Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kona 2013 Run Data - Pro Women

After looking at the pro men's data, let's look at the women's race in Kona. Of course, we saw the best run female run performance we've ever seen, with Carfrae's 2:50:38, good enough for 3rd best run split overall in the entire race, male or female!

It's interesting how the race broke down, as the leader for the women off the bike, Rachel Joyce, actually ran a faster first mile than the leader for the men, Starykowicz, 6:37 to 7:17, and had a smaller differential from 1st mile split to actual pace than him. Not sure anyone would have predicted that. 

Here's how the run splits broke down: (Click on image to enlarge)

A few highlights of the top 10 women...
Average 1st mile split: 6:37
Average 1st mile to actual pace differential: 29 secs
Range of 1st mile to actual pace differential: 5 secs to 1:08

There are 3 big stand outs in this data to me...

1. Mrinida Carfrae - Just how dominant was she? She ran the second fastest first mile off the bike of all the women, and still only had a 20 sec differential between that 6:11 mile and the 6:31 pace overall that she ran for the race. She was aggressive, but not stupid. Only 4 girls in the top 20 had a smaller differential, but of course Mirinda ran the 3rd fastest split overall, men included. 

As impressive as her first mile was, it was still slower than what she ran in 2011, by 13 seconds! (She ran 2:52:09 that year, so perhaps the slower first mile made a difference). 

2. Caitlin Snow - I'm not sure there's a better pacer in the race than Snow. This is not the first time she has had one of the top female run splits, and I don't believe her lowest differential in the field and 2nd best run split overall are coincidence. I believe her early run pacing was so good, it allowed her to be the only other female under 3 hours for the women. 

She also had 11 women come off the bike in front of her, and moved up to 6th, out-sprinting Meredith Kessler on Alii Drive. Kessler's pacing differential of 1:08 was tied for the highest in the women's race, leaving her no answer for a sprinting Snow down into the chute. 

Snow was one the highest move-ups in place from off the bike, to the finish. Yes, her split helped her, but her early conservative pacing helped her to execute it. 

3. Joyce, Blatchford and Van Vlerken all ran 3:03:XX. Blatchford paced herself quite well, just couldn't close the gap Joyce had off the bike. Van Vlerken ran aggressively off the bike, and paid for it, unable to beat Blatchford, despite leaving T2 less than 1 minute behind her. Her first mile was 16 secs faster than Blatchford's, and by 5K, VV was 23 seconds in front of her. Blatchford ran smart early, beat VV.

Other highlights of places 11-20th...
Average 1st mile split: 6:44
Average 1st mile to actual pace differential: 47 secs
Range of 1st mile to actual pace differential: 14 secs to 1:08

Looking at the places 11-20th, it appears the girls ran relatively the same average pace for the first mile, only 8 secs slower. but their average differential was much higher than the top girls. This tells me these girls were even worse in their pacing than the top 10 girls, with the lone exception of Donovan, who had the 14 second differential. The next lowest differential is Lyles, at 36 secs. 

Overall, I think we're seeing that pacing is getting better among the top women. The margin for error is getting smaller. 

My next post will compare and contrast the men and women, and look at how different they are from 2011. 

Coach Vance

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ironman Arizona Entry and Coaching Package - Coach Vance

If you're looking for an entry to the sold-out 2014 Ironman Arizona, TrainingBible Coaching is a sponsor of the event, and we have limited entries. I am offering a coaching package for those who would like an entry and coaching in one package.

Ironman Arizona Coaching Packing by Jim Vance includes:
- Entry to 2014 Ironman Arizona
- Coaching begins on January 1, 2014 to race day
- 2 time monthly coaching meeting with Jim, (online meeting to discuss progress)
- Video analysis of swim and run technique, (at least 2 of each)
- Training Camp on the course in Phoenix, with Jim in October
- Hands-on coaching at the venue during race week, (Wednesday thru Sunday)
- Professional bike mechanic race-week preparation
- Requires a power meter for bike training, and a GPS for running

Cost: $12,500
- Non-refundable deposit of $1500 required
- Balance due by March 31, 2014
- $500 discount if paid upfront

These spots are VERY LIMITED! Contact Jim at coach jim vance at g mail dot com to secure your spot soon.

