Race pace strategy

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Conservative or Aggressive?

Go big or go home
7
33%
Reasonable Target
14
67%
 
Total votes: 21

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erinmcd
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Race pace strategy

Postby erinmcd » Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:08 pm

When deciding on your race pace, do you set an aggresive target that will be a challenge to hit, or set a reasonable target that you should be able to accomplish if you run smart?

I've been thinking about this since yesterday. Background- my coach is recommending that I do my next marathon at a more conservative pace than I was planning for. My philosophy is more "go big or go home." I'd rather set an aggressive target and fall short than set a soft goal, hit it, and then wonder if I could have done better. I'm interested to see what other people do- especially those who have had unexpected PBs in a race.
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby Jwolf » Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:17 pm

I'd like to think my goals are aggressive but also reasonable targets. I might not always hit them, but they still have to be reasonable based on my training. In other words, "reasonable" doesn't equal "soft".
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby jes » Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:25 pm

My usual strategy is to plan a conservative pace, but in the heat of the moment I usually become more aggressive. It's something I really need to work on, as it's not working for me :oops:
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby erinmcd » Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:35 pm

Jwolf wrote: In other words, "reasonable" doesn't equal "soft".

I probably didn't word that very well. I see what you're saying.
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby PaleSnail » Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:37 pm

I usually try to pace myself for a time I know I can achieve. If I have anything left at the end (last 15-20% of the distance), I'll give it all I have.

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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby Jwolf » Mon Aug 22, 2011 2:48 pm

Just curious- how different in pace are we talking about? And does this really change your training?

I'm curious because I'm often getting asked if I'm "training for a BQ" time, which is 11 minutes faster than my PB. In theory, it's a marathon time that's reasonable for my fitness and training but I always have trouble in marathons. So I might be more inclined to run the marathon at a more conservative pace. BUT... my training won't change either way, because the time is a reasonable goal based on my current fitness. So I don't really feel like I'm training for a particular marathon pace, I'm training at the level that works for my current fitness level.

In shorter races my best times and biggest PBs always come from aiming for a "reasonable" time based on my fitness, but sometimes having the energy and "magic" on race day to pick it up at a faster pace once the race is going. Can't do that in marathons though. :)
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby CinC » Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:11 pm

I tend to always lean towards 'realistic' based on my training and the course.

Funny - i'm not successful with it comes to marathons, but for my past two Ironmans, I was within 6 min on my first and 24 min on my last one (and when it's a 13.5hr goal, a 2.9% error is not that bad!).

I'll test that theory again on Sunday. here's hoping.
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby Joe Dwarf » Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:11 pm

Not having a whole passle of racing experience, I pick the pace that my training says I can do and go for that. For some people I guess that's aggressive. For me (standard propeller-head geek), I'm thinking "the numbers say I should be able to go this fast, so let's try going this fast".

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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby ian » Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:55 pm

erinmcd wrote:Background- my coach is recommending that I do my next marathon at a more conservative pace than I was planning for. My philosophy is more "go big or go home." I'd rather set an aggressive target and fall short than set a soft goal, hit it, and then wonder if I could have done better. I'm interested to see what other people do- especially those who have had unexpected PBs in a race.

In general, I'm with Neil insofar that you should have a good idea from your training about what is an appropriate goal pace. That said, the marathon is a different beast and often the conservative pace does lead to the best result while the aggressive start causes the "what ifs". As a result, my advice comes down to this: if you have never run an even split (or better) in a marathon, trust your coach; if you already have held a pace from wire to wire, trust your training.

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Race pace strategy

Postby SteveF » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:04 pm

I'd run what you know you can run based on training runs. IMO, for marathons, there's too much time invested in training to take a chance on a race day, especially an "A" race.

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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby Spirit Unleashed » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:22 pm

Sometimes kids who want what they want when they want it go to the other parent if they don't like what the first one said.

Your coach knows you better than me. I get more in depth with him; especially if you are only talking by e-mail.
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby MichaelMc » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:42 pm

erinmcd wrote:When deciding on your race pace, do you set an aggresive target that will be a challenge to hit, or set a reasonable target that you should be able to accomplish if you run smart?

I've been thinking about this since yesterday. Background- my coach is recommending that I do my next marathon at a more conservative pace than I was planning for. My philosophy is more "go big or go home." I'd rather set an aggressive target and fall short than set a soft goal, hit it, and then wonder if I could have done better. I'm interested to see what other people do- especially those who have had unexpected PBs in a race.


