Last weekend I had a chance to race Leadville 100 MTB race with clients. As I was hired to ride the crew I was with to the base of Power Line climb inbound, I was forced to go out at a very conservative pace for the first 80 miles to include even waiting at an aide station for 40 min while the crew regrouped after the Columbine descent.
At 8:27 into the race I was free to ride the last 25 miles on my own. I was RIPPING past people. My first instinct was can I still break 10 hours which would be tough considering I was pacing a group of 4 to just break 12 hours until so late in the game.
I was FLYING past people. I didn’t break 10 hours in part because I started to go too late, and I didn’t realize it was actually 104 miles. I finished in 10:21 but more importantly I finished very strong and it left me wondering what actually IS possible?
In contrast I think of races I have started too fast and instead have finished thinking WHY am I doing this at all? I have paced friends for the first part of marathons, and have had the same result. The first break through I have had at an Ironman was in Kona, and it was because I started very conservatively and built a head a steam throughout the day.
Now, none of these event are any of my standing “PR” races except Leadville I guess as it was my only attempt. However, ALL of these experiences had left me wondering “WHAT WAS POSSIBLE?” They were some of my best race experiences. They left me excited to take on the next challenge.
My first marathon I ever ran was a day before decision and while I had been training to run and do triathlons, I had not been doing ANY marathon training. I made the choice the night before I would just go easy and see how far I could go before I had to walk. I ran 3:30 on a tough Kansas City course, and am happy to report I didn’t walk one time! I tried to “PR” the following month at Dallas White Rock Marathon and blew up impressively.
Science will tell you most if not all PR’s over a sprint are set with a negative or even split. You have to decide how you want to race though. Speaking with Pros such as Crowie about how he ran Alii Dr. worked more on the mental impact it had on competitors vs. his ability to run the fasted overall split he could.
My point is this. Take inventory of your goals, and what you want your experience to be. No coach can answer that for you, in fact very good ones will not even try. That’s for you to decide and commit to. I will say though, it’s worth noting how each approach can possibly leave you feeling. I’m pretty excited to go back to Leadville someday and have a legit crack at it. I suspect there is a perfect balance in the two for everyone.