Trust the data? or trust the feel?

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    Hi, I’m a back of the pack runner training for my first half using the Level 1 masters training plan for half marathon for a Nov 5 Disney race (10 weeks out). Ultimate goal is to run the Napa marathon in March.

    I’m overwhelmed by the data and the info I’ve been reading. I planned to run by pace, the zone calculator tells me that my runs need to be brutally slow. My problem is twofold.

    1) I feel like I’ve been getting stronger and stronger since I started using 8020 training plans (started with a 10k masters plan). However, my data constantly tells me that I’m not improving, my form score is always negative. I also checked my zone calculations with a 20 minute test run today and the data tells me my threshold pace is dropping.

    2) Since this is my first half (and eventually my first full marathon), I want to follow people’s advice and not worry about pace. However, even though the races I’ve picked are “forgiving” races, I am still fearful that I’m going to be scooped up for being too slow and never finishing, if I run at the paces the zone calculator tells me to do.

    naturally, now I am going by RPE because I “don’t believe” the pace. am I doing myself a disservice or not?

    context – I live at altitude and travel to sea level twice a month. could this be distorting my sense of what a comfortable pace is?

    What do you advise? that I change the way I train? or shut out the noise and just religiously follow the plan?

    thank you!

    lost and potentially misguided Molly


    There could be many things going on here. When you did the 20 minute test, how rested were you? Progressive fatigue from the training can negatively affect the test. That’s one of the reasons it’s recommended to do the test on a recovery week. It’s also why it’s recommended not to ‘race’ to much during the training cycle.

    Is there anything in your life that could be causing stress as well? Life stress can affect training as well

    There is definitely nothing wrong with running your easy runs by RPE. Just be careful that your easy isn’t falling into the “zone X” rut. Tru turning off all music and run a few runs paying careful attention to how you feel


    I generally feeling great before and after my runs. I feel like I’m getting stronger, which is why I tend to run by RPE, faster than the training plan says I should go. Yet then I do the 20 minute test or other test to see how well I’m progressing, the data shoes no progress, sometimes slower. Baffled. When I run these tests, I do it by feel with the hope that I can simulate racing where I can go as fast as my body will let me.

    I’ll try to clarify my question. Because I’m running the training runs faster than the plan says to, am I setting myself back instead of progressing? Or could something else going on?


    It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when we are trying to coach ourselves to a standardized plan. They all need to be “adjusted” from time to time for a huge variety of reasons. Form score is supposed to be negative, so unless it is extreme it’s nothing to worry about – look it up on the Training Peaks help center.

    The 80/20 Training Plans include a pretty good description of each workout objective which is useful to us athletes as we try to track our performance and progress. With that information we can take a step back and use Training Peaks to examine things from the perspective of a coach.

    I have found this video a particularly useful lesson in using the tools to objectively review the data on our own.

    Hope that helps.


    There are many pieces to the puzzle here that aren’t quite clear. I’m assuming you are using the pace plan for the half marathon; however, without seeing your actual numbers and the progression (or lack of) it’s hard to come to any sort of conclusion. If you would like me (or any of our coaches) to dig in to the data, I would suggest a consult. Even 30 minutes might help digest the issues you are explaining.

    Overall, there is nothing wrong with using RPE for your runs: however, there is a value to performing the tests to make sure your pace and/ or zones are set up correctly. The altitude variability may play a role in the data also, but there could be more variables in play that could explain how you are feeling.

    Let us know if you would like to do a consult to discuss!


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