Race Pace training is extremely important! Many times it is ignored because all of the emphasis is put on formal track or speed workout sessions, tempo runs, or long runs. While all of those various pace sessions are good, they are training the body to do different things. I.E. Speed sessions are usually used for running faster than race pace, or, during a tempo run the pace is slightly slower than race pace. If there is not any training done at race pace, then how can it be held during the swim, bike and run come race day?!
1. Race Pace Training is important because it is training the body to respond to race intensity workouts during heavy load (hours) weeks.
2. Race Pace Training is important because it is a confidence booster! If the pacing needed to execute a race successfully has happened during training, then it can happen more readily on race day.
3. Race Pace Training is important because it teaches proper pacing. Many have done it...tried to bike above the targeted power numbers or push the pace on the run...and then bonked. Training at race pace allows for proper understanding of the body and the ramifications of what can happend if the plan is not followed
So what does a race pace workout look like and how can it be incorporated into the schedule?
Build Week Workout: This workout can easily be done on the long run day. Deceptively hard this workout will keep you honest in your pacing. The Step Up: Warm up for 45 minutes building into pace zone 3 (tempo zone). Hold for 15 minutes. Step up to zone 4 (usually race pace for sprint/olympic dist.). Hold for 15 minutes. Cool down with 5-10 minutes of easy running.
Peak Week Workout: Warm up for 15 minutes gradually picking up the pace/effort. Then run 3x5 minutes at pace zone 3 or 4 (depending on race distance) with two minute walk recovery. Cool down with 5-10 minutes of easy running.