Long Endurance Race Strategy that works every time!

Posted on 21 July 2010

Well it’s the middle of the race season for many of us are preparing for the key race(s) of the season.   As I look at all the various training workouts that will have significant impacts on race performance there is one strategy that continues to provide great results.  It’s nothing new but sometimes overlooked – focusing on the negative split and finishing strong in a race.

The longer the race the more important it becomes to ensure strong race performances.   If it’s a Ironman, ultrarunning race, cycling race, etc. the majority of the time the athletes who perform well during the last several hours can move up significantly among fellow competitors.   Like me, many of you have probably experienced both sides:  Starting to fast and dying at the end of a long race and also going out very conservatively and finishing the second half very strong.   There always seems to be crucial times in these races that are the most difficult but those who are prepared can see the best results.   The following are just examples based on personal experiences of the time during the race when it’s tough:

100 mile Running race – normally 75-80 miles – many athletes start to feel the effect of all the miles, low energy, it’s now getting dark (yes for most not the fast runners!) and the toughest spot mentally.

Ironman – the last 8-10 miles of the marathon are difficult as the legs are normally very tired as a result many times of pushing to hard on the bike, the heat can make it a death march, etc.

100 Mile Cycling race/ride – It seems that 80-85 miles is when the energy is sapped from many riders and it’s mentally challenging to push on.  I have seen many cases and yes through personal experience that if the calories were not adequately consumed  during the ride, it becomes a grind of just turning over the pedals with a foggy head!

The best ways to counter these tough sections of a race are to practice regularly the negative split workout.    The goal is to finish the second half  faster than the first half or a key section in the later stages of the race strong and fast.  The key is that you must start out at a conservative effort.  If you want a race strategy that always works, then focus on replicating  in training what it’s going to feel like in the later stages of a race.   The key is to get accustomed to pushing the race either running or cycling on tired legs.   I always remember going out for a 3 hour run on fresh legs with a nice pace and mentioning to myself that I would like to feel this fast/easy effort for the marathon in an Ironman.  Wish it was that easy and we have all seen it so many times with the death march marathon shuffle runs in an Ironman event or ultrarunning race.

Train your body and mind during long days in the saddle or running to finish strong and utilize the concept of negative splitting.   From personal experience it’s a strategy that will work every time and will result in your best performances!

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