Friday, October 10, 2008

War of Posts

This isn’t an announcement of a new flame post war between Vanilla, Viper, and I. You all know that the good ship F.M.S. is always the innocent victim of these unprovoked attacks anyway. I remain vigilant for these assaults from the pro-llama caucus.

Instead, ‘War of Posts’ refers to my normal marathon race strategy. There’s been some talk in recent days about how to run a marathon: Start slow and fade, start fast and crash, run even splits, run negative splits, start out sprinting and quit after mile 14 when shitting self. I’ve read race reports recounting every strategy imaginable. One jackhole even thinks he’s going to fly away on a horse to the nearest Applebee’s for industrial grade beer after his marathon. Idiot.

Viper will be testing out the negative split technique this weekend. The benefits are argued pretty well in this article here and passed to him by Vanilla in his comments. The two are yammering away about this like a couple of old bitties fighting over a new pattern in a knitting circle. Here are some other good negative split resources.

Of course, a negative split would mean that you run the first half of a marathon slower than you run the second half. When others are fading in the last few miles, you are actually picking up the pace compared to your first 13 miles. It’s been done before. Nic did it just recently in back-to-back marathons. It sounds pretty great. Who wouldn’t want to run their fastest at the peak of exhaustion 3,4, maybe 5 hours into a marathon?

In fact, it sounds pretty close to ideal. And that’s why I don’t, nay can’t, follow that strategy.

I would suggest that running a negative split requires an incredible amount of discipline and a deep understanding of your own abilities. You have to know your pace for a full marathon. You have to control your pace despite the energy and excitement generated by the event. You have to know that, when you reach back to turn up the pace potentially a couple of hours and a baker’s dozen miles into the race, you have that energy in store. It will be there. You won’t reach into the cookie bin and come up with...crumbs. Otherwise, you’ve simply started out slow…and have nowhere to go but hope to maintain a bit longer before the fade.

The negative split is not a myth. A lot of professional runner’s, top tier nonprofessional runner’s, and other very experienced marathoners approach a race with this strategy. They’ve practiced it. They know the cookie bin is full when they need an extra bite. They’ve trained by increasing pace as their body fatigues. In short, these athletes know full well what their bodies are capable of and at what pace they can maintain 5, 10, 20 miles down the road.

I don’t feel I’ve trained in the manner necessary to perform a negative split. I don’t feel I understand my pacing as well as I would like either.

For kicks, I attempted a negative split for my 21 miler recently. I started slower…got a bit faster for a short period of time…then crashed and burned turning in one of my worst 20+ mile training times ever. I felt sluggish at the beginning and it rippled through the rest of the miles. I hadn’t practiced it before. I felt off from the very beginning.

Instead, I tend to employ the War of Posts concept. This is the old Revolutionary War strategy George Washington used to battle the overwhelming British army. It’s a defensive technique to battle from station to station, never risking the entire over matched Continental army in one single battle to prolong the war and slowly wear out and discourage the British.

I run for the 20 mile marker. I’m comfortable at that distance. I don’t go all out in the early miles but try to maintain a nice comfortable pace slightly ahead of my goal finish pace. At 20 miles, I switch to General Washington mode and employ my War of Posts. I run to each mile marker. If I fade a bit in pace, I fade a bit. I’ll outlast the markers. The finish will come before I’m finished. I’ll wear a powdered wig and consider lying about timbered cherry trees. I may fade but I’m still running when the marathon gives up.

I don’t normally like to compare myself to the father of our country. I leave that up for all of you. The similarities are pretty obvious I think outside of dental hygiene and a desire to have my portrait painted while looking sideways. However, until I obtain the conditioning and discipline I need to negative split, my marathons will most likely continue to be a War of Posts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing that a War of Posts is better than negative splitting. Just the opposite, in fact. I am suggesting that a negative split is the sign of a seasoned, well trained, and developed runner. Either that or someone who started out woefully slower than their ability so had an abundance of energy late. Like the modern American military, a War of Posts is no longer the preferred strategy. They have evolved from the humble beginnings of farmers (new runners) with their pitchforks (wearing high top basketball shoes for the first run). For the beginner, though, it might be the only available option to keep you in the race and within sight of your goals for as long as possible.

Have you attempted a negative marathon split in your marathon? How did it turn out? Feel free to disagree in the comments but understand that we’ve already established my parallelism to George Washington which would make your contrary opinion pretty traitorous and mine fairly historic, patriotic and monumental.

But you can play Benedict Arnold if you like.

Happy trails.
_________________________________

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I did in fact run a negative split in my very first marathon running a 1:49/1:47 split. However, this was completely unintentional. I was trapped behind roughly 35,000 runners and was boxed in for the first 9 miles before finding daylight. Lesson: Don't stand in the back of a race with 35,000 participants unless you want to run THEIR pace.

30 comments:

Turi said...

Perfect - that's pretty much my strategy. Never occurred to me to name it using an obscure Revolutionary War reference, though...

I tried to run negative splits in a half earlier this year, and it didn't work out - felt like I was behind, faded and got more behind. Did not like.

Big said...

now that you have established that disagreeing with you is unpatriotic, I'll humbly suggest that a negative split is the way to go. but I'll let you know how well that idea works on Monday.

Xenia said...

You and the V boys truly are the unholy trinity. At least your constant bickering makes blog reading fun. :)

I'm so mired in confusion right now about how to pace myself for the marathon next month I'm about ready to throw in the towel entirely. How anyone sorts this out and trains properly for a marathon is beyond me.

