photo by Steve Penland

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pace Yourself

I used to be pretty good at pacing.

If I was told to do a 40 second lap, or a 45, or a 42, I would (assuming I was physically capable) do a 40 or a 45 or a 42.  Once when my sister and I were doing an inline workout at the Dome, I told her "we'll start with a 1:30, then drop 5 seconds every lap and end with a 1:10."

And we did exactly that.

I'm not sure what skills are involved in being able to skate laps at a requested pace; I do know that, whatever they are, I'm surprised that I have them.  I don't usually tend to be too high on the physical-skills-ladder.  I'm sure it hasn't hurt that for much of the past five years, I've had Coach TieGuy in my ear (via walkie-talkie earbud) telling me my lap times the instant I completed the laps, for literally thousands and thousands of laps.  With enough repetition, even I can usually figure something out.

And being able to pace oneself is a handy skill when one's favorite races are 7.5 and 12.5 laps long.  I've been paired with many a young 'un who hasn't quite learned pacing yet and who starts out on a 36 and finishes on a 46 while I chug along at 39's and 40's for the whole race--and end up with a faster time.  It's always fun to beat the young 'uns.

Lately, however, I seem to be having issues with pacing.  I blame it on my New Improved Technique (perhaps I should start referring to this as NIT, so I don't have to type as many letters; as with any physical skill, I suck at typing).  Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yeah...pacing issues.

See, the thing I haven't gotten used to yet in my NIT is the fact that I can get really tired even though I'm not frantically moving my legs as fast as possible.  I'll be cruising along, feeling like my legs are moving rather slowly, when all of a sudden I'll realize that I'm completely exhausted.  I think of it as kind of a relaxed agony. And it leads to some interesting workouts.

Take yesterday, for example.  My endurance workout was somewhat shortened due to this upcoming weekends' racing--I was supposed to do 3x3k, the first 3k at warmup pace and the next two at 70%.  A fairly relaxed evening, I thought.


The first set, at warmup pace, went well--once I got going, all the laps were between 44.2 and 45.3 seconds--a pretty consistent pace.  The next set, the first 70% one, was where things fell apart.  I don't look at my lap times until I'm done with a set, because looking at my stopwatch while skating carries all sorts of risk, so I didn't know my times until I was done.  All I knew was that I started off feeling nice and relaxed, working the NIT, feeling good.  Until lap four, that is, when I suddenly hit the wall.  Completely out of breath, heart pounding, legs heavy.  Ugh, I thought, as I struggled through the last three laps.  What the Hell?  I looked at my final lap time as I finished the last lap, and it was 44.3.  Same range as the first set, so I figured something must have happened...perhaps my heart arrhythmia acting up (I get PVC's that mess me up for a lap or two sometimes). In fact, I was so convinced it must have been PVC's that I headed into the warming house to throw on my heart rate monitor so I could see what was going on (although I have no idea if the monitor would show a higher rate with PVC's--usually I can feel them so there's no doubt).

Once in the warming house, though, I looked at the other lap times. The first one was a 42, which is right about where I wanted the 70% laps.

The second lap was a 40.


Turns out I didn't have PVC's, I just went too fast the second lap.  And I didn't do any better the second set--the first 3 laps were 41, 39, and 40.  Then the last 3 were 43, 42, and 44.

Clearly, I need to figure out what it feels like to skate hard when not churning my legs as fast as humanly possible.  I need to learn what level of "relaxed agony" corresponds to what lap time.

Otherwise Sunday's 3K race is not going to be pretty.

Still, it's a fun problem to have...I'm going too fast  at some point in my workout.  Sure, I pay for it a couple laps later, but let me repeat...I'm going too fast at some point in my workout.


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