Coach Vance

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Kona 2013 Run Data - Pro Men

Two years ago, I wrote a couple posts on the pro men and women, and how they ran the marathon in Kona. One of the tendencies of the race is that the run starts off similar to the bike, with a big surge. Much like the bike has the early town loop with the 2 climbs and everyone fighting to make the lead pack onto the Queen K, there seems to be a similar surge out of T2, pressing to open a gap and break the strings connecting them to the other competitors.

This happens in both races, men and women. In the past, I have stated in multiple interviews and writings, that Mirinda Carfrae likely lost to Chrissie Wellington in 2011 because she paced the run too poorly early on. She played right into Chrissie's hands, possibly missing out the victory which would have validated her entire career from that point on. (Note: She seems to have validated now with Kona course record, but a win over Chrissie is certainly something which will always elude her). Chrissie was running scared in 2011, fighting to catch the girls in front of her for the first time off the bike, and made a big error in early pacing, and Mirinda wasn't able to capitalize, since she made the same mistake early. I wasn't in Kona for the 2012 race to get the data, but would have been interesting to see if she made a similar mistake. More on the women's 2013 run data next week.

It was also close in the men's race in 2011, with Pete Jacobs possibly costing him the title, as he poorly paced himself early on. It'd be a stretch to say he would have beaten Crowie on that course-record setting day, but he would have certainly been closer, and who knows what happens as he gets closer, with Crowie cramping and stopping late in the run.

A lot of people believe that the race is all about the run split in Kona. I disagree. The number one metric for predicting performance in Kona is Total Race Time to T2. How quickly and well positioned in the top places into T2 an athlete is, is their best predictor of how they will do in Kona. The run split is the second best predictor.

With the run split still being so important, and coming into T2 greatly fatigued from a hard swim and ride, there is little room for error in pacing, but a majority of the pro's still make large pacing errors. Whether that is because of a mental boost to drop athletes near them, meaning it isn't an error in pacing, is another debate in itself.

My biggest question is, with the quality of fields getting deeper, are the top performers really fitter, or do they just execute better pacing?

So what happened in 2013? I wanted to look a bit more at how the athletes paced themselves the first mile, but also how the pacing compared as they went thru the first 5K, and their final marathon split. (I've listed a projected marathon time, which is based on their first mile split).

Disclaimer: This requires an assumption that all markers are accurately placed, and the course is accurately measured as a whole. There was a timing mat at the 5K mark, but it might have been off, considering how many athletes ran faster for the 5K pace than the first mile. However, I am confident in the measurement of the 1st mile split, which is what most of the analysis is based off. 

More specifically, this time I wanted to see what the differential off the actual pace they ran for the entire marathon was, compared with what they ran the first mile in. Here's how it shook out, by finish order of the top 20 Pro Men... (Click on images to enlarge)

A few highlights of the top 10 men...
Average 1st mile split: 5:59
Average 1st mile to actual pace differential: 39 secs
Range of 1st mile to actual pace differential: 7 secs to 1:28

Question: Did Fredrik Van Lierde, (FVL), secure the win with better pacing than his closest competitors, like it was shown he did on the bike? 

Only two athletes in the top 20 ran a smaller or equal pace differential for the first mile compared to actual split, than FVL, and of those two, only one actually ran faster than him. Only 3 guys in the race ran faster than FVL, and one of those was by only 11 seconds.

Answer: FVL certainly executed a smart pacing strategy. It wasn't perfect, but it was much better than his closest competitors.

Question: Did the top 10 men just pace themselves better than the 11-20th place men?

