't know, it was just super cool So, that's my little smash up for the half Ironman addition.

On to the main set. Going in 3, 2, 1.

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Whether you're training for a sprint or a full blown Ironman, training at the right paces in your runs can pay off big time. But how can we know when to run hard and when to run easy? These are the things I'll be drilling down on with today's run experts Jeff Raines and Elizabeth James. Hey, which do y'all get more excited about going for a run or talking about running?

Elizabeth: For me, it's still going for a run. I mean, I'm super excited to be here but between talking about it and actually doing it, I'm probably always going to pick actually going out for the run.

Jeff: You know, I'm going to have to agree with Elizabeth there, just getting out in the elements and doing it I have a blast. But playing devil's advocate here, I will say that it is fun to maybe talk about it, get pumped up, maybe watch some Olympic Trials or a Kona video online of a previous year. And--

Andrew: Are you the guy who watches Kona videos while you cycle indoors on your trainer?

Jeff: I'm saying no, but I'm shaking my head yes right now. Absolutely. But yeah, getting pumped up watching these big events, the sub two hour marathon, I just want to then go out and do a big run.

Andrew: I'm surprised, neither of you thought through it quite enough to say that the ideal thing would be to talk about running while you're out running.

Elizabeth: Oh, there we go. Yes.

Jeff: I like it.

Andrew: All right. You see, that's why they pay me the big bucks, people. I have the great ideas. All right. Y'all, let's start right here. Both of you have coached hundreds of athletes over the years, and all of those athletes enter the sport with quite a variety of level of experience. So, tell me this, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you guys see triathletes make in their run training?

Elizabeth: Man, I would say off the bat, there are a lot of people that will go out and just run. And I feel like that's a very common mistake, that when these athletes are lacing up their shoes going out the door, they're not varying their pace. They're running all easy, they're going out and trying to hit whatever pace they want to do for the event they're training for. So, they're just going out running marathon pace, or--

Andrew: And they probably don't even realize that it's what we call marathon pace.

Elizabeth: Well, true. They're just going out running.

Andrew: To them it's just that pace where you're working a little bit, but you're not working super hard, but it's also not easy, right, so they feel like they're putting in an effort. Yeah.

Elizabeth: Yes, correct. But then I mean, you also have those athletes that are just going out there trying to kill it in every run session that they do. So, they're going out the door like, oh, man, let's see how fast I can go today.

Andrew: It's gotta look good on Strava people.

Elizabeth: Well, right, yeah comparing those bases. But really, I think with this mistake, we need to establish that the run needs to be for the following purposes, that you're either going out there to increase your functional threshold, you are going for a run to increase your stamina or you're doing that for recovery. So, a lot of people are going out there just for a run, but it needs to be specific.

Andrew: And so that you would say is kind of the most common mistake you see from people who go out for a run is that there's just not an intention to that training session. They're just going out the door and not reaping the fitness benefits, they probably could be.

Elizabeth: Yeah, definitely.

Andrew: Jeff, do you have anything that you see that’s maybe in addition to that or different from that?

Jeff: Yes. I mean, to kind of reiterate what Elizabeth was saying, you need to have a purpose in your run training. So, one of the biggest mistakes I see triathletes make is simply just not following a training plan, winging it. Or maybe if they do have a plan, they're kind of piecemealing it halfway following it and half doing their own thing. I mean, there's a method behind the madness. So, creating that specificity, knowing the type of workout that you're doing, what is the goal of that session? And then make sure to mix up your pacing. I mean, know how to define and determine what is easy, what is hard.

Andrew: Yeah. So, it’s different for everybody.

Jeff: Absolutely. So, once you kind of know the purpose of the workout, how do you define those elements inside of a workout to hit the purpose or complete that session the way that it was prescribed with the integrity of its purpose? So, a lot of athletes just don't have a perception of easy or what is hard, or what they think is hard may or may not be hard enough. I call that the grit factor sometimes. But a lot of it depends on how young they are in the sport and what their perception of that exertion may or may not be. So, I simply like to just say, keep the easy days easy and the hard days hard.

