Maggie Rusch

Professional Triathlete

shaking out the cobwebs

have my first race of the year tomorrow. and first half-marathon in almost three years. and, honestly, i am currently CLUELESS as to how tomorrow will pan out. so, trying to figure out how to plan pacing, i started looking back as some of my runs leading up to my first half-marathon in 2009. i spent basically the entire summer training, running almost every morning around central park before heading to my internship. the day of the race, i was ready, but it was also 75+ degrees when the race started at 7:00am. despite the blazing weather and a death-march down west side highway—seriously, they had people hosing off runners as they passed by—i managed to finish with a nice high 1:36. after the race, i ended up taking off over a month due to a strange achilles injury and then ran untrained in the Philly Distance Run in late September, setting a PR with a nice, slightly faster 1:36. i'm still not sure how i did that since i meant for the race to be a "training" run but the body surely is a strange thing sometimes.

so tomorrow, part of me would like to beat that previous time and come in under 1:35 but i'm questioning whether that's going to be possible. when i emailed my coach "the plan" last night, i emailed her my pipe dream version of a race plan: go out as if i was expected to sail in under 1:35 and hold on for dear life as long as i could. wisely, she emailed back what i know i should do, but not necessarily what i want to do.

it's like that scene in Prefontaine (or Without Limits... the films are kind of one-and-the-same sometimes) where Bowerman tells Pre,

"Saturday, start off easy for once in your life. 69s for the first mile, then drop to 67s for the second, then, depending on where you are and how you feel..."

and then Pre's first lap is a 64.

but i'm not Pre, and i doubt that many of you out there are either. however, since i haven't raced in so long (particularly a road race), it's going to be hard to not come out guns blazing. i thought i'd pull together a list of good reasons NOT to go out too fast:

Top Reasons to Start Out Slow

  • no one wants ugly/sweaty race photos
  • you won't be able to tweet splits in the first half
  • dr. andy baldwin from the bachelor will be running tomorrow ...and i want a rose.
  • you'll be too out of breath to yell at the other bloggers who pass you
  • no time to stuff your doggy bag and stock up on gels at the nutrition tables
  • to brag that you negative-split the race

and if none of those above cut it for you, you can always take the advice from Jeff Galloway from his Book on Running: remember that for

"every second per mile you go too fast in the first half of the race, you'll run 5-10 seconds slower at the end."

and

"A slightly slower pace will allow the legs to warm up before pushing into race effort"

and finally:

"Another reason to start slowly and to run your own steady-pace race during the first half is to keep cool... The faster your body temperature rises, the more blood flows to the skin to reduce heat, and the more you sweat... If you maintain an even (and reasonable) pace in the first half you'll actually speed up slightly during the second half: your body mechanics become more efficient as you run."

Top Tips for Negative Splits

  • line up in the right corral for you: i find that i either start too far back and end up playing dodge the racewalkers to get to a happy place, or i start too far forward and get caught up in the pack for a far-too-fast first mile. if you do happen to start in an off-pace corral, just remember to keep calm, carry on and run your pace regardless of the hubbub around you.
  • don't force the uphills. remember that uphill miles can be slower, and you can make up some time on the downhill (if the course has balanced elevation)
  • run the corners (most thorough post goes to DC Rainmaker with Racing the Line)
  • remember that for ever person who passes you in the first half of the race, you'll be passing 80%* of them back in the second half. [*very unofficial stat]
  • if you have a garmin or similar GPS watch, make the most of it. tomorrow, i plan on relying on my Garmin to do a big part of the heavy lifting for pace tracking. more below.
  • trust the process. the best part of having a coach is not having to second guess myself. now i just get to second guess trust her.

How I'm making the most of my Garmin

  • before the race, i'm going to set up garmin's virtual partner to "run" my goal pace for tomorrow's race—once set, i will not start checking this little guy until mile 7 or 8. since i'm negative splitting, he likely will be ahead of me for the majority of the race and it will be my job to pick him off right at the end.
  • for the first half, i've mapped out my goal time targets for each mile, each with a more conservative pace than expected (e.g. the one suggested by my coach). i've done some adjustment relative to the course profile and will be memorizing those target times like they're the numbers from LOST.
  • or, if i get ambitious this evening, i might also play around with the 910xt's automatic time alerts to vibrate when the target time elapses... and then i can compare that relative to where i am on the course.
  • once i hit the half-way mark, i'll move to a combination of hitting my desired splits, while also chasing down the virtual runner. my pace will speed up and i'll just have to hang on until the finish.
UPDATED to ADD: If you're just getting acquainted with the Garmin 910xt, this is by-far the best getting started/basics video out there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJG1EiqkNdQ

Happy Racing! See you guys out there!

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