So lets play this out. You pick a pace "A", run it and find yourself slowing down: do you not wonder what you could have run if you'd only chosen the CORRECT pace? How does "go big or go home" eliminate any doubt?

If you get 80% through a race and you find out you've chosen a pace 10 seconds too fast you can do nothing but fade and wonder. If you pick a pace that is 10 seonds too SLOW, then you can pick up your pace and make SOME of it back, beating your goal and knowing you can do better yet, no? And btw, if you CAN'T pick it up it really WASN'T too slow.

Pick a pace that is ambitious but acheiveable in a marathon, until you learn how your endurance is approach from the conservative end. Once you know your fitness well it does not hurt to commit to a pace that is slightly optimistic; hopefully by then it will only lose a few seconds if you fade.

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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby erinmcd » Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:10 am

Thanks for the input everyone.

ian wrote: if you have never run an even split (or better) in a marathon, trust your coach; if you already have held a pace from wire to wire, trust your training.

Here's the key- I haven't yet run an even split in a marathon. I think that has to be a goal this time around.

Sometimes kids who want what they want when they want it go to the other parent if they don't like what the first one said.

Perhaps it looks like I'm doing that, but I really am looking for input, not justification. He told me that the decision is up to me, so I'm seeking input from those with more experience.

there's too much time invested in training to take a chance on a race day, especially an "A" race.

I've been kind of struggling with the other side of that- there's too much time invested to be wondering if I could have done better. As has been pointed out here by several people, the trick is finding the balance between the 2.

Pick a pace that is ambitious but acheiveable in a marathon, until you learn how your endurance is approach from the conservative end.


I know I've got all the time in the world to make improvements, but sometimes I forget that. PATIENCE!

Conclusion- follow the coach's advice, and target a few minutes slower than I would have if he hadn't suggested it. If I get to the 34-35 km point and have more in the tank, then I can pick it up at the end.
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby Robbie-T » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:25 am

erinmcd wrote:
there's too much time invested in training to take a chance on a race day, especially an "A" race.

I've been kind of struggling with the other side of that- there's too much time invested to be wondering if I could have done better. As has been pointed out here by several people, the trick is finding the balance between the 2.


If you run a solid even marathon you will happy and will not be worried if you could go faster. A marathon is a different race, it really pays to go out conservative and wait until 30k or so then pick it up from there if you can. If you go out fast, you will fade from 30k and the fade will cost you way more.

Good luck.
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby Lightning » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:44 pm

Robbie-T wrote:
erinmcd wrote:
there's too much time invested in training to take a chance on a race day, especially an "A" race.

I've been kind of struggling with the other side of that- there's too much time invested to be wondering if I could have done better. As has been pointed out here by several people, the trick is finding the balance between the 2.


If you run a solid even marathon you will happy and will not be worried if you could go faster. A marathon is a different race, it really pays to go out conservative and wait until 30k or so then pick it up from there if you can. If you go out fast, you will fade from 30k and the fade will cost you way more.

Good luck.

Yup, totally agree with Robbie-T. I always go out more conservatively and have always been able to pick things up in the last bit-this takes a lot of trust in your training and discipline not to shoot out like a rocket during the first part of a race when everyone else is. It is SO much better to be passing people during the last few km of a marathon rather than be the one being passed. I think your coach is on to something! Good luck!
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby fingerboy » Wed Aug 24, 2011 7:31 am

I give people a reasonable range and then I give people an unreasonable but possible range :)

Then I try to hit it. MY best races are when I've successfully pushed myself out of the comfortable range for the duration. It's hit or miss. Many times you can mess yourself over with that. However since I'm always pushing the envelope its a lot of fun trying to nail the unreasonable.

(My 2011 ATB I felt like I was at my V02 max for most of the run but a 15min improvement ~ woah!) But I think you need the perfect weather conditions for it.


