Focus on The Finish: Become A Closer For Amazing Race Performances
by Dr. Rick Kattouf II
Are looking to put together a great race? Especially one where you finish stronger than ever? Runners put in tons of miles to prepare for a race and all too often the end result is nowhere close to their goal. In their own words, they completely fell apart as the race progressed. Let’s use the marathon as our example. The following is the all-too-common social media chatter from a marathoner, ‘I was right on pace through mile 20 and I was having a great race. And then the wheels came off. I blew up in the final 10k and did not have a good race.’
There are not many guarantees in racing, but here is something that is as close to a guarantee as it can be; a great final 10k of a marathon, all but guarantees a great race performance. But a great opening 10k does not guarantee a great race performance. It’s all about how you finish, not about how you start.
It has even been common to hear marathon runners say the following, ‘I was right on pace through mile 10 and then I completely bonked and had a terrible race.’ Wait, what? You were running well through 10 miles? Seriously? This is a 26.2-mile race; you still have 16.2 miles to go. C’mon, ‘on pace’ through 10 miles of a 26.2 mile race? Stop that. If you are well trained, well fueled, well tapered and you have a bullet proof race plan in terms of proper race management, you can completely eliminate the above verbiage. And you will be well on your way to your best race performances ever.
Become a Closer:
How can we close out a race amazingly strong, become a closer and put together an amazing performance? Well, it’s not luck and a roll of the dice, that’s for sure. If you look at some of the greatest run race performances ever, you will notice a common theme. These races were performed in either an even split (first half and second half of race were even in terms of time) or a negative split (second half of race was faster than the first half). This was not by luck, rather, this was by design and a very patient and methodical approach. This is maximizing human physiology and when we do just that, we maximize race performance.
Putting together a great race is all about two factors that fall under the umbrella of, race management (this is pending of course that the athlete is properly trained, fueled and tapered for the race distance they are taking on). Race management consists of the proper fueling and the proper heart rates. I can all but guarantee you that if you talk with these runners that completely fall apart in their races, there will be a common theme. And the common theme is that they were chasing pace, speed, time and/or perceived effort. There is nothing wrong with monitoring such parameters, they do have their place of course; but here's the reality…pace, speed, perceived effort, etc. does not tell us, physiologically, what is happening with the body. Only heart rate tells us, physiologically, what is happening with the body. If a runner ignores his or her own physiology during a race, they are choosing not to set themselves up for the best success possible. And there is a very good chance that the race will turn out subpar and similar post-race verbiage above will ensue.
According to Cardiologist/Electrophysiologist, Richard N Vest III, M.D., "only following pace, speed and perceived effort is very shortsighted because we are ignoring the most important factors, and that is heart rate.”
When a runner runs a 5:00, 7:00, 10:00 pace per mile, all it tells us is, well, the runner ran a 5:00, 7:00 or 10:00 pace, that's it, that’s all it tells us. There is a metabolic cost associated with the pace we are running at. And the key is to significantly reduce and minimize the metabolic cost. And if we do not, the above post-marathon social media chatter will be the reality.
Starting a race too fast (even though the runner will tell you this pace felt great in the early miles) and at too high of a heart rate, may feel manageable in the first part of the race, no doubt. But, the metabolic cost will be so high that this can easily lead to the runner completely falling apart. Keep in mind, racing without proper race management is easy (and will typically lead to poor race performances). But racing smart takes effort, energy, confidence, laser-like focus, ego-check at the door and an "I'll do whatever it takes" mentality in order to put together the proper race management; leading to an amazing race finish and securing a fantastic overall race performance.
Proper race management (spot-on fueling + spot-on heart rate) is the key to racing success. When it comes to the marathon, if someone wants to be proud of their 10-mile or 20-mile time, then go find a 10 or 20-mile race. If a runner wants to be proud of their marathon time, focus on and crush the final 10k and they will become a closer; finishing strong and putting together an amazing race from start to finish. Become a Closer and get ready set one Personal Best after the next!
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Rick Kattouf II, O.D. is a 2x Best-Selling Author and Fitness & Nutrition expert and has been named one of America’s PremierExperts® and one of the World Fitness Elite® Trainers of the Year. He has been seen on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates around the country as well as in the USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Ironman.com, Livestrong.com, FIGHT! Magazine, Florida Cycling Magazine and The Independent in the UK. Rick is the CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Inc, CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Nutrition LLC, CEO/Founder of Virtual Gym LLC, Creator of TeamKattouf® Nutrition Supplements, Host of Rx Nutrition, author of Forever Fit, Creator of 5-Round Fury® Nutrition Supplement, 5-Round Fury Fitness® workout app, Creator of Coach2CEO, Creator of Fuel Keeper®, Entrepreneur and Inspirational Speaker. Dr. Rick has personally coached individuals in 30+ states and 10+ countries.