Racing strategies

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This topic contains 19 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  ed 7 years, 12 months ago.

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  • #12239

    cesar
    Participant

    Hi,

    I would like to know some racing strategies that you have used during races that have worked for you.

    Thanks

  • #31058

    Double
    Member

    Pack a lunch.

  • #31059

    Double
    Member

    In 2002, I ran the Trailbreaker half all-out 3 weeks before Boston.  It wasn't a training session it was a race for me.
    I wanted to get battle ready as I was unable to get much hard stuff in due to a foot injury.  Ryan was there and he
    just took off.  He got out there about 150 yards or so ahead of us and a group of three of us worked like gang busters
    to catch him.  We just never closed that gap.  We surged, raced each other, and made purpose driven drives to narrow
    the gap.  I ran the last 5k in 17 something and still gained zero ground.  Ryan won and we all ran 1:15:xx something.
    He never looked back and I always admired that.  I asked him about it and he simply said he felt he had to control the
    pace from the front.  He made the decision to not allow anyone to catch him to see how he was running.  Tough to
    gain race intelligence when someone doesn't let you get near them. 

  • #31060

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Double, that was a fun race.

    Cesar, race strategy often by necessity is dictated by circumstances. In the race Double is talking about, we were running into a headwind. I was at the front of the pack taking all the wind and nobody seemed willing to share the lead so I decided to take it out and hold on. If someone is going to have me take the wind for them, I'm going to make them work for it. Very quickly, I found myself running alone. From that point on, it was a matter of survival. I gauged my lead and how the others were doing at the turnaround, while trying to play them by making sure I looked as relaxed as possible as they went by, and I just had a sense that, if I kept pushing, I could do it. I was hurting like you couldn't believe by 9-10 miles but, knowing Double, I didn't dare look back because I knew he was within sight and, if he saw me look back, he'd smell blood and be after me like a pack of wild dogs. I just ran as hard as I possibly could and hoped he wasn't gaining on me. The last thing I wanted is for him to know how bad I was hurting. That would just give him hope and motivation to chase me down.

    In this instance, the right strategy was to go out hard and hold on for dear life. In the half I ran almost exactly a year before that, with a strong headwind on the way out, I hooked up with two other guys on the way out and we took turns taking the wind. On the way back, I caught a second wind and was able to pull away from them to finish second. In that instance, the right strategy was to sit back for half of the race before putting the competition away in the second half. Different race, different circumstances, different competition, different strategy.

  • #31061

    ksrunner
    Participant

    I think that the best strategy is to maximize your fitness and mental focus. If you're fit and focused, then you have a lot of flexibility in your strategy and you are less likely to despair if another runner makes a move. I think that those factors are far more likely to separate you from the competition than a strategem. Strategy can make things a bit easier though. I find it interesting that part of Ryan's strategy was to promote an appearance of strength. I like that strategy myself. I believe that if you appear strong, other runners may not even test you. It's much easier to ward off the attack that never comes.

    I ran a 5K several years ago on an out and back course with three corners. Two corners were fairly near the start/finish and one corner was near the turnaround. I led most of the race as part of a pack of 5-6 runners, but I briefly slipped to third or fourth at the turnaround. As the leader rounded the corner closest to the turnaround on the way back, I observed that he gained a step or two on the guy behind him. Assuming that this phenomenon occurred at every corner, I decided to take advantage of it later in my push to the finish. There were two more corners remaining — one about 600m from the finish and one about 150m from the finish. I assumed that everyone would kick if the pack was still together at 150m. Back in the day, I would have been happy to let it come down to the last 150m, but in my 30's, I was not so confident in my kick. I resumed the lead shortly after I observed that cornering phenomenon. With about 1000m to go, I picked up the pace a little to insure that I would be leading at the 600m corner. As I rounded that corner, I surged hard and separated myself from the remaining 2 guys. I don't know how much making my move at the corner helped or if it was just that I was a stronger runner that day and I chose to strike first. Though I probably won the race right there, I never looked back and I kept racing toward the finish line as if they were right behind me — which in my imagination, they were.

    I think that the best way to improve your strategy is to analyze your races — especially the decision points. If you identify a situation where you would like to try something different, rehearse that situation in your mind so that you will be ready if it occurs again.

