Category Archives: PacePal

Learning from Pacing Failures at the SCMM 2015

Hey! There’s a simple question for you at the end of this, don’t forget to scroll down and click on your choice!

Keeping track of pace, distance, time...

Keeping track of pace, distance, time…

After writing a few articles (1, 2, 3 and 4) on marathon race pacing prior to last month’s Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM 2015) I felt it made sense to follow up today with a short report on what transpired with pacers that race day. When I crossed the finish line as a 2-hour pacer for the half marathon and realized that I had done it 9 seconds faster than the band I had set myself (1:58:00-1:59:15) I was mortified. The solace I received was that absolutely no one seemed to complain about my being 9 seconds too early (1:57:51) and, instead, so many were grateful for my getting them across the finish line as promised.

PrintScreen

SCMM-2015 Pacer Performance

However, yesterday I started to examine the completion times of the other pacers at the event and was horrified. Of the 29 pacers in the half and full marathons, a whopping 13 failed to finish within time. A failure rate of over 30%! This specific event is now done and dusted, but what can we learn from this for a better future? And, what are the parallel improvements that we can make in other aspects of our lives outside of running – outside of health and fitness and sports? Read on and make the connections.

What do you do when shit hits your pacing flag?
There are broadly two types of failure that happen – sudden failure and gradual failure. (Can you think about this in the context of your daily life? Health, relationships, business, career?)

Sudden Failure
This is when, despite all your preparation that makes allowances for weather, terrain, distance, pace, race anxiety affected sleep, carrying a flag, shouting out motivational talk etc. you have an injury (twist an ankle or cramp suddenly) mid race. Or, your distance and pace tracking device decides to go kaput at some point during the race. When the latter happens, if you can make do with someone else’s on-the-fly, that’s great. (Some pacers run with 2 separate tracking devices just to be doubly sure.) When it’s actual physical failure (e.g. a debilitating cramp) you probably have 2 choices. The first choice is to pass your flag onto someone who is willing to take on the responsibility, who might well be another pacer for the same time target coming up behind you. (Ensure that your bus continues to run ahead of that pacer though.)

Excellent Team Work by the 4:00 Pacers

Excellent Team Work by the 4:00 Pacers

One of the not-widely-reported heroic occurrences of the full marathon event was that the only 4:00 hour pacer passed on her pacing flag to a runner on her bus who then finished bang on target. The lady pacer in question, Elizabeth Chapman, was bed-ridden on the Friday before the race with a stomach bug, but stayed bang on target right until the point when she suddenly fainted at the 32km mark.  The fact that she handed over the responsibility to someone else who was willing to give up his race (he was capable of running much faster than 4:00) speaks volumes of her ability to achieve success in teams she runs in her professional life. Congratulations to her and the gentleman who goes by the name “Subbu”.

Your second option is to put down your flag indicating you are no longer a pacer for that target time and wish the racers on your bus good luck to the finish line. In either case, keep the runners on your bus aware of what is happening, they are relying on you, they deserve to know.

Gradual Failure
This happens when you are either not keeping track of your own pace as a pacer, or are unable to keep up with the target pace.  If you missed your target by a couple of minutes you probably fall into the former category – better focus next time please! Those who became increasingly slower and slower than the target pace and did nothing about it and cruised to the finish line late, I don’t think pacing is for you. If you did not lower your flag and misled runners on the course then that’s doubly awful – you should definitely not pace again – at least not the same race and target time. I’m sorry, but that’s the simple truth. I suggest you think of some other fruitful way of engaging with the running community that taps into your skills in a more reliable way.

Progressive failure apparent for this 5-hour pacer

Progressive failure apparent for this 5-hour pacer

Race Organizers
I mentioned clearly in my first post on race pacing a list of dos and don’ts for race organizers when selecting pacers. I suspect these were not followed precisely or the SCMM 2015 would not have had such a performance by the pacers. Let’s look forward to a zero-error pacer performance at the SCMM 2016 – with better planning and execution. After all, failing to prepare is preparing to fail!

And now, I’d like your (anonymous) opinion please?

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Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.

PacePal vs PacerPuru

Comparing PacePal with Puru the Pacer

Comparing PacePal with Puru the Pacer

Over the last few years, I’ve paced literally hundreds of runners to their personal best in various distances. Whether in a race as an official pace setter, or when racing myself, or during training, pacing someone to a specific target involves thinking numbers and strategy on-the-run. I shall be a pacer again at the SCMM-2015 on Sunday. Now that PacePal has gone live for Android, and provides you with a pacing strategy specifically for the SCMM-2015, it’s worth reporting on how practically accurate it is. That is what this article is about.

If you haven’t downloaded PacePal yet for your smartphone, go right ahead by clicking here and learn more about using it with the lucid writing of Sandeep Bhandarkar in his blog Do you have a plan?

