A pacing lesson from a windy race in the windy city
Let's turn the clock back about 30 years, to a time before Stryd, and teleport into Chicago, the windy city.
An important race was taking place that day, the Chicago Marathon.
The windy city was going to earn its name that day.
The direction of the wind meant that long sections of the race course would put the runners directly in line with headwinds and tailwinds.
The subject of our story is Darren.
He had hopes of qualifying for Boston.
The wind was not good news for him.
Darren was determined to run a qualifying time that day, but his confidence took a hit when he stepped up the starting line.
It would have been a difficult but fairly straightforward task to qualify for Boston at any other race, but it was going to be especially hard with the winds that day.
Plus, the Chicago Marathon was not a mega race 30 years ago,
There were far less people.
That means the runners were far more exposed to the wind and that racing tactics were far more important.
Our runner was fit, savvy, and determined to qualify for Boston, so he was going to make the most of it all despite the unique challenges thrown his way.
The starting gun fired and our runner held strong for the first 2/3 of the race thanks to the shielding of the city's buildings and the group of runners he was with.
Darren and the pack were on track to hit the qualifying time at that point.
But, the texture of the race changed with 9 miles remaining.
The course started to open up and the runners were exposed to the wind again.
The next 4 miles would be with a tailwind and the final 5 miles into a headwind.
Darren was content sticking with his pack and, hopefully, grit out the final 5 miles with them.
But, panic quickly began to set in.
The pack did not want to use the tailwind. They were running the same pace as they had for the rest of the race.
Darren saw this was a recipe for disaster. He knew the final 5 miles would be slower so he had to make up the time now.
He made the bold decision to leave the pack and speed up with the tailwind.
The pack didn't follow.
Darren finished those four miles quickly and well ahead of pace.
He then turned into the home stretch for the final five miles.
Bad news awaited him.
The drafting packs ahead of him were running way too slow and Darren was reaching certain exhaustion.
Darren would not be able to go it alone.
What did he do?
He drafted off a small pack for a mile to recover and then sped ahead to the next group.
Then, he did it again.
He leapt from group to group to get the benefits of drafting while still staying on pace.
The strategy worked.
The race ended in success and Boston-qualification was achieved.
Strategy was the difference between success and flailing helplessly in the wind that day.
Here is the lesson:
While you can't control Mother Nature and whether it will be windy or not...
There is one major thing you can control when the winds start blowing:
Your response to the winds
If you know the proper way to respond to the winds, you will be much happier than the runners who throw their arms up in disgust as the windy weather batters their race bib against their chest and the wind tries to blow them back to the starting line.
Darren owns the new Stryd now and uses it to pace his races. He wishes he had it 30 years ago because it would have made his race a lot easier that day.
Darren could have followed his power number in the wind to keep an even effort, instead of guesstimating the pace targets he needed to hit.
Stryd is one of the best ways to quantify the effects from the wind and manage their effects by modifying your pacing strategy in a smart way that is within your capability.
You can get Stryd here: https://store.stryd.com/