How to Have Your Best Race by Trying THIS

>> Thursday, August 30, 2012

I was thinking about my recent BONK last weekend at the Rochester Half Marathon. I thought I'd plot out my mile splits to see how they looked. Being I'm a nerd, I jumped into Adobe Illustrator:

And THAT, my friends, is what a "bonk" looks like...
or at least what "going out too hard" looks like. (1:25:44)

Then I thought I'd plot out all 3 half marathons that I raced this year. Maybe that would tell me something. So here were my splits from the Securian Run Half Marathon back in January:

Took it easy, and then threw the hammer down at the half-way point. (1:25:22)

And here's my splits from my AMAZING run at the New Prague Half Marathon back in May:

Read my race report to see this great race unfold. (1:20:54, PR)

And finally, I overlaid them on top of one another, and I added in a dotted line for each which represented my average pace for each race:

The graph made this very clear: the more consistent splits that I post, the better my race will be!

OK, there are plenty of variables that make this far from a perfect system. The Securian Run was in January, and winter races in MN are always slow. (Training on slick surfaces and in lots of extra clothing.) The New Prague Half was constant hills, but it was the perfect temperature. And Rochester was just horrible - it was a little warm and I went out too hard.

You should try this and see if you can figure something out about what works best for you! Do you need to go out hard? Do you need to start off slow? Do you need to ease up in the middle for a while to have enough to nail it hard at the end? How did you feel during each race?

On a quick related note, I did this about 10 months ago (seen in this post) comparing my 3 runnings of the "TC 10 Mile." Here's an image I posted back then:

In 2009 (1:02:43), I went out too easy, but felt great all race.

In 2010 (59:05), I went out a bit too easy, but I got back on top of it ASAP. I suffered a lot later in that race, but I hit my goal of sub-60!

In 2011 (1:01:20), I really took it too easy in miles 6 and 7, and my time suffered because of it.

That's the big thing I had learned back then when I plotted out that graph: at the TC 10 Mile, I have the urge to really ease up too much near the middle (miles 5, 6, and 7). I don't know if it's the hills on THAT course, or if it's just a "mental issue," and that's where it gets tough for me in a 10 mile race. So I learned the faster I could keep those miles, the faster overall finish time I'd post. (Duh.)

So if you haven't tried graphing out your splits of the same race over a few years, or the same distance at different races, give it a shot and see if you learn anything. You might be surprised....


Mike 9:30 AM, August 30, 2012  

I haven't done enough races to be able to compare them like this, but I've been keeping mental notes on my bike average speed lately to try to figure out my best pace. I have a tendency to go at my top speed whenever there's an open stretch of road. Inevitably I run out of gas and a few miles later I'm going under my average speed. I'm trying to really watch my speedometer and stay at my average, that seems to be the best way to use my energy.

Steve Stenzel 10:05 AM, August 30, 2012  

Yeah Mike, it's good to keep track of those things to see how you can improve!

But one thing I didn't mention in the post is that we don't need to do this ALL the time - this would get really frustrating if every race was simply a way to crunch the numbers. It's good to try now-and-then with similar races, but I don't want anyone getting discouraged by always doing this.

Good luck on the bike, Mike!

SteveQ 10:28 AM, August 30, 2012  

You realize of course, that now that I'm thinking of racing against you in November, that I'll try to use this to my advantage! So... I'll hope for hot weather, expect you to start slow and I'll make sure to crush you on the hills at the end (assuming I'm in shape and not injured, which seems unlikely).

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