Andrew: Easier said than done but that's exactly what we're talking about, kind of how to pace our workouts today so that we can keep those easy days easy and those hard days hard, and know which day should be what. So, with that, there are many types of run workouts that help athletes give a purpose to each session. What are some of the types of run workouts that athletes should expect to see in a good training plan?

Elizabeth: So, yeah, I mean, we just kind of talked about those three purposes. So, increasing the functional threshold. I mean, those are going to be your interval sessions. So, if you're going out for a run session where your purpose is to increase that functional threshold, you're going to see specific interval sets there. And I'm sure that we're going to dive into more of what those look like. Goodness, we could spend just a whole podcast on that. But there's the interval work, then--

Andrew: A whole podcast on functional threshold.

Elizabeth: Oh, yeah.

Andrew: And let's just say for folks out there who may be heard that term and aren't super familiar with it, functional threshold is what Jeff, how would you define it?

Jeff: Gosh, it's an individual and unique pace and effort that you can physiologically achieve at its utmost and hold for a given specific duration of time. There's a limit to that and to where a pace would fall off and you cannot hold that any longer. And we base those efforts and create percentages--

Andrew: So, in real rough layman's terms, it's kind of the pace, the hard pace you can hold for a given amount of time?

Jeff: Correct. And you establish other workouts and kind of benchmarks around some of the threshold.

Andrew: Okay. So, getting to what Elizabeth is talking about in saying there's three different types that the first type is a workout that helps us increase that threshold. What are the next two?

Elizabeth: Yeah. So, then your next two would be increasing stamina, so increasing how long you're able to hold that percentage of it. So, that's where you are looking more on increasing the endurance aspect. And then the third one would be kind of your aerobic efficiency or those workouts that are for the purpose of recovery.

Andrew: Okay, so when we begin to incorporate kind of some harder intervals into our training, how do we know how long we should be pushing hard and how long we should have the recovery in between be?

Elizabeth: Oh, gosh, that is a like million dollar question right there because there are so many variables in what you've just asked. And this is where those variables should be defined in your training plan. Because you have the time or the length of each interval, you have the pace that that interval should be achieved at, and then you have the type and the duration of recovery between those sets as well. So, not only are you thinking about, okay, how long am I going to run this pace at this interval, then am I walking between the intervals, am I jogging between intervals, and how long is that walk or jog between them as well? So, there's a lot of different things there that need to be considered for a quality interval session to increase that functional threshold.

Andrew: Jeff, what are maybe some concrete examples of that? What are some concrete examples of different interval sessions that folks might see in their training plan?

Jeff: Well, first of all, threshold workouts tend to be at a pace or an effort, that would be harder, faster, on a perceived scale, a higher number of the scale, seven out of seven, six out of seven, something like that. It's a pace that is much harder than what you would probably race at for triathlon.

Andrew: You're going to be uncomfortable at this pace.

Jeff: Exactly. You're not going to do map shuttles, threshold repeats, cruise intervals, you're not going to hold the paces you're going to hold in some of those types of workouts in an Ironman, right. So, we all have a given current threshold that our human body can achieve. And the goal over time is to raise those thresholds to where we use less physiological effort to run faster, to run harder over time, and that's just a training effect. And so the training plan is designed as Elizabeth said, with the recoveries, and the durations, and then in the lengths, and time spent at those efforts are strategically pieced together to kind of peak you for your specific race and race goals.

Andrew: Yeah, so let me-- So, in my own TriDot training program, on one Wednesday, I might have one of the examples you gave, cruise intervals. I might have cruise intervals where it's telling me, okay, do sets of eight minutes, hold this thres-- slightly above threshold zone five pace for eight minutes, take one minute of recovery and then do it again for eight minutes. And it might have me do that two or three times before it lets me truly go into a recovery mode. And there's a bunch of variations of that, right, and different variations help your body do different things, correct?