  • #31062

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    I think that the best strategy is to maximize your fitness and mental focus. If you're fit and focused, then you have a lot of flexibility in your strategy and you are less likely to despair if another runner makes a move. I think that those factors are far more likely to separate you from the competition than a strategem. Strategy can make things a bit easier though.

    Absolutely. If you're not fit and confident, no strategy is going to work. If you are fit and confident, you may have a lot of options. It's just a matter of picking the best one.

    I find it interesting that part of Ryan's strategy was to promote an appearance of strength. I like that strategy myself. I believe that if you appear strong, other runners may not even test you. It's much easier to ward off the attack that never comes.

    Precisely my plan of attack. Never show weakness. If you show strength, people will have less confidence in their ability to chase you down and may not risk making a move that they think has a low potential of paying off. If you show weakness, suddenly there is an upside to taking the risk so they are more likely to do it.

    I ran a 5K several years ago on an out and back course with three corners. Two corners were fairly near the start/finish and one corner was near the turnaround. I led most of the race as part of a pack of 5-6 runners, but I briefly slipped to third or fourth at the turnaround. As the leader rounded the corner closest to the turnaround on the way back, I observed that he gained a step or two on the guy behind him. Assuming that this phenomenon occurred at every corner, I decided to take advantage of it later in my push to the finish. There were two more corners remaining — one about 600m from the finish and one about 150m from the finish. I assumed that everyone would kick if the pack was still together at 150m. Back in the day, I would have been happy to let it come down to the last 150m, but in my 30's, I was not so confident in my kick. I resumed the lead shortly after I observed that cornering phenomenon. With about 1000m to go, I picked up the pace a little to insure that I would be leading at the 600m corner. As I rounded that corner, I surged hard and separated myself from the remaining 2 guys. I don't know how much making my move at the corner helped or if it was just that I was a stronger runner that day and I chose to strike first. Though I probably won the race right there, I never looked back and I kept racing toward the finish line as if they were right behind me — which in my imagination, they were.

    Great example of observing the competition and thinking on your feet. Often, this is the best tactic. Come up with your plan based on what you see happening during the race.

    I think that the best way to improve your strategy is to analyze your races — especially the decision points. If you identify a situation where you would like to try something different, rehearse that situation in your mind so that you will be ready if it occurs again.

    Again, right on. Know your strengths and practice taking advantage of them. Know your weaknesses and practice tactics that minimize them. I always practice a long kick because I know that raw speed is a weakness for me but maintaining a hard pace for a sustained time is a strength. In workouts, I will occasionally finish by turning up the effort for the last 1/4 to 1/2 mile to practice that long kick and give myself confidence in my ability to use it on race day.

  • #31063

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Go out hard and then pick it up.  8)

  • #31064

    cesar
    Participant

    Thank you guys.

  • #31065

    dan
    Member

    Try to control your pace in the very first minute of the race , most people go out too hard on that first minute and pay off later in the race… just try to run an even effort, I mean EFFORT , NOT SPLITS… hope that helps.

  • #31066

    dring
    Member

    Some thoughts:
    1.  Pass once and make it final
    2.  Surge on corners – it is the natural tendency of runner so slow on corners – do the opposite and gap your competition
    3.  Pay attention to your competition are they showing weaknesses
    4.  First third Pace – middle third hold – Last third race
    5.  Andrews post has merit – Go out fast and beat down your competion mentally then hold on
    6.  I agree with many that have posted each race brings its own set of curcumstances – Learn from them

  • #31067

    runner88
    Member

    I always pick someone who is running a little bit faster than me at about three quarters of the race and try to hang onto them for as long as possible. I just have to hope that the person isnt onto a late surge lol.

  • #31068

    ed
    Participant

    My half marathon PR came when I trained well and at the race I saw a guy that had a t-shirt that said Boston Marathon Pacer 7:00 miles.  I thought I would hang with him as best I could – for some reason it didn't occur to me that he would likely run this faster than his paceing duty from Boston.  I hung pretty well with him but he was well ahead of 7 minute miles.

    I can see the benfit of a rabbit if you are trying for a PR – but I don't believe in them for races.

