ARTICLE: Leg 7 Split Analysis

Before tomorrow's article on two new "weapons in my training arsenal": the Mixed Interval Session and Peaking Sprints (which I tested today and had much enjoyment from), I thought I'd give Saturday's race some final thoughts.

I like to try and learn from the positive lessons as well as the negative ones. The bad runs are easy to learn from because your failings and mistakes are often obvious.

But this shouldn't mean neglecting good runs for it is easy to forget what you did right and then miss out on the opportunity to re-run a good game-plan later.

To this effect, I'd like to share my splits from 2008 compared to 2009. As you can see below its fairly interesting reading for anyone who has thoughts on pacing.

Quick Stats:
  • Fastest Kilometre: 3:27 (2009 - K7)/3:42 (2008 - K5)
  • Slowest Kilometre: 5:47 (2009 - K 3)/6:02 (2008 - K15)
  • 1st 10k: 43:48 (2009)/44:51 (2008)
  • 2nd 10k: 44:36 (2009)/49:09 (2008)
  • 1st 10k/2nd 10k "Split": 49.5%/50.5%
  • Sub-4 Minute Kilometres: 8 (2009/6 (2008)
It's notable that my fastest kilometre came later this year while my slowest came earlier in the course. All the indications of the usage of "negative split" or at least (since the route is uneven) "negative effort" (i.e. more effort on the last half than the first half).

Most world records are set using a 51%/49% split. While I seemed to have used the opposite, I had to keep something in reserve for the last 1.1k and it's worth noting I ran the first hill at 5:06min/km pace while the remaining hills were run at 5:09min/km pace.

The key, to my mind, was the decision to start slow on the first 4 kilometres. Despite being behind 1:40 "schedule" for the first 3 kilometres, I easily clawed it back which is food for thought for other races such as the half-marathon and the Wicklow Way Trail.

Negative Splits?
Let it be said, I'm a religious believer in negative splits in general. The only reason I don't employ them universally is that hill running courses don't work like that (e.g. they aren't uniform enough). Likewise short races like the 800m and 1500m generally tend to be won using positive splits.

Cross-country shares characteristics of both these disciplines and its more important to "hang in there". In fact, the more race dynamics are thrown into the mix, the less use negative splits have. If your goal is to beat a runner and not merely run a good time you cannot religiously execute negative splits and expect to succeed.

But Leg 7 is different: It's long enough to claw back time and because its a relay you spend significant time running alone (for me almost the first 14 kilometres or so).

Of the 6:40 I took off last year's time, 4:32 was clawed back on kilometre 14-21 (the last 33% of the race), which to me evidences that saving up for "late climbs" has a tremendous effect, in fact, its 34 seconds/kilometre.

Despite running 8 sub-4minute kilometres, they only clawed back 2:32 (19 seconds per kilometre). In this run, I thus gained 44% more by having energy on the ascents than I gained on the descents.

I won't conclude to much on this, merely let it stand as food for thought.