Race day pacing: Athletes at the Home of Triathlon race earlier this month.
I really try to stress to my athletes the importance of getting your pacing right. Get it wrong and your race will fall to pieces no matter how fit you are.
Racing for an entire day requires one to be smart enough to know your limitations. You also have to be humble and disciplined enough not to let yourself get caught up in someone else’s race. Do this and you are going to pay later, in fact it’s one of the main reasons we see so many folks doing the Zombie walk at the 70.3 and 140.6 events.
If you look hard you can even find them at your local sprint triathlon. I know for sure back in 1991 when I did my first sprint triathlon I walked the last kilometre of the run.
When we race long we have to put a lot of thought on controlling emotions, fuelling, dealing with discomfort and remaining focused. That’s why I tell my athletes that they are there to do their own thing. If they are near the prize-money or the World Championship slot after the 32km mark, then, and only then should they start to race the competition. Because age groupers, including top age groupers, shouldn’t be putting it all on the line so early in the race. We save our best efforts for the end. Anybody can do well until they get to halfway through the run and then reality hits them and the excuses begin… ‘I got cramps, I was dehydrated, I dropped a bottle with some of my race day nutrition.’
I honestly don’t think I’ve heard anybody say they went out too fast too early and because of this rookie mistake they bonked.
So what I do to prevent this happening to my athletes is prescribe them Brick workouts that will have them relatively tired when they get off the bike. Sometimes that bike ride comes in the form of a 3 hour 30 minutes workout (moderate, medium, mad), it’s a brilliant workout that the Doc (Brett Sutton) teaches. That way we work on bike pacing and running on tired legs. With this workout they also learn about their own limitations because usually they blow up the first time they do it.
The reason is because they get off the bike and start running at their normal running half marathon pace, they feel good for 30 mins and then Bam! They bonk and the walking begins. So after an hour of crying on the phone with me I explain to them that they should add 15% to the open half marathon pace – for example a 1:40 half marathoner, add 15% and that’s 1:55 min, that is their 70.3 run guesstimate. So next time they get off the bike in the middle of a Brick that’s how they start. To their surprise fit athletes always end up feeling better and running faster after executing correctly the first 50% of the run.
I have heard many coaches use a phrase which I have also adopted: “go fast when the race is slow”. To me that pretty much summarises what we want to do, but also we have to keep in mind that it’s what we do in the first “slow” hours that will determine what happens in the later stages of the race. So my advice will be stay focused all the time, create and trust your strategy and trust your training.
Coach Luis Villavicencio has coached 7 World Championship qualifiers this year. Sign up for online coaching with Luis here.