Pace.  If someone hasn't asked you already, then be ready for the question . . . "What's your pace?"  Well meaning fellow runners will ask you this because they think you are fun and cool and are trying to find out if you can run together.  They'll ask it as a question and hesitate hoping that you are not too fast for them because they want to join you.  Jackass runners will ask you this for the sole purpose of getting to tell you how fast they run.  They'll ask it as a pointed statement ready to zing back their supposed superior pace.  Or they'll tell you how fast they ran like 20 years ago.  Whatever.  :)  Non runners will ask you this question because it's something that they think they should ask.  ha :) 

At any rate, pace is simply your speed at which you run a certain distance.  Everyone's pace is different and your pace will be different on different days and on different distances and at different stages of your running journey.  But when someone talks about pace, it's usually like this:  "I run a 400 in 2:08."  This just means that I can sprint once around the track (400 meters) in 2 minutes and 8 seconds.  The most common talk and measure of pace is how long it takes you to cover a mile, so someone may ask you "What's your pace?" and you would say "Well, right now I'm running at about an eleven forty five pace."  That means that you run a mile in 11 minutes and 45 seconds and that for 2 or 3 miles, you would assume that you would maintain that pace the entire time. 

Heart RateI think one of the biggest mistakes that long distance runners make is pacing too fast.  It's not the speed that is the bad guy.  Speed is good with running, but it requires the same weekly adjustment to get faster just like increasing distance does.  The problem with pacing too fast too soon is a crazy elevated heart rate.  How do you know if your heart rate is too high?  Well, that body of yours will tell you.  You either won't be able to sustain running and will have to walk or you'll power through the run and feel nauseous and dizzy and have tummy trouble at the end of your workout.  And that's the easy way to tell that your heart rate (and accompanied pace) was too high. 

Running gets a bad rap.  The myth is that running is hard and painful with hyperventilated breathing and a heartrate to match.  The myth is that the harder you run, the better the workout or the more calories you burn.  Hmmmm.  Yes . . . and no.  For sprinters, hard and fast spurts of running is best.  Sprinters train their bodies to work crazy fast for very short periods of time.  For distance runners with a goal of speed improvements, fast intervals are a good approach once a week.  But for long distance runners training for distance, our heart rate has to sustain us for just that - a long distance.

When we run, our body taps into our fuel reserves to get energy.  When our heart rate is elevated, yet slow and steady (like how we are running in group runs), our body says "Hey, she's at an aerobic activity level and I'm not sure how long she's going to stay at this level, so tap into that fat storage.  We've got that to sustain her for a while, so burn that fat."  Yes, this is the fat on your hips and the fat in your muscles and organs.  Bu bye fat.  But when you run at an elevated speed, your heart rate may move to an "anaerobic" state.  This is a perfectly fine way to train if you want to get faster or if you are a sprinter because your body will get faster and learn to operate anaerobically, but this isn't our long distance goal right now.  In an anaerobic state, your body is just going to get the job done with whatever immediate energy it has.  It says "Whoa.  She's running and it's not a distance run.  Metabolize that sugar that she ate this morning.  Use that lactic acid that's ready right now in her muscles.  Don't bother burning any of the fat storage right now, she may need that for later to survive." 

You see?  A moderate heart rate is all that you need to operate best as a long distance runner.  You are burning fat storage, you are increasing muscle mass, you are creating a bigger and more efficient heart and lung capacity.  It's all good.  So enjoy your RUNaway runs.  You are doing your body a pile of good!!       

This is a good calculator to find out your appropriate aerobic heart rate.  Take your resting heart rate for 15 seconds one morning before your feet touch the floor and then find your calculations from there.  The second website tells the heart rate zones and how each of them trains your differently.  Worth the read if you have time . . .

A little calorie chat . . . . A calorie is a unit of energy.  It can be in the form of stored fat or sugar or lactic acid or any other energy source, so it's up to you and your heart rate to determine what unit of energy you'd like to use today on your run.  As far as general calories go though, a mile is a mile.  An average gal burns about 100 calories for each mile she runs.  Whether that mile takes you 9 minutes or 14 minutes to complete, both runners burned 100 calories.  Now one runner burned her 100 calories in 9 minutes and the other one took 14 minutes to burn those 100 calories, so that's where the "run faster and burn more calories" statement comes into play.  But it only comes into play if you are running a specific amount of time.  If both girls run for 30 minutes, the 9 minute/mile girl burns about 325 calories and the 14 min/mile girl burns about 210 calories.  But if both girls run 3 miles, who burns the most calories?  Trick question - they both burned 300 calories.  What kind of calories did they burn?  Fat or glucose?  Well, that depends on their heart rate, right?

Movin' and Groovin'.  There are two camps of runners - those who run with nature and those whose iPod is just about as important to them as their running shoes.  I happen to be in camp #2.  I LOVE running outside on our awesome trails, but my solo runs are just about the only time I have to not be ridiculed for my choice of music.  Some days I run to soft quiet music and just take in the run.  Other days I run to country music and sing along.  Sometimes I run to girl power music . . . and sing along :)  And some days I zone out and reminisce with my '80s tunes, and, of course, sing along.

Music has a direct affect on your mood and pace.  And music is a great distraction for us long distance runners.  See what a difference music makes in your runs.  You'll either find it incredibly distracting and chunk those headphones or you'll adopt your iPod as part of mandatory running gear like I do.  It's up to you.

So a quick word of caution - Running with headphones (especially in both ears) truly can zone you out from the rest of the world.  Be. Careful.  Pick the routes and times that you run carefully.  Predawn or post sunset runs with headphones are a "no no".  Have your music turned down enough that you are aware of an oncoming bike or a dog.  Keep your eyes open!  Not like you are going to run blindfolded, but defensively open and scanning the trail and street for wild animals, glass and dangerous objects and other people.  Cute gals like you that are running solo with headphones in both ears are an easy target.  Don't be that target.  Don't be scared, just be smart.      

I gave a little insight into my "racing playlist" the other day that helps me especially in running races.  This is just personal music strategy - do with it what you please.  Anyway, I like to divide my races into "thirds".  The first few miles are slower music to even out and develop an easy pace, the next portion is "power" music that amps up my pace and the final few miles of a race, I choose fun "kareoke" songs and maybe even a sentimental song for the last mile of a long long race.  Here are just some of the tunes I chose the other day in case it inspires you one way or another.  (And if you make fun of me for a song, I'll be sure to play it on every future group run that we have! :)

Easy Going . . .
On Golden Pond - Dave Grusin
Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes
Say - John Mayer
Free - Zac Brown Band
Africa - Toto
Love a Little Stronger - Diamond Rio

Pick up the Pace . . .
Suddenly I See - KT Tunstall
Lets Go - The Cars
Too Much - Dave Matthews
Give It Away - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson
Strangelove - Depeche Mode

The Finish is Near . . .
Play the Funky Music - Wild Cherry
Can't Touch This - MC Hammer
December 1963 - Frankie Valli

Sentimental . . .
Awake - Josh Groban
The Climb - Miley Cyrus