  • #31069

    For me I always used to be the type that would go out extremely hard and hold on, and while that works great for a PR generally, its not the best for racing.  For racing I definetely agree with pass once and make if final.  I found that I was able to beat two guys who managed to beat me earlier in the xc season when I just lead the whole race and they stuck me by going out more calmly and sharply surging slightly past the half, giving the appearence of boundless energy even if you are dead for the simple intimidation factor.  This works conversely with surges by others.  I know in the evaluation run for my xc camp an illinois guy surged hugely on me in the 2.4 mile run, and I stuck him even though it hurt, and managed to pass him later on.  Think of it like a leash, once you break from that guy in front of you more than a few meters to join back up with him is extremely difficult, and you will probably not see him again in that race. 

    Mostly though it comes down to your body type.  For me, a more strict long distance guy with not much kick to speak of, going hard from a decent ways out, 500m in a mile, 600 in a 2, 800 in a 5k, has helped me to eliminate guys that could beat me in the 100m sprint at the end.  Or vice versa, stay with somone till the end if you know you can beat them in the last 100.  Just know your body and it's limits, and you'll never go wrong.

  • #31070

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Think of it like a leash, once you break from that guy in front of you more than a few meters to join back up with him is extremely difficult, and you will probably not see him again in that race.

    Great analogy. Once that leash gets broken, it's a lot harder to catch them.

    Mostly though it comes down to your body type.  For me, a more strict long distance guy with not much kick to speak of, going hard from a decent ways out, 500m in a mile, 600 in a 2, 800 in a 5k, has helped me to eliminate guys that could beat me in the 100m sprint at the end.  Or vice versa, stay with somone till the end if you know you can beat them in the last 100.  Just know your body and it's limits, and you'll never go wrong.

    Precisely. Like you, I've always been the one who goes early because I knew I couldn't take someone with 100 to go. I could at least attempt to run that kick out of guys or break that leash by going early.

    Knowing your best strategy against the competition you face won't always result in a win because the competition might just have a better combination of fitness and strategy but it will give you the best chance you have at success.

  • #31071

    cesar
    Participant

    Hey Garrett,

    You finally registered!! 8)

    Lately I am going by feel, if I feel good then I drop the competitors, if not then I run with them or they drop me.

  • #31072

    Andrew A.
    Member

    I had a 10-mile race today and got out-strategized.  It was a bit of an odd/unprofessional event (the 10 mile was started fifteen minutes after the main distance, half-marathon, along with the 10K) and I had little idea until I reached the 5K mark who my competitors would be.  I had let go of 5-10 runners ahead of me and they all came back on the 10K course.  I found myself rather alone after 5K, leading the first five miles into a slight wind.  The 10-mile turn-around was remarkably unclear (there was a sign on the side of the road yet no marker at all in the road) and so the guy who caught up to me in the 4th mile turned right there while I was still looking for a more definitive marker and he got a jump on me that I was not able to make up.  To be honest, I did find myself content with 2nd place, though I made a push in the final couple of miles to see if I could make up that gap.  It just was not happening, he was simply the fitter/more race-ready runner today.  I also likely went out a bit too hard with the front of the 10K and, effortwise, faded after they turned around.

  • #31073

    ksrunner
    Participant

    The fast start may have been out-strategizing yourself, but I think that confusion over the course is a problem with the course not a stratagem. For a turn-around, I would expect a very clear marking including something in the road to physically go around. I think that a course monitor would be appropriate at that point as well. If the turnaround marking is less than that, then they need to cover it specifically in a pre-race briefing or starting instructions.

    Did the other guy call out to you? If he realized that you were confused or off course, I think that the right, honorable, and/or sportsmanlike thing to do would be to call out to help someone get on course. I would be willing to lose a bit of time to help another runner get on course — perhaps even chase them off course a short way to try to get their attention. It's a road race, not orienteering. I would hope that someone might do the same for me if I got off track or confused.

  • #31074

    Andrew A.
    Member

    For a turn-around, I would expect a very clear marking including something in the road to physically go around.

