The OutSeason® Seminar, Lesson #4: Training with Pace

At the end of this lesson, you will:

  • Have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of training with pace
  • Understand the ROI of pace training, especially compared to common heart rate only, distance-focused approaches to run training.
  • Know how to properly convert your training paces to race-specific numbers

Running with pace represents the next great training opportunity for the endurance athlete. Just as the powermeter has revolutionized cycling, so too will GPS and similar devices transform the sport of running. This new approach removes the guesswork from your run training!

Coach Quotes:

  • “Training with Pace is like being able to zoom in on your run fitness to the most minute detail. No more fudging or guess-work; you will train at paces based on your current fitness…and you’ll get faster!”
  • “Racing with Pace is the biggest advance in our Four Keys system. Pace not only tells you how fast you are running right now, but how fast you should be running (and when) for optimal race performance. Totally game over.”

What exactly does Training with Pace mean?

Training with Pace is an opportunity to bring the same concepts, tools and lessons that we outlined in our Training with Power protocols to the run. What we are about to cover is very different from most discussions of training, but know that we have the experience and the evidence to say that it works. We’ll begin with broad concepts of fitness as applied to running.

Running is simply a matter of Physics.

In order to move your body X miles at Y pace you have performed “work” measured as Z. In other words, in order to run 8:00 min/mile pace, the muscles of your legs, hips, arms, etc., have to perform work, moving the mass of your body down the road.

Run fitness is simply the capacity of your body to perform work.

At your current fitness level, your body is adapted to produce workload “Z”. It will stay at “Z” — that level of fitness — until you either force it to do more work (progressive overload) or you stop working (detraining). As you introduce higher and higher levels of work into your training, your body adapts and you are able to do more work. You see this as the ability to run faster and longer.

Run fitness is in the muscles…specifically in the ability of those muscles to do work.

At the end of the day, it’s your legs, hips, arms, etc., working in concert to propel you down the road. Your fitness (aka how much work you can do) determines the speed at which you can run. Your heart rate, and how you feel, are the symptoms of the work performed. In other words, you don’t go from running 8′ pace to 7:30 pace because your heart beats faster. Rather, you do more work with your legs (you run faster) and your heart responds by beating faster.

Running with pace allows us to measure the work performed.

Not only can we measure the work you are doing, we can precisely control and measure the amount of training stress being applied to your body. No more guesstimating with Heart Rate or attempting to estimate work performed based on the symptom of producing this work (increased Heart Rate). Now we can go right to the source and identify how much work you are actually doing.


  • Fitness is the ability to perform work. Force your body to do more work and will adapt (fitness is increased).
  • Pace is a direct measurement of work performed. Heart rate is an indirect estimation, as it is primarily your body’s response to the work you asking it to perform.
  • By training with pace we can directly measure our capacity to do more work, and therefore target our training to improve and run faster!

Run Testing Notes

We use a 5k test protocol.  It’s short enough to be done repeatedly and easy enough for most folks to find a flattish course (or suck it up on the track).

Warmup well, include 3 x 1′ pickups to loosen up. Then run a 5k as if racing. Experience has shown that holding back slightly on the first mile, if only by a few seconds, will enable you to finish strong. Ideally, do this on a measured course you can repeat for future tests.

Take the time and distance information to a free site (like this one) and calculate your vDOT and training pace, per Daniels’ Running Formula.

Pace Zones

Inside Endurance Nation we use a modified version of these paces, as we need to account for the fact that triathletes are swimming and cycling in addition to running.

Endurance Nation run zones and typical workouts:

  • Easy/Long — Beginner long runs of all durations, warm up/down pace
  • Marathon — Advanced long runs from 90 to 150 minutes in duration; good steady effort.
  • Half Marathon — Weekday long run up to 90″ to score high Training Stress Score (TSS)
  • Threshold — 20 minutes steady or up to 10% cruise intervals
  • Interval — Up to 5 minutes per interval & up, lesser of 8% or 6 miles total
  • Repetition — We don’t use this pace for our athletes.

Application of Pace to Heart-Rate Based Training

Remember that benchmark/threshold heart rate you tested in Lesson #1? Well, you had a distance and time and can now calculate your vDOT above. Do your best to sync up your HR and pace zones (you can download a chart in the FREE eBook at the end of this lesson) and apply this new pace focus to your runs. If you can’t measure entire runs, do your best to mark off key sections using web tools like MapMyRun.com. This way you can benchmark your pace at the beginning, middle or end of each session.

Guaranteed you will be running both easier and harder than you preivously thought wise…or even possible. You’ll see some interesting heart rate values, but don’t sweat it. Our athletes training with heart rate don’t confuse themselves by trying to figure out what’s going on inside their bodies at heart rate X vs Y. They just do the work, and let their body sort it out by becoming faster.

The Return on Investment (ROI) of Pace

It’s very likely that this is the first time you’ve read about the value of training and racing with pace…even if you have owned a GPS device for a while.  Most of the marketing messages have you been subjected to about pace have to do with bezel interfaces, satellite configurations, and run/bike compatibility…but very little about how to use your Pace device to be faster!

The truth is that properly applied, pace can make you faster by forcing you to continually benchmark your fitness against your own personal standard. Even more importantly, pace can make you faster on race day by allowing you to execute properly — and that’s with zero training!

Racing with Pace Notes

In the world of half- and full-Ironman® events, you actually race other athletes by simply slowing down less than they do at the end. That the annals of triathlon racing history are littered with promising races that went south in the latter half of the run. We use pace to avoid–or reduce the effects of–this slowing down.

Be conservative early on, before running the proper pace, and you’ll have a fantastic run. This pacing guidance plays out very differently from how non-pace athletes actually race. You’ll start slower, much slower, than the competition only to appear to have wings at the end of the race when everyone else is fading.

  • Ironman® Athletes: Run 30 seconds per mile slower than your E/L pace for the first 6 miles, then run E/L pace as long as you can.
  • Half Ironman® Athletes: Run 30 seconds per mile slower than your M pace for the first 3 miles, then run M pace as long as you can.

Note: The guidance above has been proven through the performances, and the analysis of dozens of GPS race-day files, of our athletes since Coeur d’Alene’08. This. Stuff. Works!!!

This Week’s Training

  • Run = 45 total minutes at benchmark pace, as intervals of 1.25 miles in length.
  • Bike = 60 total minutes at benchmark pace, as intervals of 15′ in length.

This Week’s Free eBook Offer: Training with Pace

We hope you’ve enjoyed Lesson #4, Training with Pace. Join us next week for Lesson #5: Applying Your OutSeason® Fitness to Your Long Course Triathlon Season!

Train Smart!