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You Can Run As Hard As Professionals

Posted by George Parker on
Lionel Sanders

Last night, I watched a YouTube video of Lionel Sanders running a 5-mile tempo on the treadmill with ZWIFT. Lionel is a World Champion professional triathlete with 4 Ironman wins and 29 half-ironman wins. What I and others appreciate about Lionel is how he documents his training and racing on YouTube. Lionel broadcasted the 5-mile tempo with ZWIFT allowing me to see his heart rate, cadence, and pace, and I paid the closest attention to his heart rate. (If you don’t use ZWIFT, here’s my perspective on why you should and how to get started.)

Lionel’s tempo run was at 2:35 marathon pace (10.2 to 10.3 mph) or ~5:53 minutes per mile. That is fast for most of us reading this! When it comes to professionals, I stopped paying attention to their pace long ago. Professionals are on a different level. But heart rate is something professionals share with us everyday runners.

Lionel’s heart rate throughout his tempo run was in the 130s. I know what 130 heart rate feels like, as do most of you. Usually, I run 130’s at my easy pace in the 8-9 minute-mile range. My pace is significantly slower, but I know the 130 effort. My tempo pace is in the 150 and 160s outdoors. Lionel ran much faster for a given heart rate, but I could relate to the effort. When it comes to racing, Lionel and we have more in common.  

In peak races, Lionel’s heart rate is in the 160s and 170s. You know that feeling, right? That’s a hard half or marathon-pace effort. Again, his pace is much faster, but the effort remains the same as yours at a slower pace. A heart rate of 160 is not enjoyable, but it is bearable with conditioning for an extended period.

I guess it is true that racing never gets easier. You only get faster.

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