    Same here.  Heck, all of the turns on the course were marked with paint on the road.  The other guy did say something, I just did not respond quickly because 1) he was still behind me to that point and 2) I was still searching the road for a clear marking.  The out-strategizing bit was a quip.  Unless I spent time studying the bibs of the people near the starting line to determine the 10K and 10 mile competitors – and memorizing that information – then there is little I could have used to my benefit in strategy for this race.  The other guy just happened to go out easier and found only one person ahead of him and within striking distance once past the 5K mark.  Had I known from the start that he would be my competition in the 10 mile, I might have hung back with him, let him push the headwind, and then tried to blast him within the final 5K.  I cannot really fault myself, I got out and ran hard and sometimes that is just the best option.  He was better prepared to race and proved himself to be the best man on the day.

    The race is just a study in mismanagement and this and the other (fall) race they put on have a reputation for things that were not thought through clearly enough.  They used chip timing yet the only mat(s) we crossed was at the start/finish – nothing at the turnaround and no intermediate splits – so anyone could have cut the course.  Several people in the 10K and 10 mile started with the half-marathon — I could tell because people who were not ahead of me at the start were coming back along the course before the leaders hit the turnaround points for those races and at much slower paces than a leader for either race would be running.  They did not split the road with cones (even allowing 1.5 lanes for the main (out) part of the course with 0.5 lane for a passing (back) side would suffice) and the front of the 10K and especially the front of the 10 miler ran through the back end of the half-marathon spread out across the road.  If they were to start the 10K just 5-10 minutes before or after the 10 mile, it would allow the runners in each of the races to figure out who their competition would be in short order.  I just had to wait and see (since I did not strain to check the bib # of each person who passed me in the beginning) whether any and all of the runners ahead of me were racing the 10K.  It seems like road races are the only venue where you see this sort of thing, starting two distinct races at the same place and at the same time.  I remarked to a buddy of mine that it is apparent that this race is not put on by runners — to which he replied, “oh, the RD ran for CU.”  Yikes.  His follow-up: “well, it takes all kinds.”  This same buddy is of the opinion that the RD really should bring a course manager and/or (volunteer) race management committee on-board, he is missing obvious things by trying to do too much of it himself.  I have to agree with that. 

  • #31075

    ksrunner
    Participant

    I've seen similar problems with some of the race management in my area. If it is a very low-cost, no-frills, pay-at-the-starting-line and go type race then, I would have no problems with seeing some of those issues, but if costs are similar to other races, I expect the similar quality. Interestingly, the no-frills races that I have run tend to get the important stuff right.

    Perhaps the best race that I have seen in terms of course marking was a relatively small 5K that appeared to be organized by someone involved in the charity for which the funds were raised. Each intersection was marked with arrows painted on the roadway before the intersection and tightly spaced cones blocking the incorrect turns in the intersection. Between the curbs and the cones, I think that someone could probably navigate that course blindfolded. I am not sure if the race director is also a runner, but she is definitely a talented organizer.

    There are other race directors who are definitely runners who could learn a lot from her. For one half marathon/marathon that was run mostly on paved city trails, there was one turn that was unmarked. I had heard that there had been a tape arrow on the course that was removed, but since that particular race director tends to have a few glitches, I cannot help but wonder if the tape were ever there. Someone did come back and mark it before the marathon runners completed their second loop. Fortunately, it did not cause a major problem. Runners just missed a small section where the course left the main trail to go around a small park and then merged back onto the main trail about a half mile later. As a result, the races were probably about 3/4 mile shorter than advertised.

    As I see it, organizational and problem solving skills are more important for race directing than running experience — though I think that race directors should experience races from a participant and volunteer perspective in order to gain a better understanding of the challenges that they face.

  • #31076

    ed
    Participant

    Putting together a race even with race experience is still a very difficult thing to do especially if you are the sole organizer, have little volunteer help, have a family and work full-time with a long commute.  I am constantly asking for feedback on my event(s) in hopes that I keep up with what was good and correct a couple issues each year.

    My main objective is a clearly marked course with a few course marshalls to watch over the busier intersections.  Trying to keep costs low but yet trying to raise funds for a charity group.  Making teh experience a great running experience for both the casual runner as well as teh experienced and competative runner.

    If some races are poorly organized offer suggestions and even volunteer to help organize and execute the event.

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