Monday, February 1, 2016

Pacing

by Marilyn Chychota

Pacing is one of the most talked about subjects when it comes to endurance sport. You get this wrong and no matter how well trained you are, your day can be blown apart.

When you are asking yourself to race for a long time, the concept of pacing means more than just how fast you're going; it means emotional control, fueling, dealing with discomfort and controlling your ability to focus.

When we are rested, excited and ready to go it's easy to make the mistake of letting 5-10min here and there be over a pace we should be going for that event. Remember that the goal is to not break down and not slow down from start to finish. If you go too hard for even a small amount of time you are risking having to slow down for an extended period of time later. A breakdown in ability to absorb nutrition, body cramping and breakdown and having the ability to continue to race right through the run can be a direct effect from poor pacing early on.

Pacing the Swim
Warm up well! I like to do an easy 15-minute jog, a couple strides and then get my wetsuit on and go down to the water early enough to do a good warm up. If you can't get in the water then using stretch cords to warm up if you can.

Seed yourself well. This doesn't always mean at the back or at the side. Instead, pick a starting position around athletes the same or slightly faster than you.

When you start, watch that first 200m. Go quick enough to grab some good feet and position, but, you want to cap yourself to not flood your body with lactate and blow up. The best thing is to limit the kick and focus on fast arms! You will be faster overall in the swim if you control this first 200m and build than if you go out to hard and have to spend the next 10 minutes swimming easy to recover.

You will be fresh, excited and maybe even a bit scared. You'll definitely be pumped up with all the emotion and crowds. Go easier than you think. You will by nature go out harder than what you think you are. Hold back!

Pacing the Bike
When you jump on the bike be sure it's in a light enough gear you can get going. A big mistake people make is loading themselves up by starting in too big of gear. Better to go one lighter and gear up than be bogged down.

Give yourself a few minutes to settle and then get going into your TT mode. Let your stomach and HR settle in that first 10 minutes. Sip on water if you need, but just settle everything.

The goal is always fastest ride possible with the least amount of matches burnt. In other words, that means going as fast as you can while saving energy for the run.

Where the race is fast and speed is high: Recover! Fuel!

When the race is hard: Focus and work hard.

Remember when climbing to stay in a good rhythm. Gear up or down as you need to keep tempo up. Get aero on the flats and downs. Ride technically well. By this I mean riding corners well, descending well, using good bike handling skills to gain free speed with little energy.

For some athletes a powermeter is a useful tool. But all tools should be used as just that: a tool. They provide good info to help us gauge our efforts and read what's happening to our bodies. It can be a problem when athletes are overly reliant on their gadgets and lose the ability to read and feel their body or if they allow gadgets to dictate to many decisions, which is a common mistake I see known as "chasing power."

Think of power and other devices in the context of a pilot. All pilots have a huge amount of gauges they read while flying the plane, but can fly with no gadgets at all if needed. Some athletes need power for staying on task and focused, some need it to hold together their pacing early on. Experienced athletes use it as info to help them read the big picture of their bodies as they race.

Pacing the Run
Settle in as you run out of transition. Get your feet under you and cadence up, arms up in the right position, chin down. Then build as you go.

Going fast requires a commitment right to the finish line. Break the run into segments and focus on the process of running to the best of your ability. Focus on your breath, staying focused and relaxed. Pay attention to small details like a relaxed face and jaw, strong posture, smooth and quick cadence. Pick mantras and cue focus words to help. Be TUF -- Technique Under Fatigue!

Focus on the process as you race, the outcome will follow. Focus inward, not letting exterior distractions interrupt your focus.

Regarding gadgets such as GPS, I'll go back to the same answers as I did for power. Using different devices is very athlete dependent and can be great tools. Not every marker is set perfectly on a course, so if you are using markers for splits and they seem way off, remember they may be set a little off, or have been moved. You should come into each race with a clear practiced understanding of what pace and effort you can hold for the given distance and what that feels like. You should know how to adjust based on the day, the conditions, the race. If you are well prepared then you'll have a good idea of cues from your body of the effort you can hold in all circumstances across the distance you are racing.


Marilyn Chychota has been in elite sport since the age of 9, from show jumping to cycling and triathlon. Competing on an international stage in all three sports with an Ironman title, several podiums and state championships in cycling, Marilyn works with all distance and level of triathletes and cyclists. From beginners to elites; short course, bike racing, stage racing and long course triathlon, she has guided several athletes to the podium and to Hawaii qualifications.
Click to share on Twitter and Facebook
      Tweet This!