Jeff: Yes, we have to stress the body, we have to apply a certain safe amount of stress so that we can neurologically adapt to that. But also incorporating some of this speed work inside of sessions and strategically placing recovery sets in there and active recoveries. Running faster I explain, it can be like riding a horse. So, if the horse is trotting really, really slow and you're riding on it, you're kind of bouncing around; ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch. But if the horse--

Andrew: It’s really fun to watch you just do that.

Jeff: And I did act that out.

Andrew: If you guys could have seen what Jeff Raines just did here.

Jeff: And when the horse runs fast, there's fluidity there. And so the faster that we run, the better our mechanics and our form tends to be. So, incorporating random bursts or surges of quality work or threshold work inside of sessions, and strategically placing active recovery sets in there can also help maintain correct and better run efficiency throughout the workout. Because we all know the second half of long runs and workouts we get tired, our form tends to break down and we don't want to create junk miles. So, there's a number of different reasons why we do cruise intervals and threshold repeats and map shuttles and stuff like that inside of session.

Andrew: Does anything negative happen if we maybe take too long to recover in between those sets or if we don't do it exactly how it's prescribed, can that begin to throw off the workout at all?

Jeff: Absolutely. Too much recovery can negatively affect the goal and purpose of the workout. Quality days again, are quality days. So, we keep those sessions, they tend to be shorter and so we want to tax those systems accordingly. Too much rest in between can negatively affect the goal and purpose of the workout.

Andrew: So, as an athlete starts to increase the speed in these interval sessions, is there anything that they need to do to try to stay injury free since they're putting their body under that stress?

Jeff: Yeah, so I mean if running faster tends to elicit better biomechanics, well, it can also produce more of a negative effect as far as injury and stuff if we don't warm up correctly, right. So, I say to my athletes, the harder intensive sessions that you have the more important it is to follow your prescribed warm up. I will warm up more for a sprint, triathlon and Olympic triathlon than I will for a full Ironman so to speak.

Andrew: Oh, that’s interesting, yeah.

Jeff: And even before, let's say a half marathon run, I might run three to five miles before that, just really making sure that I have a big heart effort event coming up, I want my body really warmed up and following my prescribed warm up as is. A lot of people will say, “Hey, I don't have time to do this whole workout, so I'm going to cut the warm up, cut the cool down.”

Andrew: I mean, that's a frequent thing. I'm sure you guys see this, coaches you know.

Elizabeth: Yes, often.

Jeff: I would rather one of my athletes cut the main set short, to get a better warm up, better cool down than vice versa. Higher intensity sessions require additional warm up. And if you do not do that correctly it can elicit injury and even overtraining.

Andrew: Intervals can help us increase our functional threshold. But what about when we want to start running longer and farther? Is dropping the pace and going longer the best way to increase our stamina?

Jeff: Stamina sessions, so you want-- The goal of stamina, I like first to develop that base. We want to develop a strength a base of speed, power pace, we want to be strong enough to handle longer sessions later on after a base is designated or hit, and we know that an athlete is ready to start adding a little bit of volume.

Elizabeth: Now, let me make kind of an important distinction here, Jeff, because I think when some athletes hear the word base, they are thinking of that as a high volume. They're thinking, “Oh, my base is all of these miles.”

Jeff: They’re thinking honestly kind of the preseason off-season early season miles even, right. All the miles you've run before you get to the hard training is I think what most people think of when they think of base training.

Elizabeth: Yeah, but what Jeff was just describing too is their base is their strength, as the run. So, I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that that's kind of what you're getting at is you need to develop a little bit of that before you think about adding on those additional miles.

