27 February 2012

Training to Remedy a Racing Problem

They don’t call me The Jewish Stallion because of my speed.
                                             --The Jewish Stallion, as he began to lag behind on Sunday’s run.

Yesterday, I had a successful 20-mile run, my first twenty-miler since the first twenty miles of the 2010 Amsterdam Marathon, about 16 months ago.  I ran the final 18 miles with Alain and the Jewish Stallion.  Since they were only running 18 miles, I had to run the first two miles alone, which gave me time to relax and get into my run in the way I desired: gradually.  I took almost 18 minutes to get through those two miles, and after joining Alain and JS, I (we) continued running relaxed.  I ended up going through 10 miles in 1:26.27 (8:38 per mile pace).

Since I started running again at the beginning of October, I have run negative splits for almost every one of my runs.  Easy runs, long runs, tempo runs, I have run negative splits in them all.  I do this because I am trying to train my body to remedy a bad habit that I have.  I go out too fast in races.  It doesn’t matter the distance.  From the 5k to the marathon, I go out too fast—and then bonk terribly at some point in the race.  Only three times have I not gone out too hard in a race: the Macau Marathon; a small, local half-marathon here in The Netherlands in 2010, and the Ironman Antwerp 70.3 this past July. 

In Macau, which is the first marathon for which I trained seriously, I ran 3:24 and didn’t fall apart until mile 24.  I ran in control for the entire first half of that race.  In the local half I did about a year and a half ago, I averaged about 7:12 for the first three miles and 6:59 per mile for the final ten.  In fact, the final three miles of that race were negative splits and each mile was sub-seven minutes.  As a bonus, I was in fourth place at the halfway mark, and I finished the race in second place.  In Antwerp, I couldn’t go out too fast on the swim because I can’t swim fast, and I rode my bike at the rate I rode in training, so I may have only one speed there too.  However, on the run, I ran controlled throughout, but only because an injury kept me honest.

In the Amsterdam Marathon 16 months ago, I was fit enough to run ten minutes faster than I had in Macau, but I went through 5k like I would run 3:04, 15k like I would run 3:07, and the half like I would run 3:10.  After walking and jogging mile 21, I called it quits and walked the rest of the way to the finish line.  I had nothing left because I went out far too hard.  I think I would be looking at a marathon PR of 3:15ish right now if I had run an even-tempo 1:38 first half in that race, but I didn’t, so I’m not.

That is why a major goal of mine for Prague is to go out under control and run negative splits—as well as PR and beat my training partners.  This is why almost every one of my runs, if not every one, is run with negative splits.  I want my body programmed to get faster at the halfway point of every run.  Yesterday, I ran my final ten miles in 1:20.44 (8:04 per mile pace), and my final two miles were run in 7:36 and 7:21.  I don’t know if this training protocol is going to work (some might view it as a bit obsessive), but it certainly can’t hurt, can it?  My training specifically targets a weakness I have and attempts to remedy my problem with a logical exercise.  Is there more a coach should do with himself?

If you’ve dealt successfully with going out too hard in races and have a secret that you’d like to share about how you got past this problem, please leave me a comment below.

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