The longer I go on with this blog, the more I'm probably going to talk about legendary running coach Jack Daniels. I'm currently reading his book and I've heard from more than one serious runner that it is "the book" to own and read when it comes to training. I've already learned a lot about how to train more intelligently and I'm only halfway through the book. One of the early sections in the book is about "E" pace training which refers to easy or "recovery" runs. According to Daniels, "When you do easy (E) runs to recover from strenuous periods of training or to carry out a second workout on a particular day, and when you do your long (L) runs, you should run at a pace which is very close to (E) (easy-run) velocity, which is about 70% of V02max. Long runs (L), improve cell adaptation, and lead to glycogen depletion and fluid loss (important considerations for distance runners), but should not be demanding in terms of the intensity (pace) being utilized." If you're confused about VO2Max, read my post on it, or if you're curious to know what your "E" pace would be given your personal VDOT number, please visit this website.
Daniels' fundamental motto for runners is, "Always have a purpose for every training session." When you have a purpose for every training session, a training run rarely has a chance to become a clock game. As I've tried to adopt this motto in my own training, the stopwatch has still played an important role, but my perception of it's role has changed. Last night for example, I went on an "E" run - 6 miles at an easy pace, because my legs needed a break after back to back days of speed work. I remember from Daniels' book that he said that the "E" pace is almost a laughably easy pace...it's a pace you feel like you could keep up forever. My particular "E" pace is 8:24 and I'm happy to say that my average mile was close to that (8:16) and I felt great afterwards. I haven't gotten to the part of the book where Daniels talks about how often you should be training at an "E" pace, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that he recommends these type of runs more than other types of training. Here's a "running pyramid" from his book that has me thinking "E" runs will be more plentiful than others.
Anyway, there's plenty more to know about these training levels so if you're really interested, go get the book, it's not even that expensive (~$17 shipped from Amazon). All this is to say that it really takes some effort to prevent your training runs from becoming a race against the clock. So many times over the past few months I've started out with every intention of taking it easy, only to get to the end of my run trying to beat some time or achieve some overall pace level. I'm not there yet, but I starting to learn that this actually hindering me rather than helping me.