Jeff: Very good point. The nature of the sport has changed a little bit in that regard. Base training is coined and as reverse periodization, I like to call it the developmental. So, the preseason the off-season is developing that base layer of strength, that base layer of speed and power. And so later on in the season when we start to increase our volume, we can handle that and those extra miles don't become junk miles. So, there's a point in the middle there, where we really focus on stamina. So, when we are strong enough to handle longer sessions, we start piecing in workouts that allow you to hold higher percentages of your threshold for longer durations. We know you cannot hold your true high end threshold for super long periods of time. So, the goal is to safely add stamina after the developmental stage of that speed and strength so that over time, stamina is built and we are getting faster and not only overtraining doing so.

Andrew: Yeah. I think a lot of people when they hear the word stamina, their mind instantly goes to how long can I run? They equate that to stamina, whereas you guys are talking about stamina more in terms of how long can you run strongly, how long can you run with good pace and proper form? Because maybe endurance is maybe the correct word for how long you can run, but in terms of increasing your stamina, you guys are talking about how long you can run strong. Is that correct?

Elizabeth: Well, I think here too, it's very important to know how long that long session should be because you're correct. You're talking about how long can we make this a productive session. And I still feel like a lot of athletes are doing their long runs based out of fear, that they are going for that certain mileage, that certain distance and that-- [crosstalk]

Andrew: So, fear, even glory.

Elizabeth: Well, true. Yes.

Andrew: Glory of saying “Oh, I ran this many miles this weekend.”

Elizabeth: This is where a lot of the attitude toward run training is evolving for the better. There are a lot of drawbacks of including sessions that are too long. You have the breakdown in form, you have a higher risk of injury, it takes longer to recover from some of those long sessions. Now, don't get me wrong, there is a very big, I guess, important still on those long sessions, particularly for those longer distance events that we're training for. But a lot of those long runs are probably too long if you are not following your prescribed training plan. And that long run is kind of an optimized dynamic metric. You have to make sure that you have that solid foundation or kind of that strength base that Jeff was just talking about. You're not going to go out and run 12 miles if the longest that you've run before is two. Or if you do, then I mean, my goodness, that's where you're going to have a major breakdown in form, a very high risk of injury. And it's going to take that athlete a really long time to recover from that 12 mile run if they have not built up to that.

Andrew: Yeah. No, that's great. And in triathlon, I mean, you gotta have that recovery built in, because we have more than one sport we're training for, right. And so, earlier you mentioned two words I want to bring up or two terms, aerobic efficiency and active recovery. Talk me through the importance of those. Those are kind of more zone two sessions, right. So, talk to me about the importance of those.

Jeff: Zone two training, lower heart rates for longer durations, is very, very popular. It's kind of coined as kind of the way to train. But the quality over quantity approach is definitely recommended. It's better to get faster at shorter distances before tacking on a lot of extra volume. But the zone two lower heart rate way of training is one of the hardest things for athletes to fathom, “I want to get faster at Olympic distance. I want to get faster at my 5K.” And so they want to go out and they run faster. But your greatest mitochondrial and physiological gains occur at the kind of euphoric zone two lower heart rates.

Andrew: Where you're running-- What we perceive as being slower.

Jeff: Absolutely. At a snail's pace, how can you be that patient when you have that big 10K coming up in a matter of months?

Andrew: You can't be Jeff, you can't be. I want to run fast now.

Jeff: It's relatively new science but it's hard to do. But that way, the little bit of zone four or threshold workouts that you are prescribed, you're healthy, you're safe, you're ready to go. You don't have tired or beat up legs, going into those harder quality sessions. So, the speed work is very important, but for the long run of your season, and even improving your thresholds, those greatest gains tend to occur at those lower heart rate zones.

Andrew: In your head, you feel like the opposite would be true, you would feel like the more-- the harder you're pushing your body the more your body's benefiting but that's not the case. And then TriDot training, I mean, TriDot already schedules for you most of your, a majority of your running is done in zone two. You get that 20% where you're pushing yourself. And so Jeff, you're telling me that, that is kind of the key in terms of how we should be pacing ourselves; 80% should be at an easier pace, that’s most of your running. And that little bit, the quality session should be where we're really pushing hard. Is that right?

