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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Perceived Effort versus even pace

Here's a great question I got from an Aussie triathlon coach: "I had two junior girls do some time trials on the weekend and I took all their splits and have plotted them. It seems they have taken a rather common curve in their splits, fast early – slow down – bring it back at the end. What are your thoughts on pacing in a TT? Should I try to bring them back a bit early? Or is this a common curve for all athletes and I just need to work with it and work on their endurance in that middle zone?" PC

Yup stats have shown this over & over again. There are many reasons, some of which we discussed: The mental zone - come too far to quit, got too far to go to smell the barn, think about past & future, lose focus in the present moment & de-recruit/de-facilitate, de-potentiate. 2ndly the central governor is insufficiently experienced, testosterone (ego) kicks in & they go fast while they still can & the same at the end – central governor (brain?) calculates that they have a finite, comprehensible manageable amount left & they won’t blow up, so they give it schtick over the last section.

They should absolutely be taught in rep work & progressively more & more intense steady effort runs to go out at a pace that they think is right, then back off that, then mid run they should risk going harder than they feel is prudent & then go at the finish sooner than they think they can. Warm them up super well. Then using a treadmill, the GPS, or you on the bike, set a pace that you have determined they ought to be capable of. Then have them stick with the pace (even sometimes without knowing the distance they have to run!) & hold it as long as they can & only focus on dealing with the current, in-the-moment consequences of pace & effort, i.e. stay present to what is so, second by second – staying away from concerns about what impact such a pace may have on them 5sec or 5min or 50min from this moment – just stick at it, renegotiate & stick at it some more & more & more. They soon learn how to override the bodies too-early warning signs & learn how to push towards more real physiological limits that have not been filtered through the interpretation network too much.

Even do 100m, flying start strides beforehand till they master the feel of the sought-after pace. They can learn that even pace (no more than 3% on either side of sought after effort) is most economical & fastest. Effort is the key word in terms of physiology – i.e. at an effort, that under ideal conditions – flat road, no wind, firm surface, will produce a given pace; faster on downs or with the wind & slower on climbs or against the wind or on a slow surface. The mental effort is trained as a crescendo effort – i.e. in order to produce an even pace (under ideal conditions again) the effort needs to escalate throughout – a 3:30km (as an example of the pace required) for the 1st km of an 8km TT may feel like a 4:00 & a 3:30 for the 5th, might feel like a 3:20 & for the 7th an intense 3:00 in order to stick at 3:30s – get my drift?

The top Kenyans sometimes use 3 groups of training partners: the weakest group for the 1st 3rd of the workout & the strongest for the last 3rd! All workouts, from easy to VO2max go from easy to fast throughout, never the other way around – but they do train for fast starts as well.

Hope this helps

Bobby McGee

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