Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Train Smart, Race Dumb

The Austin Half Marathon was kind of a bust for me. For a little while I was trying to rationalize my not-so-good result as the course being tougher than last year. However, that wouldn't explain why I wasn't able to manage my effort to finish strongly -- I essentially slogged my way through the last two miles.

Despite practicing my efforts for the first three miles a bunch in training, I still went out too hard. While I recognized the mistake around the half way point, it wasn't until I reviewed my HR/pace splits that I saw how bad and how early things went screwy.

I don't remember going temporarily insanse in mile 2 of the race, but I suspect short term amnesia is associated with temporary insanity. Once I saw the numbers and realized where things went off track, I began kicking myself.

"I never race dumb, why would I do it all of a sudden in this race?" I wondered.

Then I started going over some of my other race results and notes from the last few years. Interestingly, I almost always go out too hard in running races. Other events (particularly triathlon and swimming) were paced much better, probably because I have a deeper background in swimming. Since tris start with swims, I do okay -- by the time the run comes along I'm usually in a groove to raise effort towards the end.

In most running races I've been able to fudge my effort management errors because I typically only participate in shorter stand-alone running events: 5k-15k. Last year's half marathon was the anomaly regarding pacing -- probably because I could see the first climbs on the course from the start (fear can be an effective governor).

So, it looks like I have two choices: stop competing in running events or learn how to control myself in the early miles of a race. I was leaning to the "no running" option because I'm naturally lazy and that's the pace of least resistance, but with 90% of the local events all beginning with a run (or, in the case of 5k and 10ks, also including a middle and end portion comprised of a run), I think I'll be better off adapting my racing strategy, otherwise I'll spend most of time sitting on the couch.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


I had set a goal to break 1:30 in the Austin half marathon. In hindsight, that goal was completely arbitrary -- a nice, clean number, but not much else. I've done no testing to determine if the pace required is manageable, let along realistic (the workouts were on the calendar, I just didn't do them). That 1:30 reflects a six-minute improvement over my time from last year on a slightly different course. To run a 1:30, I essentially have to run the race in the same time it took me to run 12 miles last year.

A further challenge to my ability to hit the arbitrary goal is that I tweaked my left achilles two Sundays ago. Yesterday was the first time I ran in eight days.

I guess you could argue that I'm just making excuses. But I've been involved with Endurance Corner long enough to learn that you don't magically race faster than your fitness level just because you want to. My training paces aren't screaming sub-1:30. They're not even mumbling sub-1:30.

I'm not saying I don't have a chance at 1:30; I'm saying I don't know if I have the fitness to do it.

I still plan to PR. I'm still going to try for that 1:30. I'll know if I have a chance around the halfway mark as that comes after three miles of downhill. If I'm below 45 minutes, I'll have a shot. If not, I'll just race to beat last year's time. If my legs blow up on me... well... that's my own fault for going out too hard.