Tips for Racing WiselyAn excerpt from Racing Wisely: A Practical & Philosophical Guide to Performing at Your Personal Best
Photo by Robin McConnell / Licensed through the Creative Commons.
Editor's Note: The tips included here are geared at road runners, trail runners, cyclists and triathletes alike. Though trail races often throw more unpredictable terrain at competitors than road races, we found Rountree's training tips just as pertinent and valuable for trail runners looking to improve their racing strategy, at every distance from 5K to ultras. See pages 4 and 5 of this article for advice on pacing specific race distances. Republished with permission of Sage Rountree from the upcoming book Racing Wisely: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Performing at Your Personal Best.
To learn more about the book, please visit http://sagerountree.com/media/books/racing-wisely/
Time Trial Racing
“In the first half of the race, don’t be an idiot. In the second half, don’t be a wimp.” —Scott Douglas
Time trial racing means getting to the finish line in the shortest possible time. But to do that, you may need to go slow, especially at the beginning, so that you have enough energy to carry you all the way through the race. While you might be able to hold an aggressive pace for a tenth of the total race distance, you need to aim for the best average pace you can sustain for the entire race distance. This will feel easy as you begin, then gradually tougher as you continue. Your effort will continue to increase and your pace will hold steady.
This means you should always be operating within comfortable limits. You can’t hold a desperation pace for too long. As I told my daughter Lily before her first triathlon, “If you feel like you’re going to cry or throw up, slow down.” In training, especially in your time trials, you should get to know the feeling of an effort you can sustain. You’ll also get to know the signs that you’re redlining: a cold chill, a drop in your stomach, a loss of your form, a change in your breath. An evenly paced race will flirt with this edge of desperation but not tip you over it until your eyes are on the finish line banner.
There is only one reason to go out at faster than your intended pace when you are racing for time: to position yourself so you can settle in to the appropriate pace as soon as possible. Everything else is ego or ignorance, and both ego and ignorance can be controlled. Gear your training toward memorizing the pace you will hold throughout the race. Get to know it when you are fresh and when you are tired. It is your best ally: it is the best pace to get you to the finish line fast. When you know this pace inside and out, you won’t start too fast, and you won’t fade at the end. You’ll run your personal best.