Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Simulation Run

There's a run goin' on right here
A simulation to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your runnin' shoes too
We gonna simulate your run with you

Come on now
Let's all simulate and have a good run
We gonna simulate and have a good run

It's time to run together
It's up to you, what's your pleasure
Everyone around the world

Come on!

Okay, okay, I'll stop. Ever get a song stuck in your head and you can't get it out? Well today I heard Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" and I've been humming it all day. That song was new when I got my license as a teenager. Yes, it was probably even on an 8-track tape. LOL! I can still see me now toolin' around in my Mom's '76 Dodge Colt. Man that must have been some sight. I was either playing Kool & The Gang or John Denver cause they were the only two tapes I had. Don't laugh. So, I had a diverse array of music in my little "play list." It was better than the AM radio in the car. Ha!

Since I had this song stuck in my head, I decided to put it to good use. You probably noticed that I changed a few words. "We gonna simulate and have a good run." Simulation runs are one of the best tools a runner can have in his/her half-marathon or marathon training plan Simulation runs can take two forms. Both are great.

The first type of simulation is a Race Pace Simulation. If your long runs are long and slow, your intervals are ultra speedy, and your tempo runs are close to a 10K pace, when does your body get experience running at race pace? It usually falls somewhere in between all those other paces. Those different workouts will definitely prepare you to handle your race pace for the endurance run, but if you haven't practiced running at that pace or simulated running at race pace, then it may be hard for you to quickly get to your race pace and maintain it consistently on race day.

There are a couple of different ways to do a race pace simulation run. One way would be to take a regularly scheduled tempo run and instead of running the faster tempo pace, run your race pace. So for a 6-mile tempo run, do a one-mile warm-up 4 miles at race pace, then end with a slower one-mile cool-down. Another way to do a race pace simulation run is to take one of your regularly scheduled long runs and do the first half at your normal long run easy slow pace and then do the second half of the run at race pace. Doing the faster portion of the run in the later half is particularly good, because it helps train your body to know how to "pick-it-up" later in the run.

The second type of simulation run is a Race Course Simulation Run. If you live near the actual race course, the best thing to do is skip the simulation and actually run the course or parts of the course for some of your training runs. If you don't live near the race site, no worries, do what you can to simulate the course. Go to the race website and check the race description. Some sites (especially marathons) will give a mile-by-mile description of the course. Then check to see if there is an elevation map. Here you can see the number of uphills and downhills that are in the race as well as their degree of incline and decline. Now you won't be able to replicate the race course entirely, but do what you can to find a route in your area with a similar elevation. Also, if the race is entirely on concrete, it may be a good idea to do a run or two on concrete. If the race has sections of hard-packed dirt, try to find a local route with a similar surface.

Basically, with the race course simulation run, you're tying to expose your body to all the topographical conditions possible. Now if you live in a flat area of the country and your race is in San Francisco, you may be hard-pressed to find a similar route. That's when a treadmill might just be your best friend. You can easily replicate the hills at the particular mileage points on the course while on the treadmill.

The simulation runs (pace or course) don't need to be the entire length of the race. They should, however, be a fairly good distance so your body and mind will be able to benefit from the runs.
So, get out there....simulate and have a good run!


Mark U. said...

I agree. Whenever possible as the race draws near I attempt to run on a portion of the course, preferably the final few miles (visualizing finishing those same miles equally strong as during the "simulation run").

However, when running a course distant from your home this is likely to either be impossible - or difficult, so I use a different technique. In this one, which I think of as a "Visualization Run" in the moments before drifting off to sleep at night I visualize being half way through the race. I feel strong, I hear the sights and sounds along the course, and see myself tick-off the remaining miles confidently. Often times depending upon my fatigue my pre-dream state doesn't have enough time to conclude with me crossing the finish line, and that's OK! Bottom line, is to repeatedly associate the forthcoming race experience with being a positive one, and I'm convinced through this repetition pre-race jitters are all but eliminated, as the only thing left to do on the day of the race is to make real what you've repeatedly imagined in such detail that imagination and reality become somewhat blurred.

RunnerDude said...

Yep, Visualization was to be tomorrow's post. :-)

Questionably Texan said...

"Now if you live in Kansas and your race is in San Francisco, you'll be hard-pressed to find a similar route"

I guess that depends where in Kansas you live. I'm technically in Missouri, but less than two miles from the KS border, and I have an incredibly difficult time finding a flat place to run. From my house, there's only one direction I can run that will give me a couple of miles of relatively flat terrain. Everywhere else? Hills, hills, and more hills.

But, that aside, I agree with you on the race pace simulation. I've been incorporating it into this round of training, and it's been helping with my confidence of meeting my October marathon time goal.

Andrew Opala said...

I'm sure this applies to other distances and sports as well. Good piece of work! (I only write about S-Rockets)

Anonymous said...

Hey, the only 8 tracks we had were The Carpenters and Wild Cherry (Play that Funky Music).

I spend a lot of time running around White Rock lake in Dallas, and so many of our local races include part of the lake. I can almost feel my body speed up when I reach familiar territory. My body hits a new comfort zone. I know where the hills are and the landmarks, etc. It really helps.

Iron Mike said...

Just yesterday I was thinking about course simulations.
We really need a website where you plug in your race and it maps a similar training course profile in your local area.
I'm holding out for that anyway...

RunnerDude said...

Hey Iron Mike! That's an awesome idea. Wish I had the brains to figure out how to do that.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Lesley! It is cool how your body goes into auto pilot in famliar territory.