The mind is one of the most complex parts of our bodies which might explain why we as runners tend to over think any task set before us. This can be especially true of racing. Sometimes the sheer size of the effort can seem daunting.
When I feel like this is happening, I break things down into smaller and more easily manageable tasks. This way I don't feel like I have the whole task to accomplish at once. Also by using this method, my progress is easier to realize and thus, confidence is easier to attain. And, we all know that confidence is truly one of the key factors in our overall success.
Breaking down a race is fairly easy to do as long as it makes sense to the person doing it.
Let's take for example, my Greekfest 5k this past weekend. Going into the race, I broke the race down into three parts: the first ½ mile, the next 2 miles, and then the last ½ mile plus the .1. During the first ½ mile I wanted to get out fast but controlled. During the 2 miles I wanted to push my heart rate up nearly to the max threshold. And for the last ½ or so hang on and sprint to the finish.
Each part has its own nuances. Getting out fast but controlled is somewhat dependent on the people running around you. One can only go out so fast unless you are willing to run over someone. On the other hand if you get close to front, you can actually get pulled out too fast which will make it incredible difficult to recover. Finding the sweet at the start is really important.
The two middle miles are a little easy to stay with the strategy because other runners tend to spread out and I will most likely be running around people of a similar pace.
The last ½ mile or so maybe the hardest of all three parts to execute perfectly because this is the section where I will most likely feel my worst. My breathing will be labored. My arms and legs are beginning to burn. And my brain is telling my body that it will all stop as soon as I reach the finish line so hurry.
After crossing a junction point between any two parts, I forget about the last and I concentrate on the next part. And, I don't worry about the parts that lay further ahead. Also when I complete a part, I press the reset button and take stock of how I am running and continue forward into the next part. I do this all the way to the finish line.
Now, some else may break the race down differently and run it differently. Essentially, we all have the goal to race the finish line as fast as humanly possible.
I have used this strategy for all of my races and the majority of my harder workouts – especially if it is a tempo run.
Btw – I consider this a parity on the "KISS" method a.k.a. "Keep it simple stupid"
Hope this gives you a little something to add to racing strategy this fall.
Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner