and Tune-Up Races
A lot of people like to do training races in their lead up to key
Fair enough, but I think we should have the same definition for this
to work properly, and since I'm the coach, my definition is the one we
That said, I prefer to call them tune-up
races, not training races.
To me, all races need to be viewed as rehearsals for the main event
for which you are training. That includes:
- Goal setting
- Dealing with the
- Focusing before,
during and after the race
Some people work well on lots of rest the day before a race, others work
on a bit of rest the day before, others need to
do something very short and intense. You need to figure out what works
The negative split is when the second half of the
race is faster than the first half. If you go out slowly enough,
this is not hard to do, but the time may not reflect your
potential if you went too slowly. Aim for 1-5 seconds per kilometer
faster on the second half. This is generally the least painful, but
harderst to actually do.
The even split is when both halves are the same
time. To me, this implies you could have gone faster-you may have
been holding back on the second half to get the even split and could have
pushed a bit harder.
The positive split is the easiest of them all to
do-go out hard and get slower as you go. It's quite natural.
However, there is a way to do it properly: plan where
that slow down is going to happen. Generally, you can use
the table below to help you know how hard to go to positive split a race.
TREAT IT LIKE (km)
TREAT IT LIKE (TIME)
90% of goal time
90% of goal time
90% of goal time
80% of goal time
Another version of the positive split is the little known "I-know-I-can-go-this-long-at-this-pace-and-I'll-almost-be-done-so-I'll-suck-it-up-to-the-end"
approach. This option requires a lot of confidence and a
true willingness to suffer, as well as an indepth knowledge of your level of fitness,
mixed with a bit of optimism.
As an example, it could go like this: let's say you're a 50min 10k
runner. Based on training, you have a very good feeling that you
can run 45min quite hard, but you know you can't run 10k in that
time. So, you plan to run 45min hard, knowing you may or may not
quite get to 45min still in one piece, but that you'll at worst get to
42min. All you have to do is hang on for a maximum of 8 minutes,
right? Who knows, you may get to 46-47minutes and not have to hold
on for long at all. You plan for it, and accept it.
Here, it really depends on the individual, because everyone is
different. However, there are some general guidelines that you
If you regularly have coffee, have your coffee
I have found it best to approach every race with the intent to do the
best I can. For example, if you go into an event with a 'training
pace' mentality, you are giving yourself permission to back off if things
get tough. If you do that often enough, it becomes very easy to
give yourself permission to back off. When it comes time to really
push in your major race, you're not in the habit of pushing through the
discomfort so you not only have to deal with the discomfort, but the urge
to back off that you've given into previously.
However, if you view the event as a tune up race, you tend to take it
more seriously and try harder, but don't have quite the same pressure as
you would if it was your key race for the season.
That said, your best effort is directly related to your set up before
the race-if the race really is not that key, you don't need to be 100%
rested on the start line so you can train the days before.
The best effort comes into play when the warm-up starts and the gun
The training part is what you learn from the experience, both positive
and negative, and how you deal with that new knowledge.
Examples of approaching things as training races my way are plentiful.
A few years ago, Mike Giles' half marathon best time (set two years in
a row, for that matter) was after riding 70k from Sharbot Lake to
Kingston, with full intentions to ride back after the race (which he
did). There was no backing off there.
The first time Len Ireland
broke 1:30 for a half marathon was also after a 70k ride from Sharbot Lake
Again, no backing down from the challenge.
Last year, a whole gang rode 70k then did the Nordion 10k, woke up the
next morning, rode 90k then ran the National Capital Half Marathon, all
with very good results and not holding back anything they did not need to
My point is, when the gun goes off, blink and turn your focus on full
tilt. Do the best you can. You never know what will happen.
The concept that each race is a learning experience can easily be
extended to each and every workout (and by workout, I mean primarily
interval/group workouts). Each one is a reflection of the preparation
for a race.
For example, at the first time-trial we did at the Dome, most of you
really didn't do a great warm-up, when that's a great opportunity to play
with/figure out what works for you in a warm up before a race.
