Tactics & Pacing IV

After sizing yourself up you are now ready to think about employing and training for various tactics.

Generally, tactics are used in order to exploit your strengths or your opponents weaknesses. Some examples are:
If you know you have better raw speed then you hang on and wait until the end of a race “knowing” you got it.
If you are a strong and steady runner you probably want to get out and make those “kickers” hurt enough that they don’t have a kick or drop off the pace so far that they can’t catch you even with a good kick.
If you know your competition always goes out fast to try to “lose” you but in the end, their times are no better than yours – you may want to play a waiting game knowing they will come back to you while you conserve your energy with even pacing.

Races for time, world records for instance, are specifically paced (with runners hired to take on the role of pacers) very fast. Certainly, only the very fastest and fittest on that day will win. What you have to realize is that all the pacers are elite world class runners and with any other kind of pacing they might beat that very person the race is being set up for as a world record!

On the other hand, almost all championship races (i.e. Olympic, World & NCAA) are run slow by elite standards and are set up for a very fast finish. In which case, the fastest and fittest runner may not win. They may lose to someone with a better kick. Those very “pacers” I previously mentioned could in fact beat that one runner going for the world record in a slower tactical race.  The most recent example was in the 1500 in the World Championships in Osaka. Going into this race, Alan Webb had the leading time for the year in the 1500/mile and his times are amongst the fastest ever run. Yet, in the tactical race he ended up in 8th place – 1 second out of 1st. It ended up a kickers’ race.

Though tactics can certainly take advantage of your natural (perhaps genetic) strengths; in order to be the most versatile racer you have to be able to win off of fast paces, slow “tactical” races, surges and team “tactics”.

Workouts for Training for a Kick
At the end of any longer run:
a. run negative splits (faster) for each successive mile of the last half of the run
b. run your last mile (800) progressively faster until the end
c. finish your run with 400-800 meters “all out” (track your times for progress comparison)
In these runs your goal is not to run tha fastest 4 mile or 8 mile or 13 mile run you’ve ever run. The goal is to run your everyday easy pace through the first half (or until that last mile) and then go for it. What you are focusing on is your ability to pick up the pace while fatigued. You are developing the longer “driving” kick. Your intent is wear down the competition – even the fast kickers – so that you are left in front and they don’t have enough to take you in the end. Mentally your confidence has to be strong. You also have to know how far out from the finish you can go at any particular pace. You don’t want to misjudge this or you will be reeled in by your competitors. You cannot mimic that effect any other way. And, as I say all the time to my runners, it won’t magically appear on race day if you haven’t practiced it.

Speed Work for Changing Gears (best done on a track):
a. run 600 m. repeats on the track 400 @ 5k pace then 200 @ 99% (sprint)
b. run mile with each lap pace changed: 5k, 3k, mile, fast
c. run 100-100s workout; 100 @ mile pace or faster then 100 easy, do 3-4 miles of this; change pace rapidly upon hitting the 100 mark
d. if you have a coach, whistle drills work good for this; everytime the whistle blows you have to sprint until the next whistle for instance
Each of the repeat or interval workouts are very intense and require full recovery (3-5 minutes) rest between each repeat. The goal is to train yourself to quickly respond and change gears… change the pace. It mimics challenges to your lead as well as readies you to attack your competition and take them by surprise. Even if they have a faster sprint, if they are taken by surprise towards the end of the race, you may be able to out-kick them. Mentally this is easier for many runners. You can focus on someone else – let them take the pace as you relax – and just wait to unleash your kick.

Workouts for Training for Rabbit Fast Initial Paces
a. run a 1200 with each lap paced like this: 800, mile, 5k
b. run a middle distance run with pace changes: 1st mile @ 3k pace. next mile @ 5k pace, finish the rest of your run (4-6 miles)
c. run a distance run with pace changes: 1st mile @ 3k pace, next 800 @ 5k pace, next 800 @ 10k pace, then finish up the rest of your longer run (i.e. 6-10 miles)
In workouts b. and c. do not reduce your running to the finish to a jog. Maintain your usual distance workout pace. The goal is to both physiologically and psychologically handle the ensuing fatigue after a fast start, and yet maintain a decent pace without collapsing. This is physically taxing but is also extremely mentally taxing fighting through a fatigue that you will need to run with to the end – knowing your good competitors are closing in. Your goal is that they don’t catch you by the end… you break their spirit to even try to catch you.

In the next Tactics post I will explore variable pace tactics and training as well as team tactics.

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About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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