How fast should I aim for? Always the big question before a race. We don’t want to go out too hard and die but, we also don’t want to go out too slow and have more left to give at the finish line. This is where the art of pacing comes in. I have to admit, this is something I was HORRIBLE at. Until the last year or so, I’d say I was stuck in the Rob Watson #FFTF (fade from the front) style of racing. Every time I raced I was worried about not hitting my goal time so I would go out on that pace (most of the time a bit faster) and then pay the consequences when I started to fade hard later in the race and lose much more time than I “banked.” This was such a common occurrence that 2 years ago during CRS Waterfront 10k John Lofranco told me he was going to pace off of me but someone told him beforehand that I always go out too hard and he just stayed back and waited for me to blow up – he told me this as he caught me and went by me. Bye bye John! Now, obviously this is not something I was proud of. But, I have always found it hard to pinpoint exactly where my fitness is at.
Here are a few things that I’ve done to help me:
- Use my GPS watch properly. For years, Josh tried to talk me into using the “average pace” function. I was reluctant at first, with fear that I may run one of my kilometeres too slow (without the K splits beeping at me each K) and ruin my whole race. I’ve gotten used to this function and I know that it’s a lot better to know what I’m averaging vs. each K split. This means not going too fast on a downhill and trying to slow down the next K because I saw that last K was too fast. This also helps me from getting “mental” if I were to see a K too slow. He was right.
- Marathon training. Training for marathons have really helped me learn how to pace myself. In a marathon, or even a marathon paced tempo, you have no choice but to pace properly. You know if you go out too hard you WILL pay for that. There is NO BANKING TIME. Even 5 seconds too fast takes much more out of your legs than you think. I’ve been through 2 marathon cycles now and it has even helped my 5-10k training. You don’t have to go through a full marathon to gain these benefits. You can add a tempo run day into your training where you spend 20-30 minutes at what your suspected marathon pace would be and work on staying as even as possible. Another great option would be adding a 5k tempo into your long-run. It’s a nice way to break up your run! Run hard but totally in control.
- Run your workouts in control. Pacing often isn’t only a problem come race day, it often is apart of your workout days as well. I always was starting the first 100m of my intervals too fast and I knew it. Whether I wanted to admit or not. I made the conscious decision to run hard but be in control for my intervals, working on making each one slightly faster than the last one. This way, I was training my body to do the same thing in a race – go out in control and speed up vs. go out hard and day. Practice makes perfect.
- Ego check. This is the hardest one. As much as we want to be fitter than we are or expect ourselves to be at a certain point in our training, fitness doesn’t lie. This is the benefit of running multiple shorter races (5k’s, 10k’s) because you can try out what pace you think you are in shape to run and adjust for the next race. If you felt pretty comfortable, try a faster pace next time. If you felt awful, take the ego hit – adjust your goals. I have just done that myself – last weekend’s 10k I went out for my goal ~3:30pace and couldn’t hold it. This means my next 10k I’m going to back that off 3-5seconds/k and see how that goes.
An artist is never truly happy with their creation, this means constantly adjusting things as you learn. Taking a step back, and looking at your training and races objectively helps. Write down your thoughts on how that workout actually felt. Decide a few ways that you can change next time to be more successful – does this mean slowing down your first few intervals to finish faster? need to adjust your goals – faster/slower? eating differently? focusing more?
I for sure am still learning about my body and how it responds to training. I’m sure I will still have some days where I don’t pace properly and #FFTF. But at least if I am more mindful and aware of what’s happening, I am less likely to have that happen.
Hope this post helps a few of you out there! Got any topics you’d like to me cover? Let me know in the comments!
I am excited for my new adventure tomorrow! What will it be? 🙂
Until then, GRIND ON.