Sunday race strategy

Decided to run a race this Sunday - a half marathon - my first since July and a good test of how my knee injury is holding up. A bit of a train through race as I will probably only take one easy day beforehand.

Last outing was over 20k and I aimed to run at an HR of 173-177(around 85-88% of max using the Karhoven method). I feel I can push a bit harder and will aim for 175-180 (175 for the first half). Although I think the course is quite hilly I'm confident that a PB is possible (best so far this year of 1:35).

Any of you using your HRM for races? What does it tell you? And more importantly what colour shorts should I wear?


  • MartinH

    I always race using a HRM it normally tells me what I already know – That it hurts

    One thing to watch out for when using a HRM to race is ‘heart rate lag’ it will normally take your body the first mile or so to warm up to the race - so if you go of and try to hit your heart rate straight away you will be going off too fast – allow yourself to work up to your target heart rate by the start of the second mile.

    Once you are in your HR zone aim to stay there for the main body of the race IE up and down hills work at the same effort this is much more efficient than working too hard up hills and recovering going down – working at a constant efficient effort will help equal a faster race.

    Towards the last couple of mile – if you feel good pick up the rate slightly but by no more the 2 to 3 %

    Good luck

    Looking at the photo I thought shorts had to be one colour SCARLET

  • Well....yes I do...but at 5K more for feedback afterwards than anything else, and at 10K only as a very rough guide to pacing.

    Above all I find the adrenalin factor throws things out - I find my HR even in the pre-race warm-up tends to go much higher than I would expect in normal circumstances. On a hard run (as an example I'll use my Sunday "time trial") I'd hit a HR of about 152 after 1/3rd of a mile (and I'd started too fast) - compare with last night when after just over 500m I'd hit 162 already.
    I also had a funny "blip" at 1 mile which I would never have got in a normal run. At that point I checked my watch and realised I'd done the mile faster than expected (5:42) and felt (relatively!) pretty good. With 4th place at that stage still within reach at that point(I was 7th, tailgating the guy in 6th), it occurred to me I could be on for a top 5 finish and I started to feel quite excited! You could see this on the HRM splits I recorded - the HR jumps from 168 to 172 - and back again to 168 a minute later, after someone had passed me and moved through to 5th and I'd reminded myself I still had rather a lot of running to do.

    Given my own experience, I find it amazing that Drew (for example) can be so precise about the HR he should be running at in a race situation. It must require far more detachment than I would be able to manage -and I'm not sure it would help me either.
  • And in respect of the more important issue Martin....scarlet of course!
  • Just a thought reading your thread Mike (how was your race in the end?), perhaps over longer distances HR is more useful as a pacing guide since during a marathon you would ideally be running at a fairly even pace to be most efficient. Whereas I imagine shorter faster bursts of effort like a 5 K race you don't have the chance to smooth out those peaks you describe, and it's probably less useful as a tool therefore.
  • Martin,

    I always use my HR in races. I average a HR of 170 throughout the races, and this is always kept pretty constant (ranging only a few beats + or -). My max HR is 197, so I make that 86%. I feel that is about as hard as I can push on a race that length and agrees well with your estimates. Interestingly my PB (1:23) came off my lowest recorded average HR of 168.

    I use the HRM to pace me, in that I don't run for a specific time or pace, but just run to my target HR at least for the first 10 miles. I do tend to ignore it in the latter miles and just run as fast as I can.

  • I'd very much agree with Mike from my own experience of trying to race with a HRM - race day adrenaline and the stress and excitement of actually "racing" against other runners, all seems to throw accuracy out of the window for me.

    The other point for me is that even in fairly short races (and even more so over the longer distances) there will be patches where you simply feel good and your body tells you you can go faster, and for me if one is slavishly watching the HRM rather than monitoring what your body tells you from moment to moment, you're going to miss those good patches and not make the most of them.

    Racing well is surely very much about an intangible "feel", and I can't help thinking that using an electronic aid to pacing isn't just inhibiting when you've so much else to be thinking about, it's also rather missing the point of doing it in the first place - listening to your body and getting the best out of yourself.

    Or is this just too Luddite an attitude for words? s.

    PS. I just got my new Polar S210 through the post this morning (what a great toy!), so come next week I'll probably have changed my tune completely.

    PPS. best of luck with the 1/2M, Martin, however you decide to race it!
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Martin, I think Mike made a very good and valid point - it does take a lot of "detachment" to race to your HRM. In a marathon I think it pays off for about the first 17/18 miles.

    I think using it stops you from racing as you become more interested in your HR than in the race. For anything other than a marathon I would probably still use it but simply to provide feedback.

    As I'm becoming more interested in my final placing than my times I'll probably not use it at the Glasgow 1/2 marathon on the 8th Sept.

  • Thanks chaps

    Some interesting views. For shorter races I probably wouldn't use it. For longer races its precisely the adrenaline rush that made me think about using it for pacing i.e. the first race I wore it this year I went off too fast and ended up slowing quite significantly throughout the race (although the rest of the field slowed at the same time). So essentially I'm using it to avoid going off too fast but also to try and run even splits i.e. by working out my sustainable HR.

    WW - agree with you regarding the first mile, I always have to hold back almost unnaturally until my HR 'settles' down.

    Ironman - also tend to agree that max maintainable HR in a half marathon is about 85% - although the race I ran (mentioned above) where I was slowing I averaged 181 (about 93%!) - but it was very hot.
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