When I talk to athletes I train for racing, run pacing questions always come up. It would be easier if there were simple math equations to tell you what to do. There are some amazing tools out there, and they are getting better every day, but they still need to be combined with “feel”.
Feel, must be learned though. Here is how.
Pacing - Before we had any tools, pacing was the basic and only to predict how fast you would run. Practice trying to hold a pace in practice, expect to be able to run that in a race. Seems reasonable. Problem is what happens when its uphill, downhill, windy, or off road?
It becomes further complicated when you are trying to pace off the bike. Trying to ensure you come off the bike in the same state every time in practice, as well as the race can be quite complex.
It was better than nothing though. So we tried to come up with new ways to ensure success.
Heart Rate - has been a standard way. Practice training at a certain HR, its reasonable to assume that you should be able to do the same HR while racing and feel the same. Sometimes its true, but not always.
Heart Rate can be effected by so many things. Heat, nutrition, hydration, nerves, rest, fatigue, motivation are some of these. A lot of athletes experience a raised HR during a race. If you are not prepared for this, it can throw off your pacing.
Power meters are new to the scene. They definitely are a HUGE step forward. These can start to add objective measures for you. Objective because quite literally, you get to know every step how hard you are working. if you see your pace drop, yet see the power output remains the same, you can trust that everyone on the same course would be experience the same choice; either increase effort, or slow down. Your choice is up to you and your coach, but you at least now know what you are dealing with.
We work closely with our coaches and athletes to help them with that decision you are left with. We measure and can more accurately predict the outcome give our experience.
One of the best things you can do as an athlete is start to gather your own experiences as well. You can start to try new tactics, learn which may be your “go to” at races.
If you would like to speak to one of our experienced coaches to help you brainstorm some ideas, we would love to hear from you.
Adam Zucco is a USAT Level 2 Coach, the 2011 USAT Developmental Coach of the Year and head development coach for Ben Kanute. He has been doing triathlon for over 25 years with personal Kona qualifications and has qualified dozens of athletes for Kona. He is the head coach for Superfly Coaching and can be found at www.superflycoahing.com