Jeff: Absolutely. What I find is a lot of athletes who are winging their training or not following a training plan as specific as what we just mentioned. Most people tend to do too many quality or zone four or higher intensive workouts per week thinking that's how they get faster. So, making sure that your plan adopts the most effective ways of training is definitely something to research.

Andrew: So, all of these sessions we’re talking about, whether it's the sessions that are supposed to increase our stamina or the sessions that are supposed to increase our functional threshold or the sessions like the zone two work where you're supposed to be actively recovering or working on your aerobic efficiency; all of these sessions should be done at a certain pace or a certain heart rate zone. How can athletes know what pace is zone two for them and what pace is zone four them, and what pace works on this and what pace works on that? How can we know what paces and heart rate zones we should be running in?

Elizabeth: I mean, this is a great question here because it does need to be determined. And it does need to be very specific. Someone's threshold is not going to be the same as the athlete training partner that they're going out and doing some of their other running.

Andrew: Jeff and Elizabeth says zone two is my zone four. that's just you know.

Elizabeth: No, no, no, no. That’s not what I was getting out there. But really, I mean, it is very personalized. Now, it's easy to go out and do a test and establish what your threshold is. Your training intensities are going to be based off a percentage of that threshold. So, in terms of establishing some zones and paces based off percentages of a test that you go out and do, that math isn't necessarily difficult. Where it gets very difficult is determining what that looks like based on the environment that you're training in.

Jeff: Absolutely, Because we all know that running a 5K at 90 degrees and 90% humidity--

Andrew: Is miserable, Jeff, is miserable.

Jeff: And it will elicit a much different finished time than if it was 40 degrees and no humidity.

Andrew: That sounds pleasant.

Jeff: So, normalizing your data and establishing correct accurate zones is key.

Andrew: So, to try to make this as applicable as possible to someone listening right now who says man, I'm hearing you. I want to make sure I'm pushing myself on the right days, and I'm holding back on the right days and I need to know what paces I should be running at you in training, what's kind of the best way to determine for you what is threshold training, what is zone two training? What does that actually look like? How can someone kind of figure that out?

Jeff: Good question. I mean if the training plan is this precise, and this specific on which type of workout to do on this day, we're focusing on this type of run improving your threshold on this day, well then it is super important that we nail our paces and we have a plan that establishes true and accurate paces. But also we need to constantly be updating those paces as we go through different seasons of life, different seasons of training and different phases. Our fitness levels change and we adapt regularly, so it is crucial to assess yourself, which is what we do and try it out is we provide benchmark testing. We have assessments regularly approximately every four weeks. We're constantly updating these heart rate zones, pace zones, and RPE, rate of perceived exertion zones.

Andrew: So, once we know what pace we should be training at, sometimes the weather, whether it’s hot outside, whether it's cold outside, the rain, even the time of day can kind of affect our ability to run at the pace our training prescribes. Is that natural and how can we know how much our pace should be impacted by environmental variables?

Jeff: Andrew, I live in Texas and it has been a miserable, miserable hot summer. We've spent all this time establishing our zones, we know that they are now correct. We are updating those regularly but gosh, as the weather changes in time of day, this is huge. So, if we're trying to hone in on a specific heart rate zone, for example, our human bodies we know heart rate and we know effort. But different paces at different times of the day can elicit different heart rate zones, right. For example, if I was to go run at five o'clock in the afternoon, 90 degrees, 90% humidity, it is hot, it puts a huge toll on my body. So, I might hit my zone four zone, five super high heart rate ranges at a very kind of snail's pace, 15 minute mile. But if I was to run it at 6 am, it was 20-30 degrees cooler and the humidity was much less, I could achieve the same heart rate but running at a much faster pace. So, something that TriDot does is normalize your pacing. So, your paces will change all day long as the weather changes in your city to try to keep that heart rate the same at all times.

