It seems I need to repeat this topic several times a year. I suppose that’s because it’s so hard to learn this lesson. It’s really difficult to keep our emotions in check, I guess. Or perhaps it’s because we believe that some sort of miracle has occurred and we are suddenly capable of doing things we have never done before.
Like running a 10km race three minutes faster than ever before. Or doing 20-minute threshold intervals at 30 watts above what was manageable just last week. Or swimming 500 meters at the same pace as a best-ever 100 meters.
When we start a race or an interval it’s easy. Right? For 20 seconds or so it feels almost effortless. So what do we do? We go fast. Faster than we are capable of maintaining based on previous experience. But it feels so easy! And when it’s a race or we’re training with a group we’re excited. They’re all going fast, too. They must be right. The excitement makes it feel even easier than if we were alone.
So we do really stupid stuff.
And a few minutes later we begin to pay the price. What happens? Acidosis sets in. Within a few minutes our muscles are drowning in acid. They’re screaming for relief. Breathing is labored panting. So we slow down. We have no other recourse. When everything starts feeling a bit better we try to go hard again. This time it’s only a few seconds until we know it’s over.
We limp in. The intervals, workout or race won again.
Do you do this? If not you’re definitely in the minority. Almost everyone does it. But it’s so easily fixed.
By this time you should know yourself well enough to what you are capable of doing. Then simply be determined to do it at the start of the race or workout by using your head rather than letting your emotions run wild and ruining things yet again. Just because the others are going too fast doesn’t make it right. Be strong-willed enough to think and act for yourself.
Pacing is critical to performance in all types of endurance sports from the 800m run on the track to the 45-minute bicycle criterium to the Ironman Triathlon to Race Across America. Pacing is the key. Work on it training. If you can't do it in a workout you certainly can't do it in a race. Learning this skill will pay off big time in your 2011 race performances.
NEXT: When it is ok to go out fast and why heart rate monitors train us to pace poorly.