10.09.2013

Running Splits

Does pace matter? Yes, if you have running/racing goals.

Do splits matter? Yes, if you have running/racing goals.

Am I am split master? Absolutely not!

But let's start at the beginning.

Positive Splits: This is where I feel all runners fall initially as I believe it is the natural human tendency that is ingrained in us. We start out nice and strong and then begin puttering out. If you are running positive splits your first miles are your fastest miles and then become progressively slower during the course of your run. This is not a good racing strategy.

Even Splits: Easy to achieve on a treadmill, not so easy in real life. In this running and pacing strategy each and every mile is at the same pace. You are a human metronome. It would be beyond awesome to have this ability ingrained in my running.

Negative Splits: A very solid racing strategy especially for most longer races. You start out slower and your pace systematically increases throughout the course of your race. Absolutely beautiful and how amazing it will feel to finish strong! This takes commitment and work to implement.

The Reality: Even the best laid pacing plans can go haywire. And sometimes a certain strategy, such as negative splits, won't fit a specific course such as one that starts flatter than a pancake and ends with some serious uphill climbing. To go into that race thinking the negative split strategy is best is a bit ambitious but I am sure there are some amazing runners who can pull it off. And even having a plan doesn't guarantee things will go as planned.

Take my long run from Sunday as an example. I had a plan for my 8 mile run that was based on my coach's directive to run four of those miles at a 9'40" pace. I figured practicing a negative split strategy was in order. I would go out slower and then increase my pace. But I also knew my final mile had some serious incline; therefore, I wouldn't be setting myself up for success to strive for a 9'40" mile under those conditions.

My plan in a nutshell: Run 3 miles easy (thinking 10'00" pace), 4 miles at my target 9'40" pace, and 1 mile cool down get me home at whatever pace I can do. It didn't matter. I just wanted to run the entire ascent even if it was at a slug's pace.

Here is what really happened.

I started my run at what I felt was an easy pace and tried to stay nice and slow on the initial downhill stretch. Mile 1: 9'37". I saw my split and told myself to ease up some, slow down, and felt some of the subtle inclines that were coming in would help. Mile 2: 9'28". Guess my plan backfired. I just shaved off 9 seconds. I knew after one more mile my goal was to up my pace to run 9'40" miles but I was already running faster. This next mile had more uphill climbing and that did slow me down. Mile 3: 10'11". This hilly course has some up's and down's which are not easily visible in the elevation profile below.


But it is pretty much an uphill climb until my turn around. Mile 4: 9'51". I was trying to run a 9'40" mile, really I was. I was close. And no, I wasn't peaking in on pace but just running and hearing my overall average paces each mile. I may need to take my phone out of my pocket in future runs and really look at my current pace to nail a specific goal.

At mile 4 I ingested an applesauce to go and enjoyed the downhill running. I tried not to go too crazy though. Mile 5: 7'57". Wow! That was fun. At this point I already knew my pacing strategy was blown out the window. I readjusted and decided to just see what I could do, finish strong, and push myself knowing I would need to confess my failed pacing strategy to my coach later. Mile 6: 7'36", my fastest mile and the point where things start leveling out and some inclines hit you here and there. Mile 7: 8'00". I made it to my final turn and actually did look at my phone to confirm how long this final uphill, curvy stretch was and I guess it is more like 0.75 miles, not 0.5 miles. And yes, I ran the whole way. Yes, I felt sluggish at times. Mile 8: 10'39".

My successful failure at negative splits. I am calling it a failure since I didn't start out as slow and easy as I meant to. I am calling it a success because in all reality, there was a hint of negative splitting in there.

How are you at sticking to your pacing strategies?

Daily Gratitude: I am thankful for the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Daily Affirmation: I am fantastic at managing projects!

4 comments:

  1. I'm hopeless at getting pacing right. Intentions and actions don't often measure up. The only time I've gotten it right was when I raced a half marathon in 2008 - negative split that sucker and walked away with a 5 min PB and a time I thought was beyond me.

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  2. Right now I am just trying to get in shape...will worry about splits later.

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  3. I think I am just bad at coming up with a strategy to begin with. The few times I have strategized, I didn't really stick with it. I have been pretty consistent with the negative splits though. (mainly by accident)

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  4. I really need to get myself on a plan, so I can get faster :)

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