Answer: No. First, remember that the top predictor of performance is total race time to T2. You can see in the chart that these guys had slower times to T2 on average. Other highlights of places 11-20th...
Average 1st mile split: 6:19
Average 1st mile to actual pace differential: 38 secs
Range of 1st mile to actual pace differential: 21 secs to 1:10

The 11th-20th places did have the slower first mile on average, but almost identical differential in 1st mile to actual pace, 38 vs 39 secs. Their range of differential shows they paced about the same as the leaders.

The fact the pacing of FVL was so solid, means athletes have to execute proper pacing on the run to win now. I think this is the next trend we will see in Kona, with athletes getting smarter about their pacing on the run, maximizing their potential. We would never encourage an athlete to start off 40 seconds or faster for the first mile of a marathon fresh, so why would we think it is the correct strategy coming off the bike in Kona, in an extremely fatigued and fragile state?

Two athletes heading onto the run in Kona, of equal run ability, and everything else being equal, the one who executes the better pacing will win. If you're not the best runner in the field, you have to be smarter to make up for the difference in ability, preparation, etc. This is the next area of the sport, where we will see an athlete break through, winning or performing better than expected, due to better pacing. (Luke McKenzie wasn't awful in his pacing, either).

Coach Vance

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

You Need a Sense of Urgency

While I was in Kona this past month, I ran into a young female who plans to turn professional next year. (I won't state her name or age-group, so she can remain anonymous.) In our conversation she mentioned she had recently started training with power, but didn't know her FTP. This in the final weeks/months heading into Kona. I proceeded to ask her many other questions about her training and fitness which she couldn't answer objectively with numbers.

She told me she felt confident she had 8 years of professional racing ahead, and could do well, reaching a high level by the end of her career.

I told her, "You don't have 8 years, you have 4, at the most." She was a bit offended by what I said, but my point was clear, she needs a sense of urgency. She can't work through it, make some common training and racing mistakes, and reach a high level of racing. This girl isn't going to win an Ironman in her first year, probably not 2 years, at least not at the current commitment level. If she wants to really race at a high level, she needs a sense of urgency and a commitment to match it, right now.

She can't make mistakes in training. She can't waste training days. She can't show up to races and not perform well. If she really wants to make a career out of it, she has to produce right away, because it is only going to get tougher in 2-4 years. If she is happy with small improvements over the next 2 years, she won't last beyond 4. The girls in Ironman are getting faster and stronger, breaking records like crazy, while the men's race is relatively stagnant in peak performance, but depth is improving all the time.

In 2007, Chrissie Wellington and Sam McGlone ran faster than anyone had ever seen a female run in Kona. In October 2013, just six years later, Carfrae ran 10 mins faster than those girls, and 4 other girls in the top 6 ran times that rank as some of the fastest run splits for women ever at the race. 4 to 8 years from now, what we will be saying? What will we see after the next Olympic cycle and many of those Olympic girls realize their short course days are numbered and decide to move up to long course? And make no mistake, the quality of the racing at the Olympic level is higher than it is has ever been. Carfrae left it because she couldn't compete at a high enough level. Those girls are coming, and they will be here soon.

And the thing is, it is not just the pro women's race. The age group races are getting ridiculously fast, with some age groupers going sub 9 and only managing 8th place in their age group! in 2009 and 2010 I put two guys in the top 8 in their age group in Kona, and now they struggle to crack the top 20 in that AG there.

If you don't have a sense of urgency in training and racing, you're going to struggle to stay at a high level in the sport, whether you're a neo-pro, a top pro, or a top level age grouper. The depth and quality of the competition is getting better by the day, so don't waste time.

Coach Vance

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pacing at NYC Marathon

Just thought I would share this excellent example of pacing at the NYC Marathon on Sunday, by one of my athletes. Yes, he slows down late, but never falls apart, because he was patient and executed the correct pace early on. (Click on image to enlarge).

You'll notice only an 11 second difference between his fastest mile, and his slowest mile, on a course known for having some hills, plus wind.

You must be patient in the marathon, because even being patient will bring challenges late in the race.

Coach Vance