Andrew: And so just so long as TriDot knows okay, I'm doing this workout at three in the afternoon versus seven in the morning, the pace TriDot is prescribing is going to be accurate for the weather?

Jeff: Absolutely. And that is just one of the coolest features that no other plan that I know of does this.

Andrew: Super helpful for Texans, right?

Jeff: It’s great. So, I just make sure if it's in the afternoon, and it's hot that I log in, and I know that my paces need to be adjusted, depending on time of day, so that I can elicit that prescribed and specific heart rate zone.

Andrew: If you're out there listening and you have not realized that about your TriDot training, don't kill yourself. Punch in the time of day, check out how TriDot updates what pace you should be holding for those intervals in that workout. That's a super, super clutch feature that's on there. So, now let's end this. There are a few, I guess I'll call them metrics that athletes have probably heard of in relation to pacing their run training. There's running by rate of perceived exertion, which you mentioned just a little bit ago, Jeff, there's running by heart rate, and then there's running by your actual pace, what pace are you running. Is one of these approaches more valuable than the others or do they all kind of have a role in our training?

Elizabeth: So, they definitely all have a role in the training. And this is where we kind of go back and establish what the purpose for that specific run session was. So, I'm going to kind of take those in reverse order of what you said, kind of looking at pace first. Now, pace is going to be a real time metric. And this is where those interval sessions, we want to focus primarily on the pace. Now again, that pace is being adjusted for the environmental conditions. So, we're going to get a specific response from the body by targeting this real time metric with the pace to increase that functional threshold. So, that is where you're going to find a lot of value going by pace, but not all sessions should have pace as the primary driving factor. So, we've also talked quite a bit about zone two heart rate and the purpose of training at that specific heart rate. So, those recovery sessions or where we're looking at increasing that aerobic efficiency, it is more appropriate to look at heart rate than it would be by pace. That goes back to what we're saying at the very beginning with, you know, keeping those easy days easy, keeping those hard days hard.

Andrew: The point of that session isn't the pace you're running at. It's staying in that heart rate zone that keeps it a certain type of session.

Elizabeth: Absolutely, yes. And the body is perceiving that specific effort. So, I mean, that kind of then goes to the perceived exertion.

Andrew: What a segue.

Elizabeth: Yeah, there we go. That worked out pretty well for me. So, all three of those metrics have value, but they have a specific value based on the purpose of that run session that you're doing.

Jeff: Yeah, and I would like to add that there can be a delay in heart rate response. So, if you're doing a threshold workout where you're fluctuating your paces a lot, you can get to the top of the hill or halfway around the track and your heart rate takes a little while for it to increase and match the effort that you're holding. And so faster sessions, harder sessions or sessions where you fluctuate your pace a lot, it's definitely more important to hone in on pacing. But those just long steady state workouts, where we’re not fluctuating the effort, heart rate is more important.

Andrew: I hope you guys have really benefited from hearing both Jeff and Elizabeth talk about just different paces; why we need to vary them, why we need to run them, why we need to keep most of our training in zone two and really make sure we're nailing the 20% of where we're going a little bit harder. And you know if you do some of that in your training man, you're really going to see the reward, you're really going to see the payoff, and the increase in speed, the increase in stamina, and it's going to do a lot more for your training than just lacing up the shoes and going out for a jog.

Great set everyone. Let's cool down.

Andrew: All right guys. To cool down from today's super intense talk about pacing during our run training, we're going to have something we call Triathlon Mythbusters. This is where I pose a commonly believed multi-sport principle to our coaches, and have them either confirm that it's true or bust it as a myth. So, here we go. Elizabeth, Jeff, is often said that in the build up for an Ironman, you should make sure you run a marathon in the lead up to that 140.6. It can be a race or just on a training run but either way, you need to show your body what it's like to run that distance. Is this true or is this a myth?

