Magic Race Day Recipe

19 05 2009

Written by F4 Tech Adviser Bobby McGee

When using time trials as determinants of possible goal pace for the Bolder Boulder 10km it is essential to compare similar courses. Let’s say, for example you ran a 38:00 4-miler on a flat course on dirt on a 55* day with no wind. Using a race time comparison chart this equals a 60:21 10km. Now let’s see why the time trial was an apple & the race grapefruit, or was it?

  • On the plus side you ran the time trial on dirt, while the race is on asphalt. This means that the same time trial on asphalt would have been faster
  • On the minus side is that the 4-miler was flat & the race is hilly
  • Another minus might be that the race may dawn warmer than the time trial, which was run in optimal weather
  • A plus would be that the race is later in your training phase & you are fitter & would have run a faster 4-miler if you ran it on race day
  • Another plus is that you are tapered for the race & thus physically capable of a stronger performance because of the rest & facilitation
  • Another plus is that you are mentally aimed at this race, your commitment to the race is greater & your physiology & mind are correspondingly attenuated to achieve a peak performance

Once you have decided on a realistic, but aggressive time goal, you now have an overall pace that you’d like to achieve. It is important then to consider that not as the pace, but as the effort you’d like to achieve. By this I mean, that based on the above 4 miler, you may be going to try for a 9:40 mile pace on race day, but will run faster on the down sections than that & slower on the up sections. Bearing the 3% rule in mind – that all things being equal (surface, etc), the most efficient way to achieve a time goal is not to vary on either side of the average pace by more than 3%, it might behoove you to use the course elevation map, the 3% rule & your time goal to come up with a race pace plan that matches this.

Below I have broken down the course in this manner & added the various mental challenges & strategies that you might need to face to achieve such a goal. For the purposes of explanation I have used a 9:40 mile as illustration:

  1. The 1st mile is a down (to lowest point on the course – 5,284ft.), then up, more down than up – slightly so. Take care to go out at a brisk pace (after a good full warm up). Avoid saying “Don’t go out too fast”, as you will access the mental program on how to go out too fast – a disease that inhabits even the most skillful of runners – especially younger males! The internal dialogue is subjective – “Go out strong, smooth, relaxed & at goal effort”. Now this may bring a 1st mile that is 3% faster than goal (e.g. 9:20) & that’s okay, as long as the effort was the target effort. It would also be useful to know your km split (e.g. 6:00), as this will give you more frequent & ultimately more objective feedback. Last thing about the start is to stay present, as while your 1st mile split may be 9:20, you may have gone too fast in the 1st .5 mile & then slowed too much in the 2nd half – even, smooth, gradual pace judgment is essential.
  2. The 2nd mile is mostly all climb with a peak on Folsom Hill & a little drop & then climb to the 2mi marker. Here the pace can drift (but not the effort!) to just under 10:00
  3. Mile 3 is similar, but alas with an even steeper grade. Just after the 2 mile marker you climb steeply to 19th & Vista. Thereafter there is a slight respite – a down section that goes past the 3 mile marker to 19th & Balsam – to just over half way (5km). Here with that more marked drop down 19th, you should manage about 9:50 – 9:55
  4. The rest of mile 3 (from 19th & Balsam) is a series of turns & roller coasters in terms of elevation changes & is an absolutely crucial time to remain focused on form & balanced effort. It is easy to allow the pace to slip & the previously clear target of pace to give way to thoughts of “Maybe next year”, or “I’m taking it easy to the top of Casey Hill, (just past 4 miles) & then I’ll see where I am at”. By this time, with this lost focus, the hopes of a specific overall pace goal being achieved will be lost or at the very least seriously challenging to regain in the remaining 2 & a bit miles. Here a pace of 9:50 to 10:00 would be well done. While not allowing a slowing because of perceived fatigue, it is important also that you do not over-zealously attack this part of the course – it really requires patience, concentration & a balanced effort that gives back the least time, but at the same time spares the legs somewhat to gain fullest advantage of the down hills to come
  5. The turn east for the long decent comes just after mile 4, & the 5th mile is ALL DOWN! The bad news is that to gain time on down hills is harder because you have less time (going faster) to make up what you lost over the same distance climbing (going slower)! It is not a time to rest & recover, as one needs to attack the downs to get full benefit. This requires greater focus than what the hills required, as the body will be sending messages to the brain saying, “whoa there! You just worked your butt off & feel the consequences, what’s the hurry? Let’s take it easy down these hills!” (Especially in the 1st part of the down). Ignore this “interference” – time is your goal, you may not be passing a whole lot of people, but if you are not on it, time will slip away & leave you disappointed come race end. Lean just off your balance point – get the turnover high & flow like water down to Walnut & Folsom (about a quarter mile after the 5 mile marker). Here you really want to try to manage 9:20 min mile pace or better for this 1.25 miles, (always thinking of the effort it would take to run 9:40 on the flats)
  6. This final mile plus is less about the training & more about the mind – have you done your mental training, have you embedded your desire to achieve your goal deeply enough? In other words do you still want to have an overall pace of 9:40 at this stage of the game? At this point you may be about 15sec behind pace (worst case scenario on the above). This mile, being the last should allow you to dig a little deeper (progressively), as you need not save anything for after the race! Go hard to the base of that final vicious little hill outside the stadium, almost as if it is the finish line, as many people lose focus during that last mile by casting their minds ahead to that climb, which beats them up no matter what anyway, so you might as well have gone hard till there, take your medicine up it, by working solely on form (lean, cadence, short quick strides) & then let go down that final section to the finish. Hopefully this approach brings a 9:20 – 9:40. This is possible because even though that last mile has some demands – it is, after all, not a full mile of climbing; the 1st quarter is down, there is a drop just before the final climb, there’s a quick drop to the stadium floor & then there’s that gloriously flat finish, &, don’t forget, it is your last hurrah!

I hope this helps you create a race plan & mindset that leads to you fulfilling your dream pace per mile for the 2009 Bolder Boulder – GOOD LUCK & ALWAYS HAVE FUN OUT THERE!

Bobby McGee                                                                                                            ©BMES 2009

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One response

21 05 2009
Greg

outstanding post!

i tried to break 45 three years in a row — trying to cobble this strategy from scratch… i feel like it would have made the difference…

good running to everyone who goes for it on Monday!!

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