Last Tuesday, there was no advance warning so you had do what you could
with the time you had before the workout started, but what we did is a
very good example of what should be done. Same goes for the drills we did
all winter at the Dome.
Additionally, when you are doing the interval work, you have to focus on
what you are doing in the workout and notice/know how fast you are going
so that you can translate that into a race. For example, you have
to know what it feels like to run your real 5k race pace in a
workout so you can translate that over to the race. There is less of
a benefit to running a workout and not focusing on how you
are actually running, swimming or cycling the workout.
Realizing you have been running too fast for the previous kilometer or
two is often too late. The damage has been done. The sooner
you can correct poor pacing, the better your race will be, so if you can
feel that the pace is too fast before the kilo markers, you can adjust
before the damage is done, or at least limit it.
The Mind Game
The psychology of racing well, and to your potential, is theoretically
very simple: stay relaxed, put your head down, pace yourself properly and
go as hard as you think you can handle for the distance. Focus on
the race, your form, your body and not much else.
Yet it can also be very complex at the same time: it requires a good
measure of self confidence and focus. You can have too much or too
little, or just enough. If you have too much, things will be
tough. If you have too little, you may not achieve as much as you'd
really like. Finding the balance is key, especially when that
balance point keeps moving J
Having the right level of confidence means that you can say to
yourself, "unless something drastic and unforeseen happens, I know I
can do this, and since it would be drastic
and unforeseen, therefore out of my control, I won't think about
it". The only questions to be answered after the gun goes off
are how long it will take, and how long it will hurt for.
There are two big tricks in harnessing your confidence:
realistic goals; and,
- having a healthy respect for the race itself.
In the first case, setting your race goals should be a realistic
assessment of your abilities and the circumstances around the race.
- Ask yourself if
you've done anything in training or previous races that justifies
your goal. An honest answer helps a lot.
- Ask yourself if
everything is as it should be in your preparation: sleep, fuel,
state of restedness, weather. All these need to be factored
in, but will also probably change from race to race..
In the second trick, not having a healthy respect for the challenge
will get you in trouble every time. Tell-tale signs of this are:
- taking off at a ballistic or inappropriate
pace. We must all accept it is a race, and therefore it will
be hard, at least somewhere along the line. Realistic pacing
will help to delay that discomfort, and a healthy respect for the
race will insure you pace things properly. In my experience,
the fitter and faster I think I am, the less respect I have for the
race, the higher my expectations and the easier I think the race is
going to be, but the harder it is. The less fit I am,
the lower my expectations are and the harder I expect to work and
the better the race seems to happen. When I'm fit and expect
big things, I tense up and go out too fast, then blow up. When
I do not consider myself race fit, I tend to be more relaxed, go out
a bit slower and pace myself more appropriately.
- Lackadaisacle attitude towards warm-up; and
- Lackadaisacle attitude towards race day fueling.
Another point that comes to mind with respect to confidence and racing
is that, at a certain point in the race, we all have a legitimate shot to
beat the people around us, if we care to try. Otherwise, they would
not be around us. If two people are still together far enough into
a race, it's a matter of toughness or tactics, and the challenge is
on. It's up to you to accept it. If you try to beat the
person near you, successful or not, you will probably finish a bit faster
than if you let them go.
Having this level of confidence also means there is no fear of
failure, which allows for more risk and greater reward, if it
works. If it doesn't work, you can try again next time.
Keeping the importance of race performances in perspective is also
very important: it is after all, only a race. Most of us do them for fun;
no matter how much time and money we've invested. If you fall apart
and keep going, it's a good and character building lesson. Learn
from whatever you did right or wrong. Personally, I won't drop out
of a race out of respect for the people that are still behind me, unless
continuing is risking my health. As often as I've blown up in races
or had bad days, I have not been able to bring myself to drop out knowing
there are people out there almost half my speed
that have the fortitude to finish. I do know that if I don't
finish, I will still be me, I will still wake up the next day and the sun
will rise. It may be cloudy, but I can try again another day.
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