Feb 16, 2021
What I’ve been thinking about this week is pacing. Just the art of pacing in general. It’s a tough thing to nail. And your best pacing strategy really depends on the length of the thing you’re undertaking. When you don’t know the length, finding the right pace can be very difficult. Here are a few different pacing strategies:
Positive Split. This means starting faster than you finish. (some of us also call it the “fly and die”, but I find that a little less positive). Positive splits can actually be the best strategy in some events. In the 800m, most races are won and the world records are held with positive splits. In a shorter-type event like that, it is advantageous to start hard and hold on as long as you can because there is not a lot of room to pick up the pace when you’re running at these effort levels and the price if you get it wrong isn’t too great.
Negative Split. This means finishing the second half faster than the first. This pacing strategy is advantageous in longer events. When you are not completely certain of your energy reserves, it is not smart to expend a huge amount at the start because the fallout if you get it wrong is way bigger (witness: the bonk in the marathon). Finishing faster also gives you a psychological boost and knowing the finish line is close allows you to go right to the end of your reserves as you finish – so finishing faster is how most longer races and hard efforts play out.
Even Split. This pacing strategy is what many people aim for, but is very hard to achieve – especially if you are aiming for your best effort. It’s easy to nail if you’re going easy, but if you’re really trying your hardest, pacing anything perfectly is almost impossible. It does however tend to lead to the best results in “fabricated or artificial” scenarios. On the track world records are now being broken by athletes using pace light technology. They follow the flashing lights on the track which are set perfectly and evenly to world record pace (world records which were not set using this strategy).
Variable Pacing. This pacing strategy is what most people use when trying their hardest and achieving their best results in real life scenarios. In the 5K, most world records are set with the first and last kilometer being the fastest, and the middle three being a little slower. In the marathon or ultra-endurance events, there are dips and surges in pace as athletes settle into a rhythm or feel good and push a bit. It is a pacing strategy that adapts to the environment and competitors around you.
I thought this was interesting when looking at how we’ve paced ourselves through this pandemic – now that we’re almost a year in. Some of us started at a furious pace that was hard to maintain – with things like colour coded daily schedules for our kids detailed down to 15 minute increments, or starting running streaks or mileage challenges. This was a good idea when we thought we might be running an 800m race. I think we’ve realized we’re beyond that. But it doesn’t have to be a total “fly and die”. We can vary up the pace as we see fit. This doesn’t mean we’re stopping – we’re still racing – it just means that sometimes we can settle in, catch our breath, find an easier rhythm, and then pick it up again when we’re feeling good. Maybe a day (or a week!) where everyone stays in pajamas and you eat more takeout and watch more Netflix than you’d planned is ok. Are you safe and healthy and doing your part? Yes. Then you’re still running the race. And maybe the next week you’ll nail all your workouts, bake bread and teach Italian to the kids. Good for you – you’re winning! But let’s hope you didn’t start your kick too far out. Rigging in the last 100m is a very painful way to go 😉
On that note! Everyone who is interested in doing the Achilles 5K or 10K Challenge – please let Monica know so that she can create teams (firstname.lastname@example.org). Chris, Monica and I have come up with a challenge for this.
1. Estimate your goal finish time.
2. Make your first kilometer and last kilometer as similar as possible.
The winning teams will be comprised of people who have the lowest spread between first and last kilometer within range of their goal time (so you can’t just dog it to make them perfect – thank Chris for that little addition!) – exact algorithm TBD.
Register Here: https://achillesstpatricksday5k.ca/ and then let Monica know.
From the website: “Registration fees go toward providing much needed support to athletes with various disabilities so that they have the opportunity to enjoy the physical, psychological, and communal benefits of running. Visit the Achilles web site to learn more about how we support these deserving athletes.”
Race day is March 14th – 4 weeks away! (the team challenge is just for us – it’s not an official Achilles thing)
Workouts for this week: (and if the footing is bad, just go by effort and/or take a week off and save it for a tempo on the weekend – it won’t kill you!)
1. 7-9 x 600 with 1:30 rest at about 20 sec per K faster than tempo
2. If doing it fartlek style (or on the bike or other x-training): 7-9 x 2 min Hard, 1:30 Easy
3. Tempo: 2 x 20 min w 3 min easy (this is getting longer for ATB peeps – temper the pace here – go around 5 sec per km slower than usual – it’s calousing you for being able to focus for that length of time and you’ve been building to it – you can do it!)
Have fun all – and pace yourselves accordingly!