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View Full Version : Starting out too fast may be the best strategy!


George Mounce
03-29-2009, 04:31 PM
Since I can't do much right now with a pulled right trapezius, I was reading some rowing things (ok I've been doing very gingerly some light rowing) and came across this article (free subscription): http://bjsm.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/39/1/39

Objectives: To determine the pacing strategies adopted by elite rowers in championship 2000 m races.

Methods: Split times were obtained for each boat in every heavyweight race of the Olympic Games in 2000 and World Championships in 2001 and 2002, and the top 170 competitors in the British Indoor Rowing Championships in 2001 and 2002. Data were only included in subsequent analysis if there was good evidence that the athlete or crew completed the race in the fastest possible time. The remaining data were grouped to determine if there were different strategies adopted for on-water versus ergometer trials, ‘‘winners’’ versus ‘‘losers’’, and men versus women.

Results: Of the 1612 on-water race profiles considered, 948 fitted the inclusion criteria. There were no differences in pacing profile between winners and losers, and men and women, although on-water and ergometry trials showed a competitively meaningful significant difference over the first 500 m sector. The average profile showed that rowers performed the first 500 m of the race faster than subsequent sectors—that is, at a speed of 103.3% of the average speed for the whole race, with subsequent sectors rowed at 99.0%, 98.3%, and 99.7% of average speed for on-water rowing, and 101.5%, 99.8%, 99.0%, and 99.7% for ergometry.

Conclusions: These data indicate that all athletes or crews adopted a similar fast start strategy regardless of finishing position or sex, although the exact pace profile was dependent on rowing mode. This strategy should be considered by participants in 2000 m rowing competitions.

Funny, I knew there was a reason why I started out fast in all my running/rowing races.

George Mounce
03-29-2009, 05:22 PM
I found more on this here: http://www.concept2.co.uk/birc/training_race_strategy.php

Steven Low
03-29-2009, 06:18 PM
I would hypothesize that there's a couple factors involved:

1. Faster start requires more sympathetic nervous system activation = more hormones released in blood stream = potential for more substrates and system processing for energy

2. Psychologically... obviously.

3. More "overall" recovery time. If you start quick, your body is constantly somewhat recovering during the whole race. If you start out slow sustainable pace then your body isn't utilizing any "recovery" potential as your body isn't pushed past it's limits.

Thus, those who start out faster have the whole race to do more recovery whereas if you load the back half you only have half the race to recover.

Of course, there is the other problem where if you start out too fast you crash and burn so it has to be calculated/maintained well and specialized to a person's body what kind of pace they can do.


Kinda interesitng to think about... and pretty cool that they come out with charts now for it.

George Mounce
03-29-2009, 06:22 PM
Well, before for my AFPFT I have always started out at 55 sec for the first 400m (total of 2400m run). This last time I started out at 90 sec for the first 400m. I was 30 seconds slower than my last run this time around, after trying to pace with someone else. I felt like a complete idiot because I knew I could have run that first 400m in 55 seconds, yet I stayed paced with another guy. I guess for me its the psychological thing. Going to make up for that blunder this August.

George Mounce
03-29-2009, 06:43 PM
Even more: http://www.coachesinfo.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=393:racingstrategy-article&catid=107:rowing-general-articles&Itemid=207

Dave Van Skike
03-29-2009, 08:14 PM
I would hypothesize that there's a couple factors involved:

1. Faster start requires more sympathetic nervous system activation = more hormones released in blood stream = potential for more substrates and system processing for energy

2. Psychologically... obviously.

3. More "overall" recovery time. If you start quick, your body is constantly somewhat recovering during the whole race. If you start out slow sustainable pace then your body isn't utilizing any "recovery" potential as your body isn't pushed past it's limits.

Thus, those who start out faster have the whole race to do more recovery whereas if you load the back half you only have half the race to recover.

Of course, there is the other problem where if you start out too fast you crash and burn so it has to be calculated/maintained well and specialized to a person's body what kind of pace they can do.


Kinda interesitng to think about... and pretty cool that they come out with charts now for it.

OTOH, it could be really simple.
you want to win..
you go as fast as you think you can,
once you're going that fast you see how long you can hang with it
as it turns out...you can hang longer than you'd think.