Basically I train for fitness/health, I race for fun. :mrgreen:

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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby Joe Dwarf » Wed Aug 24, 2011 10:47 am

ian wrote:In general, I'm with Neil insofar that you should have a good idea from your training about what is an appropriate goal pace. That said, the marathon is a different beast and often the conservative pace does lead to the best result while the aggressive start causes the "what ifs". As a result, my advice comes down to this: if you have never run an even split (or better) in a marathon, trust your coach; if you already have held a pace from wire to wire, trust your training.
OK, not having a coach except for you guys, what would you recommend as a conservative pace to run my first marathon? MAS test says 4:49, Daniels is telling me 4:51, McMillan says 5:04. I was thinking just to try to keep it around or under 5:00. My last long run was 37 km at 5:36, no trouble.

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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby QuickChick » Wed Aug 24, 2011 4:50 pm

I agree with the advice given above for a marathon, and I've learned the hard way by going big and crashing. You spend so much time and energy training for a marathon... be ambitious but reasonable as Michael said. If you crash and burn, unless you're a really seasoned marathoner it's pretty hard to try again without a good chunk of time.

With shorter races, however, I'm much more inclined to just go out hard and see how long I can hold on. The recovery is so much faster that if you end up disappointed, you can redeem yourself pretty much immediately afterward. :)
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby Doonst » Wed Aug 24, 2011 7:26 pm

My numbers were very similar going into my first marathon 4 long years ago. From 5 K through 30 K, including lots of halfs, McMillan suggested a 5:06 pace for a 3:35 marathon. I was well prepared. Ignoring the fact that that would be a BQ for me, I aimed for a 3:45 and came in at 3:41. I tried not to second guess my plan and settled for having a very positive and successful first, not everybody gets that. 3 weeks later, I cut 5 minutes off my half marathon time and had a whole new set of McMillan predictions. Later that year I went after that BQ and it was damn tough; I came in 7 seconds over. Which was close enough back then.
Most runners never hit their McMillan marathon paces ever, let alone their first time out. Respect the distance.
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby Jwolf » Wed Aug 24, 2011 7:30 pm

Doonst wrote:My numbers were very similar going into my first marathon 4 long years ago. From 5 K through 30 K, including lots of halfs, McMillan suggested a 5:06 pace for a 3:35 marathon. I was well prepared. Ignoring the fact that that would be a BQ for me, I aimed for a 3:45 and came in at 3:41. I tried not to second guess my plan and settled for having a very positive and successful first, not everybody gets that. 3 weeks later, I cut 5 minutes off my half marathon time and had a whole new set of McMillan predictions. Later that year I went after that BQ and it was damn tough; I came in 7 seconds over. Which was close enough back then.
Most runners never hit their McMillan marathon paces ever, let alone their first time out. Respect the distance.


I assume this is an answer for Joe Dwarf? Wise words.

That's a pretty remarkable progression, Sheldon- I hadn't remembered you were able to get your BQ time that quickly in your marathoning.

No, not all of us are that successful. :) (still trying to get to my predicted time-- now about 20 minutes faster than my PB)
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby Doonst » Wed Aug 24, 2011 7:46 pm

Jwolf wrote:
Doonst wrote:My numbers were very similar going into my first marathon 4 long years ago. From 5 K through 30 K, including lots of halfs, McMillan suggested a 5:06 pace for a 3:35 marathon. I was well prepared. Ignoring the fact that that would be a BQ for me, I aimed for a 3:45 and came in at 3:41. I tried not to second guess my plan and settled for having a very positive and successful first, not everybody gets that. 3 weeks later, I cut 5 minutes off my half marathon time and had a whole new set of McMillan predictions. Later that year I went after that BQ and it was damn tough; I came in 7 seconds over. Which was close enough back then.
Most runners never hit their McMillan marathon paces ever, let alone their first time out. Respect the distance.


I assume this is an answer for Joe Dwarf? Wise words.

That's a pretty remarkable progression, Sheldon- I hadn't remembered you were able to get your BQ time that quickly in your marathoning.

No, not all of us are that successful. :) (still trying to get to my predicted time-- now about 20 minutes faster than my PB)

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First marathon spring 2007
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First Boston spring 2008
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This blackbird's mute gonna sing again
One fine day

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And all you drunkards crawl out
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Race pace strategy

Postby Jwolf » Wed Aug 24, 2011 8:06 pm

Doonst wrote:
Jwolf wrote:
Doonst wrote:My numbers were very similar going into my first marathon 4 long years ago. From 5 K through 30 K, including lots of halfs, McMillan suggested a 5:06 pace for a 3:35 marathon. I was well prepared. Ignoring the fact that that would be a BQ for me, I aimed for a 3:45 and came in at 3:41. I tried not to second guess my plan and settled for having a very positive and successful first, not everybody gets that. 3 weeks later, I cut 5 minutes off my half marathon time and had a whole new set of McMillan predictions. Later that year I went after that BQ and it was damn tough; I came in 7 seconds over. Which was close enough back then.
Most runners never hit their McMillan marathon paces ever, let alone their first time out. Respect the distance.


