Saturday, 26 October 2013

pace judgement

Posted by speedygeoff on Saturday, October 26, 2013 with No comments
Track season is upon us. Here is an interesting question. What is the perfect pace for a middle to long distance race?
There are a variety of opinions, and a variety of practices too.

Let’s guess some of the answers.
• Even pace makes for faster times.
• Drop the others at the start and hang on in front trying not to slow down.
• Run with the pack and let them drag you through.
• Throw in long surges to test out the other runners.
• Sit for as long as possible and sprint away at the end.

There is no wrong answer. Or the wrong answer would be the suggestion that only one of the guesses is correct.
So be flexible enough, as circumstances dictate, to adopt any one of the approaches listed above.
Are you a runner who has only one approach? Do you always go out hard? Or perhaps you always sit? Or are you someone known for your even pace?
Then here is what you can do. Learn to employ any of the range of tactics listed above.
How do you learn? Practise practise practise. In training, in race simulations, and in races themselves.

A similar interesting question might be; what is the perfect pace for a handicap race?
Many of us compete in the Adler series or in the Monthly Handicaps on offer. Here we start in groups where in theory the runners/walkers are evenly matched. But we have the added challenge of dealing with faster runners behind who might catch us, and slower runners ahead whom we might catch.

What do we do when we catch someone? In a scratch race it usually means we are going better and might sit on them before accelerating to pass them. In a handicap race we should probably just sail on by and focus on catching the next competitor. But not always! I know by experience that sailing past Tony Booth, for example, in the last 150m of a handicap race just does not happen, however many groups I have caught up,

What do we do when someone catches us? Well unless it is Bruce Graham at full throttle, one can try to hang on to them for a while to get some speed up. The same applies in a track race when being lapped.

• How does one practise even pace? Answer, the stopwatch, particularly in interval training where you should target the same time for each repetition of a distance, as close as possible.
• How does one practise front running? Do it! Decide that today is not “tag along” day. Believe in yourself and go for it.
• How does one practise sitting in the pack? If you are a natural leader it is well worth getting out on the road and being disciplined enough to just follow behind for whole training sessions.
• How does one practise throwing in long surges? Do it in training; it is great for fitness and good tactics in a race if you can do it.
• How does one practise the kick at the end? Not everyone has speed, but working some anaerobic conditioning into your training, i.e. very short recoveries during an interval session, might just give you an advantage over natural sprinters at the end of a long race.

Each of these very different racing strategies have a place depending on who you are racing, how fit you are, and which is more important on the day: a fast time, or a victory.
So practise each style of racing. Additionally you will have a big advantage if you can adapt your racing style to the circumstances. You will not be predictable, which will make it harder for your opponents to plan or to execute a plan of how to defeat you!
I look forward to watching or participating in the battles that ensue.
I haven’t mentioned “employ a pacer” which can sometimes be useful but is often quite the opposite. And limits your options during a race. Build self-reliance instead!

By the way, even pace, or starting a little faster and dropping into even pace, will, often, give you the fastest time. But it may not give you the win.

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