Race Pacing By Feel | 80/20 Endurance

Race Pacing By Feel

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    I’ve been working to develop my ability to race by feel. This includes doing all levels of runs by feel. Even when I’m doing power based intervals, I’ll do a couple by power and then the rest by feel – trying to exert the same level of effort. With the easy runs, I’m trying to hit an effort that’s aerobically easy the whole time. For threshold, I’m trying to start at a fun effort, becoming progressively more difficult, but always feeling like I had more in the tank and could have kept going.

    Even with time trials, I’ll try to maintain a steady effort that has me running out of steam at the end of a set time or distance. It’s amazing how much easier this has become. Yesterday, I ran a local 5K race. The circumstances and conditions we not great. I got to bed late the night before and woke up feeling drained. The temperature was uncomfortably hot and it was really humid.

    My friends who ran by pace or power didn’t adjust properly for the weather and they ran out of steam too soon. I just ran what felt like the appropriate effort. My splits were pretty close to even and was able to give a slight push at the finish. It was a little slower than what I’m normally capable of, but I think it’s about as well as I could have done under those conditions.

    Do any of you work on pacing your workouts or races by feel?


    I haven’t, yet, as I’m working on learning power in general. That said, I have been trying to “learn” what it feels like at each power level.


    @alanracing: I initially was a big fan of running and training by power (also cycling by power) but more and more incorporate “feel sessions”. Especially in very hot or humid condition, I feel that running by power/pace can cause bonking even if you fuel and hydrate well. I do believe, that my body’s core temperature is increasing significantly and eventually reaches a point that doesn’t allow me to maintain a certain power or pace.
    Besides running/cycling by RPE (which can also “lie” to you in a way that you simply feel a run is way harder or easier than it really is – maybe you run at a different time of the day, had a heavier pre-run meal, etc. etc.), you can also try to run/bike a structured workout where you don’t look at the pace/power reading but still try to hit a certain zone by feel. Over time, you get an exceptionally good feeling for your zones. I do this at least once a week. After the workout I usually look at the data to confirm my feeling for my zones.



    I really don’t get RPE.

    I train with pace, heart rate, and recently power. The 80/20 Library (subscription) provides great flexibility adjusting my plan(s) to environmental and geographical conditions for each workout.

    I always have a disconnect with RPE. My conclusion is that I have a tendency to lie to myself when it comes to RPE, I find that I believe that I am working harder than I actually am. Often during races I enter into conversations with nearby runners, only to receive feedback that I don’t appear to be working hard based on their observation that I am not breathing hard for the pace. Likewise, my heart rate is generally higher than the relative breath effort and still I have no difficulty pressing the final 400 meters in my races.

    I’m hoping that my new learning experience with the Stryd Power Center will help to give me the confidence to press harder when I do race.Also, I recently discovered the new breath rate widget on Garmin that may help me to quantify the observables related to RPE; it fits with the 80/20 Talk Test and may help extend the observables to other zones.


    Thanks Gerald. What I’ve found is that what feels easy can vary quite a bit. Some days, the easy runs are around 72% of CP. Other days, it’s closer to 85%. But I have noticed that my “barely trying” power has increased by 20-25 points in the past few weeks.


    Thanks Winoria. One question from one of your comments. You mentioned RPE being deceptive at times, where a run might feel easier or harder based on different variables. I’ve always thought of these variables as being reasons why speeding up or slowing down on a given day might be appropriate. For example, if I’m feeling run down or it’s the day after a really hard run, my easy run will be slower. Whereas, on a day when I’m feeling great and well rested, it’s definitely faster. Both feel appropriate and they’re within zones 1-2.

    When you say that RPE can “lie”, do you mean that it’s less than reliable? Or just that it varies and can result in a moving target? Thanks again!


    Thanks Charles. That makes sense. When I decided to make the switch, I first did a few easy heart rate runs and paid really close attention to how everything felt. Breathing, level of effort, strain, etc. Then I tried to replicate the same effort without looking at heart rate, except for after the fact. If the heart rate was too high, I would dial it back a little on the next run. It just took a few of these before everything was on point.

    For a faster run, I would take my best guess at the appropriate effort level and then try to keep that up the whole time. If I ran out of steam, then I would dial it back next time. And if I finished with too much in the tank, I would push a little harder the next time. I takes some experimenting, trial, and error to dial it in. But it can be done.


    I think that RPE can be less reliable for some. Looking into this as a triathlete, I feel RPE can be even more tricky as you have to deal with a lot of variables: running off a long bike ride, transition run off a hard bike ride, running without riding the bike, easy run early in the morning vs. easy run in the PM, etc. etc.
    I’m sure that runners have a similar issue when doing several runs a day but I personally also feel that a run early in the AM (let’s say 5 AM) feels way harder because my body has not reached its ideal status yet and even walking from the bedroom to the kitchen to grab coffee can be scary LMAO.
    I really like to combine several metrics. If a Zone 2 run feels very hard, I would run at the lower end of the zone and vice versa.
    I do think however, that practicing race pace by feel is super important. I don’t want to purely rely on a piece of technology for pacing a race. It’s important to learn how race pace feels. Trying to run/bike race pace without looking at your watch and analyze later to see how far off or not you were. Just my 2 cents.

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