6 ways to help you pace the perfect race.
Pace is frequently discussed among runners and triathletes. In fact, as multisport athletes, pace is a part of our everyday lives. Why then do so many triathletes struggle with it, especially when running off the bike? We seem fairly adept at pacing during the swim and the bike, but something strange happens when we start running. We set off feeling OK, but then we start to burn up after a mile or two. Even I have fallen victim to bad run pacing and I can assure you there is no magic trick to feeling great off the bike every time. Fortunately, if you learn to pace you can minimise the damage.
- It’s all about endurance
Even sprint triathlons are endurance events, and need to be treated as such. Patience and planning during each race, regardless of distance, is essential. Yes you can go hard, but remember that once you get off that bike, you still have to run. No one is impressed if you are fast in the swim or the bike, but walk the entire run. Good coaching will teach you to know your limits so that you don’t dig too deep early in the race. What you do in the swim and on the bike can often determine how you will execute your run.
- Speed judgement
You have been on the bike and have been travelling at speeds in excess of 20mph. You get off and even though you may be running very fast, it will feel very slow because you have just been going fast on a bike. Your head will tell you that you are going too slowly, so you speed up. However, you still feel like you are slow, so you go even faster. Take the first half-mile or, in longer races, the first mile to settle down. Keep in mind that it only takes about 200 metres to go into oxygen debt. When in doubt, throw the first mile out, meaning slow down and err on the side of caution. It is better to start out slow and get faster than go out too fast and end up walking.
- Research the course
Be prepared. Learn the run course. If possible, drive the course. Know where it is flat, where there are turns, hills etc. Visualise this course in your mind in the days leading up to the race. I always go over the course in my mind the night before a race, right before I go to sleep. All of this will help you to know where and when your pace will fluctuate.
- Use technology
Some people like to wear their Garmin watch during races in order to see their minutes per mile pace. This is a good tool, but keep in mind that they can have issues such as running out of battery life mid-race or losing a satellite. They will also highlight the huge difference that wind and hills make to your running speed.
- Race your own race
This is your race. You have trained and devised a race plan. Don’t get caught up in someone else’s race plan. It may be tempting to go after your nemesis, but if it is not in your plan, don’t do it. Stick to what you and your coach (if you have one) have planned.
- Be true to yourself
Make sure your race goals are realistic. Your coach should be able to help you understand what you can and can’t do on race day. The ego can bruise easily
so don’t set yourself up for failure by setting ridiculously high goals. Learning how to run well off the bike in triathlon can be a tricky feat to master but it’s well worth the effort.
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