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.

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