Only a few days out from the first event for the Emergency Services Games. My program is two races. The 10km cross country this Sunday, and the half marathon on the following Sunday. The hard training has been done. The rest of my performance will be mainly a result of how I execute my races. So I should do a bit of thinking about how to approach the cross country.
My goal is to win the event. Whether or not I achieve this is dependent on quite a number of factors. A very important one will be who turns up to race. The information I have is there are 54 people entered, with a few more possible on the day. Who my competitors are, and what sort of shape they are in, I have no idea. If someone is capable of a sub 32 minute 10km, then I don't stand a chance. My plan will need to account for these unknowns. I need to race in a way that will give me the best chance to get into a winning position. It can be suggested that aiming to run the fastest over the course will achieve this, but simply time trialling it and running my personal fastest may not put me over the line in front. There is a chance more tactics will need to be applied.
Pre Race Analysis
Based on previous years the course is a 5km loop. Naturally two laps are to be completed for the 10km. It is cross country, and has a reasonable amount of variation. The start is a bit of downhill over a loose stone path that soon becomes bitumen. Then after a short hill there is probably about 2km of non-technical, mainly flat running on a paved bike track. The next section is a steep and relatively long climb up a rough dirt track leading into a grassed section that takes you over a couple of hills and leads back to the end of the lst lap or the finish line with a good downhill.
There are a couple of key spots in which the race can be lost. I believe the main area is the grass section. It is the slowest part of the course, especially if the grass is long or wet. There is a good amount of uphill, and a small part where you run with a side camber. The rating of perceived effort can be artificially high here. If you have gone too hard early, this section has the potential to exaggerate your slow down. A lot of time can be lost in this section. The other area of concern is the steep, dirt hill. While only a small spot, it has the potential to take a lot out of your legs. It would be very easy to hammer the climb, and accumulate way too much lactic acid that you will force a loss of pace further into the race.
Without knowing who competition is, I will have to follow the cliche, and plan for the unexpected. The quick version of the plan is to have a number of potential strategies ready to use. I need to be able to change my style of racing depending on how the day develops. How do I do this?
I need to know my strengths, weaknesses and limitations. The limitations is easy, it knowing that something like a 3:00/km, is far from possible for me to maintain. So if the race starts out in this area, then it blow my chances if I attempted to stick at the front.
My weakness is top end speed. If stuck in a short distance sprint, I will usually come off second best against those who find sprinting a little more natural. So my tactics will need to avoid this situation.
On the strength side is definitely my downhill running. I find it easy, both in terms of technique and effort level. It is something I often use to gain an advantage. My recent training has been aimed at developing my strength endurance and hill running. It seems to have been successful. Therefore, I should be strong in the hills, giving me the ability to either attack if needed, or simply maintain a good pace without the terrain taking a lot out of me.
Put myself in a position to watch my competitors. This means being at or near the front (unless the pace is beyond my limitations). Use the flat bike path, with turnaround to study my opposition. From here my first main decision can be made.
The main possibilities will include:
No big move is likely to be made over the first lap. The only exception would be if there are a few fast guys forcing the pace, where if I don't stick with them, I really won't be able to get into a winning position. Naturally a very hard first lap also runs the risk of blowing up.
- stick with the current pace and wait
- use the steep hill or grass section to gain ground or drop some
- if out front, stay comfortable
Lap 2, is almost impossible to predict pre race. Simply put, I have three expected ways to give myself the best chance:
- Run a steady, high time trial time effort. The damage will come from the amount of time the speed is sustained for, rather than a significant change of pace. A, hang on for as long as you can style attempting to control the race.
- Use the hills to attack and gain an advantage.
- Sit and wait to take advantage of my downhill running leading to the finish.
There is the strong possibility, someone else may be doing a better job of controlling the race, and I could just simply be putting in a big effort to stay with them. Whatever the case, I have gone through the possibilities and have my goals. It isn't about time trialling the course to just get a good time, unless that turns out to be the way to win.