About a month ago, I ran a 5 mile race at 6:03 pace. Cesar asked me how I could run that pace for a 5 mile race when my mile repeat workouts were slower (generally 6:20-6:30 pace in early spring, working down to 6:10-6:20 pace). As I recall, I offered a two part response.
First, I was doing shorter repeats at faster than 6:00 pace so it wasn’t a pace I was unfamiliar with.
Second, I wasn’t racing my workouts. I would expect my mile repeats to be slower than 5 mile race pace. If they weren’t, I’d be close to race effort in my workouts.
I do regularly see people do workouts at close to race effort. To me, this is an indication of a problem. When this happens, either they are racing their workouts or they are not running up to their potential on race day. Very possibly, they are not running up to their potential on race day BECAUSE they are racing their workouts.
So how do we avoid this? Sustainable workouts. For most runners, doing more than one or two workouts per racing season that leave you completely exhausted is counterproductive. For many, doing even a single workout like that is counterproductive.
Far better is to do more sustainable workouts, still hard workouts but not the ones that leave you rubber legged and feeling like death at the end.
Ask yourself: What’s most important? Next week’s workout or your big fall race? Then run next week’s workout accordinly. Don’t dig a hole that you won’t be able to get out of. Save the big effort for race day.