Tips for Racing Wisely - Page 4
Pacing Races of Under an Hour
In short races, you’ll be pushing hard from the very start to get your personal best effort. In fact, a 2006 study at the University of New Hampshire showed that subjects ran their fastest 5K times by starting faster than their overall race pace, and recommended running the first mile at a pace 3 percent to 6 percent faster than the targeted average. You can do the math to figure out your own pace, or know that you can start shorter races a little faster than you intend to go on.
Although the name “sprint” seems ironic for a race that typically lasts around an hour, in a sprint-distance triathlon, you’ll be going very hard almost the whole time. The run, 5K or less, is short enough that it requires little finesse. It’s going to be intense the whole time, so holding back too much on the bike is not going to make it any better.
Pacing Marathons and Half Marathons
To run a time goal in your long-distance race on the road, the best way to get to the finish line as quickly as possible is to run evenly at the maximum pace you can sustain. Any pace changes should deviate as little as possible from the target average pace. In the first half, ask yourself, “Should I slow down?” In the second, ask yourself, “Can I speed up?”
A 2008 Runner’s World article on pace teams by John Hanc contains this great quote from experienced pace team leader Starshine Blackford: “We’re going to run these first 10 miles with our heads, the second 10 miles with our legs, and the last six miles with our hearts. So during this first 10, run smart, run conservatively, run controlled.” The same advice applies to half marathons: control the beginning by employing your rational mind—the one that wrote the race plan and knows the appropriate pace to maintain. Then rely on your physical and, eventually, mental and emotional strength to get you through.
Starting at an appropriately slow pace allows you to ease into the effort, instead of jacking your heart rate and plowing through your glycogen supply.
It’s also likely that crowds at the start of bigger races will force you into a slow start, which is a good thing. Avoid any effort to bank time or to correct a slowdown by suddenly speeding up. Instead, focus on maintaining even effort. Marathons and half marathons are long races. There will be enough time for you to dissociate—for your mind to wander, even to chat with fellow racers.
Periodically, however, cycle your attention through your intention, goals, form, and breath. Focusing on this early in the race can help you avoid a slow slip off of your goals. In trail races, the terrain may affect your average pace, meaning you can go a little faster on the flat, open sections, and must necessarily slow for footing or traffic on the more technical parts. Some hills in trail races are best walked, as it gives you a physical and mental break while keeping you moving forward— sometimes faster than you can run. If you know your course will require some walking, be sure to practice it in training. I’ve passed another athlete walking in a trail marathon and heard him wonder out loud, “How are you walking so fast?!?” The answer: first, because I have practiced every weekend while hiking with my husband and our dog, and second, because I am walking on purpose, as part of my race plan, instead of by necessity, after having paced the early miles incorrectly.
Do not let yourself get pulled off your plan by what those around you are doing. Anyone who passes you in the first half is fair game to catch later. Note their distinguishing features—clothing, accessories, hairstyle—because you will likely see them again. In fact, if you aren’t being passed, but instead are flying by others in the first miles, question whether you are going too fast.
Conversely, anyone you pass in the second half of a long race is likely passed for good. If you can control yourself in the first half, you’ll be flying past the competition in the second. Don’t let them tempt you to slow down. Instead, take new sustaining force in from every person you pass.