Jeff: If I had to pick one I'd say more of a myth, Andrew. But I think it is important that we train at percentages of the time that we will spend in each discipline on race day. Now, there is always an exception and this is where I think it is good working with a coach where communication is key. For example, what I’ll tell some of my athletes is and I'll work with them and we'll meet in the middle here, if you're the type of person that you're standing on the shore of an Ironman, ankle deep, wetsuit on, getting those goggles ready, and if you're going to think in the back of your mind, race morning, I never ran 20 miles in my training run for a 26.2 marathon in the middle of an Ironman or the end, I should say. If you're that type of person where there's anything negative floating around in the back of your mind, I want all of those negative little birdies out of there. And so-- [crosstalk]

Andrew: For that person, maybe you find a way to work it in but if you're not that person, what would you say?

Jeff: Well, actually, sometimes what I'll do is every third week, mix in a little bit of distance versus time. So, you might run two hours and 10 minutes for a long run one week, 2:20 the next, and then I might have them the third week, if all is good, run 16, 18. But I will never have an athlete run a full 26.2, be it, half Ironman, half marathon unless that's a little bit of a different story. But typically, you'll run anywhere from 16 to 20, 16 to 22. If you're someone that has to have a definite number that you achieved in training, there are ways to combat that. But it is not super relevant that you hit a particular number, but instead hit certain percentages of the time that you're going to spend on race day.

Andrew: And so if you hit those points sentences your body can be ready for that distance, even though you never ran that far.

Jeff: Exactly. Through a quality over quantity approach.

Andrew: Elizabeth, do you agree that this is a pseudo myth?

Elizabeth: Oh, yeah, definitely. And I would say hit rewind on the podcast, go back where we talked about that long session and the purpose of that and how that’s designed. [crosstalk]

Andrew: Can you hit rewind on the podcast? I'm not even sure that the podcast feature. I think you can click back.

Elizabeth: Oh, I don't know. Maybe that’s like way too old school.

Andrew: I think you can click back, I think you can accelerate to listen faster.

Elizabeth: Whoops. Okay. Yeah, I'm not up with the technology here.

Andrew: So, click back to earlier of the timeline of the podcast.

Elizabeth: Okay, so click back, yes. But really, I mean, this is kind of what we were talking about with the purpose of those sessions and kind of how overemphasized those long sessions can be that the long duration it does serve a purpose. But for the sake of going out and doing a marathon as part of the training for your Ironman, is that necessary? No. Now I love the marathon. So, part of me is saying, yes, everyone should go run marathons like yes, let's go right marathons. Absolutely. I'll come join you. But for the purpose of training for an Ironman, do you have to do that distance before race day? No, you don't have to do that distance before race day.

Andrew: Because the more distance the more your risk of injury, the more your risk of overtraining, the more-- that's the things you're trying to mitigate by not running that distance, correct?

Jeff: Absolutely.

Andrew: All right. So, you guys heard it straight here from Coach Elizabeth James and Coach Jeff Raines that this is a myth. You do not have to have run 26.2 miles. Your training program should be built in such a way that you're prepared for that distance regardless of whether you've actually gone that distance in training.

And that's it for today, folks. I want to thank our coaches Jeff Raines and Elizabeth James for giving us some clutch information about pacing in our run training. Shout out to our friends at TRITATS for bringing us today’s show. I firmly believe friends don't let friends show up to a race with Sharpied-on numbers. Seriously people, it takes forever to wash off. So, as a friend of the podcast, head to TriTats.com and use coupon code, TRIDOT to make your mark with TRITATS at your next race. Have any triathlon questions or topics you want to hear us talk about, email us at Podcast@TriDot.com and let us know what you're thinking. Again, that's Podcast@TriDot.com. We'll have a new show coming your way soon. Until then, happy training.

Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot Podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great Tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today. TriDot, the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.