Mike ODonnell
03-29-2009, 09:30 PM
As a buddy of mine who did pro-triathlons once said....it's easier to start quick and maintain.....than to go slow and try to speed up later.....I found this to be true.

Craig Loizides
03-29-2009, 10:34 PM
Here's some more on pacing:
http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0972.htm

For middle distances I like the idea of a fast start for about 10 seconds followed by even or slight negative pacing the rest of the race. For longer races a slight negative split is probably best.

It takes a couple minutes before the oxidative pathways start working efficiently. A fast start can help get the body using oxygen faster. You can also accomplish this by doing some higher intensity warmups just before the start of a race.
http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/understand-the-bodys-use-of-oxygen-during-exercise-36326

If you ever go to a 5K race you'll probably see a lot of the top runners doing some 50m strides just before the start while the rest of the pack is just standing around. The on the water rowers probably have a harder time doing 50m intervals just before the start so it might be more important for them to get out harder relative to runners.

There's usually more to be lost by going out too hard than there is to be gained by perfect pacing so unless you know exactly what time you can run a more conservative start might be best.

George, 55 seconds for the first 400m sounds way too fast to me. Even the rowers you listed above only did the first 500m 3% faster than average pace.

George Mounce
03-30-2009, 04:14 AM
Here's some more on pacing:
http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0972.htm

For middle distances I like the idea of a fast start for about 10 seconds followed by even or slight negative pacing the rest of the race. For longer races a slight negative split is probably best.

It takes a couple minutes before the oxidative pathways start working efficiently. A fast start can help get the body using oxygen faster. You can also accomplish this by doing some higher intensity warmups just before the start of a race.
http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/understand-the-bodys-use-of-oxygen-during-exercise-36326

If you ever go to a 5K race you'll probably see a lot of the top runners doing some 50m strides just before the start while the rest of the pack is just standing around. The on the water rowers probably have a harder time doing 50m intervals just before the start so it might be more important for them to get out harder relative to runners.

There's usually more to be lost by going out too hard than there is to be gained by perfect pacing so unless you know exactly what time you can run a more conservative start might be best.

George, 55 seconds for the first 400m sounds way too fast to me. Even the rowers you listed above only did the first 500m 3% faster than average pace.

Sounds way too fast, but that is what sub 4 min miler does 4 times around the track. Not that I'm a sub 4-min miler right now but I was and will be again a sub 5 min miler.

George Mounce
03-30-2009, 04:58 AM
Found even more interesting stuff, my Google-fu is in full effect these days.

http://home.hia.no/~stephens/eliteerg.htm

Craig Loizides
03-30-2009, 07:46 AM
Sounds way too fast, but that is what sub 4 min miler does 4 times around the track. Not that I'm a sub 4-min miler right now but I was and will be again a sub 5 min miler.

The WR in the mile is 3:43.13. It was set with splits of 55.2, 56.0, 55.8, and 54.9. Even if you were attempting to break the world record in the 2400, 55 would be too fast for the first 400.

Steven Low
03-30-2009, 10:15 PM
OTOH, it could be really simple.
you want to win..
you go as fast as you think you can,
once you're going that fast you see how long you can hang with it
as it turns out...you can hang longer than you'd think.
That doesn't explain what happens physiologically though... which is why I was speculating.

George Mounce
03-31-2009, 04:09 AM
The WR in the mile is 3:43.13. It was set with splits of 55.2, 56.0, 55.8, and 54.9. Even if you were attempting to break the world record in the 2400, 55 would be too fast for the first 400.

Would be too fast in your mind, but it gets me a good score every time, so is it really too fast? When I slowed down to what most people would have called a good
pace" to put me right on the time I wanted, I did worse, and the change was only literally 35 seconds for that lap (from 55 to 90). I think the psychological aspect goes a long way.

Scott Kustes
03-31-2009, 06:26 AM
I agree with this...I'm better off to set out on a 400m race at faster than my 400m pace and then let the competition help me hang on at the end. Probably something physiological going on, definitely something psychological going on.

Dave Van Skike
03-31-2009, 06:28 AM
That doesn't explain what happens physiologically though... which is why I was speculating.

i speculate that it's a combination of tiny homunculi and ether...

but then i've never held that things should be as complicated as possible, and if possible more so.