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The Art of Racing.. (Read 1469 times)


Right on Hereford...

    This is a good question. I think pacing is one of the hardest things for most of us to get right, because... - Many of us don't have much racing experience - Many of us don't run enough miles to know our bodies well enough to know what pace we can sustain - Many of us (particularly beginners, or those who have recently stepped up their training) are improving so quickly that it's difficult to know or dial in the proper race pace on race day - Many of us think in terms of an arbitrary "goal pace" instead of realistically assessing our fitness (with recent race results) - Many of us get caught up in the excitement of the race start and go out with other people who are running faster than we should - Many of us are undertrained for the distance To sort of repeat Mikey's excellent advice, I like to start the race with a mental picture of how much more racing I need to do (i.e., the number of miles), and set a pace that feels appropriate. I then adjust my pace as I go along (usually hundreds of times) based on how I'm feeling and how many miles are left before the finish line. I'm always asking myself, "Can I sustain this pace all the way to the finish?" If yes, I keep that effort level, or increase it slightly if I'm feeling really good. If not, I back off slightly.
    what's a good effort? I don't want to feel like shit the whole way through, but maybe that's just racing?
    labrat, I can't think of any race distance where you should feel like shit the whole way through. In a half marathon, for example, you should be feeling reasonably good at least through the 10k point. Not like you're cruising on an easy run, mind you, but somewhat comfortable even though you're working hard.
      I agree with you for the most part Mikey...but its hard to practice for a marathon unless you are a Marathon Maniac. Maybe going by effort makes sense for a 5k,10k, maybe a half. But for a marathon? Its a mystery. You taper a little, eat well, and you have a ton of energy as you toe the start line. You start out at an easy effort, but with a faster pace than you can hang with for the whole race. But you dont know it if youre just paying attention to effort! It feels like an easy effort, but since you can't practice a Marathon very often, you really have no idea that its too fast until later. Then you bomb at mile 20 and hobble the rest of the way. I base my race goals off previous races and previous workouts. I just ran 1:23 in a half. Im going to try Grandmas this summer with a goal at 2:55. I'm not going to toe the eye blindly and go by effort. Im going to use my Garmin to make sure I don't go faster than 6:40 for the first 15-20. Even if 6:10 feels really easy. If Ive got some in the tank at 20-22, Ill drop the pace then. I don't think Ill have anything in the tank.
      Going by effort is not going blind. It's the opposite. You're paying attention to your body, not some gizmo. It's hard to explain but it does work and it can be learned in training. And it's not that hard to learn. It comes down to doing workouts by effort as well. When I ran 2:49:19 in October with half splits of 1:24:40/1:24:39 it was purely by effort. That's not to say I never looked at my watch, but I wasn't trying hit any particular mile splits, I was trying to run a certain effort and leave myself enough to finish strong but completely empty the tank. It worked. If your marathon pace is 6:40 and you're running 6:10 and you think it feels easy, then you're not paying close enough attention to effort.

      Runners run.


      Double IPA Please!

        Great post Dakota! Yes, I, too, need to wrap my brain around dealing with that level of pain that comes towards the race end. The one where I begin to feel nauseaus, but need to tell myself its only temporary and to continue on.

        Interested in looking good and feeling great? Check out my website at www.marykay.com/dyerger

        Shipping is always free with me!! :-)

          - Many of us are undertrained for the distance
          I think that hits the nail on the head for my case. I run enough to easily finish a half marathon, but not to race a HM. great post! thanks


          Prince of Fatness

            Thanks everyone, great advice. It just pisses me off to no end to train and train and train, put in the time and effort and then race day comes and I screw it up.
            Don't beat yourself up too much over this. The first mile on that course is straight downhill plus you have the big crowd full of adrenaline pulling you along. I've run this race 6 years in a row and I am now finally getting it close. For me the solution is pretty much what mikey said, effort. Not all races are the same but for this race my focus is on running that first mile with a real easy effort. This year was the closest I came to getting it right. My first mile split was only 8 seconds faster than my race pace. I think the first time I ran that course it was something ridiculous like over a minute faster.

            Semi-retired.


            Double IPA Please!

              Don't beat yourself up too much over this. The first mile on that course is straight downhill plus you have the big crowd full of adrenaline pulling you along. I've run this race 6 years in a row and I am now finally getting it close. For me the solution is pretty much what mikey said, effort. Not all races are the same but for this race my focus is on running that first mile with a real easy effort. This year was the closest I came to getting it right. My first mile split was only 8 seconds faster than my race pace. I think the first time I ran that course it was something ridiculous like over a minute faster.
              Your right.. This will now be on my list to do yearly. Exactly, I got really caught up in that first mile downhill. I coasted pretty much and let myself do so. I saw your time! Congrats!! I figure, the more races I run, the more experience I will gain. I told Pam that I'm gonna do the 5k race series this summer, however, I cannot do race number one next week- kiddos have games. Next month!

              Interested in looking good and feeling great? Check out my website at www.marykay.com/dyerger

              Shipping is always free with me!! :-)

                - Many of us don't run enough miles to know our bodies well enough to know what pace we can sustain
                For me that is the key. Last year at this time I was running all my races with nearly perfect even miles (it's real flat around here). I was also running consistently running 6 days a week for a couple years and at least 40 mpw for 10 months or so. This year I'm coming off an injury that had me sitting for 5 months and I'm still only at half my previous volume. My pacing in the same races is terrible. Instead of all my miles +/- 3 seconds it's more like +/- 30 seconds. I just don't know enough about my conditioning to know what pace I can hold for a given distance so I'm starting fast and dropping off.
                Son, when you participate in sporting events, it's not whether you win or lose; it's how drunk you get. -- Homer Simpson
                Mr R


                  If you're running at your best possible pace for a given distance, perceived exertion is going to continue to increase throughout the race. You can run an even pace by concentrating, but your thought process changes as the race progresses. In the early stages, you are consciously avoiding pain, to keep your pace under control. In the second half, you are consciously holding your hand in a fire so that you can hold the pace. Regarding hills, the fastest way to run them is to push harder going up hills. The problem most people have is that they attack hills from the bottom, and crash in the middle. It's better to attack toward the end of a hill, push through the top, and carry the momentum into the downhill. No matter how hard you go downhill, you're going to recover aerobically, so racing on rolling hills is somewhat like running an interval workout. Other than controlling the pace in the early stages of the race, the most important skill is to have guts when the critical moment comes. In the last 10-30% of a race (depending on distance), when you're hurting, and you probably slow 3%, you need to have the guts to decide to accelerate 5% instead. This is the time to stop thinking, because thoughts will stop you. You need to shut off your brain, stop thinking about pain, and just keep putting one foot in front of another as fast as you can, until someone wraps you in Mylar. Although it's excruciating, it can be paradoxically easier to go flat out than to hold a pace, because you really can shut off your brain.

                  What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials. How could they be expected to understand that? -John Parker

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