On that positive note, have a good weekend. Oh, and get rid of the apostrophes in the second sentence of the paragraph starting with 'The negative split is not a myth.'

The Laminator said...

I'm with you. Negative splits...not my thing. I tried in my last marathon to run slow in first half...still ended up running slower in second half. War of Post...much better strategy.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Might I humbly suggest the Negative sh*ts strategy? Wherein you run the first half of the marathon till you take a dump on yourself; then in the second half - and this is the genius part - you take an even BIGGER dump. Because lately I've run across a lot of posts in which this phee-nom has been disgust. (I mean discussed.) Really makes a guy wanna run one. I'll wait till I'm really constipated, though, because it would be a shame to waste such a foolproof purging strategy.

The fact that I've never run a marathon just makes me an outsider and mavericky which, paradoxically, makes me MORE qualified to weigh on this issue. That's just how it goes.

Marcy said...

Personally, I'm going for this technique

"start out sprinting and quit after mile 14 when shitting self"

I'm still a farmer in basketball shoes. Hopefully I'll figure it out what works for me in a couple years LOL

Marcy said...

GAH Sorry I meant "figure out" not "figure it out"

steersldp said...

Nitmos,

I tend to succeed using the hybrid Negative Split War of Posts technique.

Run controlled for the first half, a minute faster than your goal pace, then continue on that pace through 20, then pick up the pace a little, and just focus on running strong to the next stop sign, beef jerky store, fire hydrant or kid in the stroller until you you see the clock and the people tell you to stop and they hand you a medal and a bottle of water (that you can't open).

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

In my last marathon, the second half was far crappier than the first...does that count as 'negative split'?

tfh said...

I've always thought attempting to run negative splits takes an enormous amount of self-confidence. I will be quite happy if I can train well enough for my first marathon that I don't have to employ the War of Posts strategy until the 20th mile.

joyRuN said...

I'm a "start slow and fade" kinda girl myself. War of Posts sounds good, but there's a lot of posts between mile 10 & 26!

*aron* said...

awesome post... i have been trying to think of how i am going to tackle marathon #2. i guess i will see how the long runs go first!

first marathon had a 5 second negative split :)

RazZDoodle said...

that's it. I'm going to start biking.

Roisin said...

That'll be me on Sunday...unintentionally running a negative split because I'm in the open corral. But I'll tell most people I planned it that way.

Viv said...

Marathon is out of my vocab. Ii am a positive person and an uber optimist to do anything crazy like run negatively.

Viv said...

oh and cycling also likes those negative people :-)

seejessrun said...

The closest I've come is a negative split in a 16-miler, but that's still 10.2 away.

Vanilla said...

I think I'll subscribe to the Rosie Ruiz theory: Start out fast, take bus to mile 24, finish strong, set course record. It's really the best scenario all around.

Viper said...

Way pull the carpet out from under me right before race day, ass. If negative splits fail me, I'll just say I switched to War of Posts at the last minute and blame my failure on you. Cheers.

Marlene said...

So far, my "strategy" has been:

1. Run too fast for the first quarter
2. Realize this and slow down to goal pace for the 2nd quarter
3. Realize it's too late in the 3rd quarter, start to fade
4. Hobble through the last quarter to the finish line, feeling as though I am a chalk board and someone is scraping their finger nails all over me

But I'm pretty inexperienced. :)

Have a great weekend! It's Turkey Day up here in Canada so we get a long one. YAHOO!

Kristina said...

The neg split is what I'm (supposedly) trying to do. The idea is to use speed workouts to trick my body into picking up the pace when it gets tired late in the race. So far it seems to be taking effect and at the end of my long runs I seem to get faster as I get tired--totally without a conscious decision to speed up. Of course the rest of the week I feel like shit and it'll be a miracle if I get through Craptober without a stress fracture.

Laura said...

I've never really tried for a negative split, but when I try to run even splits, I can't even keep them up for the second half, so negative splits just seem out of the question. But your post has gotten me thinking... maybe I'll try for negative splits tomorrow instead.

Jess said...

I love the concept of negative splits, but have never been able to successfully use them in longer races

Ms. V. said...

You DO know a bittie is Urban Dictionaryish for BooBies... Right? Right?

Biddies are adult female chickens.
LMAO.

And no, obviously I'm of no help except to cheer you on from across the country. Good luck this week!!

Vava said...

Where does one go to pick up a powdered wig these days? Perhaps you can keep your cookies in the curls and reach in when the War of Posts begins. Either way, good luck on the taper and the race - I look forward to an awesome and entertaining report no matter what the outcome!

KimsRunning said...

I'm gonna try my new method....It's the backward Galloway. I'm gonna walk the miles and run the water tables. Yeah...should take me a little over 6 days that way.

Good luck Nitmos, I know whatever method you use you'll finish strong and with a slight leg cramp. Still faster than people I know with NO leg cramps!!!!

The Young Family said...

Negative split huh? I have heard of those..... haven't achieved them YET!

Em

Lily on the Road said...

I'm with Joyrun, start out slow, fade and then stop to chat with the Llama....really, at the Boilermaker!!

;^)

Marathon Me said...

If you run negative splits, then you either a) didn't go out hard enough in the first half, or b) you ran Pike's Peak.

My best time ever was a 1:27 / 1:31 split for a 2:58. If I had run slower in the first half then I could have negative split, but then I would have run slower. pass.

http://www.marathonme.com

Scott said...

I'm usually a go out fast then crash, burn and die kind of runner. When I do actually go out slower, I can hang on an have better overall times... Better stories though when you crash and burn in defeat.