I assume this is an answer for Joe Dwarf? Wise words.

That's a pretty remarkable progression, Sheldon- I hadn't remembered you were able to get your BQ time that quickly in your marathoning.

No, not all of us are that successful. :) (still trying to get to my predicted time-- now about 20 minutes faster than my PB)

Yes it was for JD.
First marathon spring 2007
First ~BQ fall 2007
First Boston spring 2008

Awesome. I wish you could give us lessons.
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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby MichaelMc » Wed Aug 24, 2011 9:02 pm

Joe Dwarf wrote:OK, not having a coach except for you guys, what would you recommend as a conservative pace to run my first marathon? MAS test says 4:49, Daniels is telling me 4:51, McMillan says 5:04. I was thinking just to try to keep it around or under 5:00. My last long run was 37 km at 5:36, no trouble.


McMillan is generally 5-10 minutes too optimistic for runners who are not HIGHLY experienced. If you had a recent series of races showing you lose VERY little speed as your distance went 5k/10k/Half, then I might try to meet McMillan. The average weekly training mileage of someone who meets a PROPER McMillan equivalancy is >100km per week. People with that training base are the runners who have the endurance to hold their speed. There are exceptions, but that is the average so just as many take MORE miles as those who do it with less.

Your (too long) training run tells us nothing other than you can run slower for a shorter distance than you plan to race: only full effort races can indicate what you'll do in a race. Personally I'd set out at 5:10-5:15 if the race you based the predictions on was recent and didn't have any extrordinary circumstances. Failing that, whatever you do, don't go out faster than your intended pace. If you run your goal pace WELL you'll at least learn whether it was realistic, optimistic or overly cautious.

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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby RobW » Wed Aug 24, 2011 10:24 pm

MichaelMc wrote:McMillan is generally 5-10 minutes too optimistic for runners who are not HIGHLY experienced. If you had a recent series of races showing you lose VERY little speed as your distance went 5k/10k/Half, then I might try to meet McMillan. The average weekly training mileage of someone who meets a PROPER McMillan equivalancy is >100km per week. People with that training base are the runners who have the endurance to hold their speed. There are exceptions, but that is the average so just as many take MORE miles as those who do it with less.

I often wondered what the average weekly training mileage was to meet a McMillan equivalency for the marathon. I'm not targeting my calculated time but I knew I wasn't anywhere close to the training mileage required to meet it.

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Re: Race pace strategy

Postby Joe Dwarf » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:51 am

MichaelMc wrote:
Joe Dwarf wrote:OK, not having a coach except for you guys, what would you recommend as a conservative pace to run my first marathon? MAS test says 4:49, Daniels is telling me 4:51, McMillan says 5:04. I was thinking just to try to keep it around or under 5:00. My last long run was 37 km at 5:36, no trouble.


McMillan is generally 5-10 minutes too optimistic for runners who are not HIGHLY experienced. If you had a recent series of races showing you lose VERY little speed as your distance went 5k/10k/Half, then I might try to meet McMillan. The average weekly training mileage of someone who meets a PROPER McMillan equivalancy is >100km per week. People with that training base are the runners who have the endurance to hold their speed. There are exceptions, but that is the average so just as many take MORE miles as those who do it with less.

Your (too long) training run tells us nothing other than you can run slower for a shorter distance than you plan to race: only full effort races can indicate what you'll do in a race. Personally I'd set out at 5:10-5:15 if the race you based the predictions on was recent and didn't have any extrordinary circumstances. Failing that, whatever you do, don't go out faster than your intended pace. If you run your goal pace WELL you'll at least learn whether it was realistic, optimistic or overly cautious.
Thanks, Michael. That's a much more reasonable approach. I'm running about 75 km/week these days and my last race in June was a 10k where the last 5 k was about 30 s slower than the first. So I think I need to heed your advice.


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