The 3 articles I wrote prior to this one were also on pacing:
(i) a Pacer Guide (for the race organizer, wannabe pacer, race pacer, or the race runner)
(ii) my pacing strategy for the SCMM-2015 (half marathon 2 hour pacing group)
(iii) an intro to PacePal for the SCMM 2015

Although there’s nothing like running with a human pace setter who keeps you on track all along the race course, the benefit of PacePal is that it guides you very accurately within a tiny tolerance band on where you should be at key points along the course of the race in order to finish intelligently. Runners the world over struggle with designing a course specific pace plan. The typical online race calculator offers a single average pace for the entire race distance; in reality, this is not how you run your races, especially with changing terrain and temperature. PacePal has considered the nature of the SCMM course, the weather as well as the fitness levels of runners to help you run a smart race. PacePal’s strategy has worked accurately with runners in previous editions of SCMM. This article reports on the practical accuracy and relevance of PacePal for the SCMM half marathon and confirms that you too should come run an intelligent race at SCMM 2015 with PacePal.

Methodology

Actual time taken 1:59:07 shown in decimals

Actual time taken 1:59:07 shown in decimals

Time and distance measured by Garmin

Time and distance measured by Garmin

I was an official 2-hour pacer for the SCMM half marathon in 2013 and 2014. Using PacePal and the actual distance I ran in each of those two years, along with the actual splits from my Garmin Forerunner 305, we can compare how my run matched what PacePal would recommend.

Natural Laps – SCMM 2014
Looking at the splits for the natural laps we see directly from PacePal the various cumulative times.

PacePal's recommendation

PacePal’s recommendation

As you can see the total time is the same for both my run and what PacePal has been told. In comparing my actual times with those from PacePal we see:

SCMM 2014 - Puru vs PacePal

SCMM 2014 – Puru vs PacePal

The difference is definitely within acceptable bounds. At the start of the race, when moving a large group of runners, it’s not always easy to get through the hordes, compared with if you were running alone. That would explain the large divergence in the first natural lap. I was slightly faster in the last 6.6km compared with PacePal.

The story is similar for the year before in the SCMM 2013 half marathon.

SCMM 2014 - Puru vs PacePal

SCMM 2014 – Puru vs PacePal

What next?
The algorithm underlying PacePal is sensitive to your fitness levels based on your suggested target time and tweaks the splits accordingly. So, whether you are considerably faster than the 2-hour pacer or noticeably slower, PacePal will guide you beautifully. So go ahead and download PacePal and play around with it. And once you are done with your race, you can also compare your official race splits with what PacePal would have done.

If you have any feedback regarding PacePal, feel free to email the team at PacePal.2015@gmail.com or perhaps even leave a comment below.

Good luck with tapering and best wishes for a fun and injury free race day!

cropped-screenshot293-001.jpg

Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.

PacePal for the SCMM 2015

PacePal – intelligent running

Introducing PacePal at the Pacer's Meet

Introducing PacePal at the Pacer’s Meet

Yes! It’s finally here! PacePal has gone live for Android. I believe that, whether or not you attended the “Pacers Meet” at the SCMM-2015 expo yesterday and heard me speak about PacePal, you must read this blog. PacePal has been designed to get you across the finish line in your target time when you race next Sunday.

Although there’s nothing like running with a human pace setter who keeps you on track all along the race course, the benefit of PacePal is that it guides you very accurately within a tiny tolerance band on where you should be at key points along the course of the race in order to finish intelligently. Runners the world over struggle with designing a course specific pace plan. The typical online race calculator offers a single average pace for the entire race distance; in reality, this is not how you run your races, especially with changing terrain and temperature. PacePal has considered the nature of the SCMM course, the weather as well as the fitness levels of runners to help you run a smart race. PacePal’s strategy has worked accurately with runners in previous editions of SCMM. You too should come run an intelligent race at SCMM 2015 with PacePal.

In a previous blog on pacing I spoke about making decisions intelligently whether you are a pacer, a race organizer or racing to a personal best. In my last blog I presented my pacing strategy for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2015, (2-hour bus for the half marathon) and some advice for you, the runner, if you are planning to be on my bus.

The bulk of runners have PacePal for success.

The bulk of runners have PacePal for success.

However, you may not want to run with a pacer or, what is highly likely, the vast majority of you will have a target time that is ‘non-standard’ e.g. 2:04 or 2:09 or even 2:20 (for which there is no human pace-setter). For that reason PacePal is a lifesaver (or at least a racesaver!).

 

Obtaining PacePal

Installing PacePal is easy

Installing PacePal is easy

There are 2 ways:
(i) Google’s Play Store for Android (recommended).
(ii) Or click on this link to download for Android (this alternative, not highly recommended, unless you want to run it on your desktop with an emulator until the iOS version is launched later this week).

Using PacePal

PacePal is easy to download, install and launch. Do read the initial screens that talk about PacePal‘s role in your race and the information on the SCMM route. The actual application is very easy to use.  Having chosen your race (the ‘half’ or the ‘full’) you can enter the target time and even tweak the distance slightly (because no race you run is bang on target distance, except by chance, because of meandering and weaving).

 

PacePal's easy input screens

PacePal’s easy input screens

Natural Laps and Target Times on PacePal

Natural Laps and Target Times on PacePal

 

PacePal has Natural Laps for the SCMM (half)

PacePal has Natural Laps for the SCMM (half)

PacePal then tells you where you should be at key points along the course based on four possible splits:
(i) natural laps (terrain specific)
(ii) halfway splits
(iii) 10km splits
(iv) 5km splits

All you need to do is click on the little mail (envelope) icon to take a screen print and email it to your computer to print out and cut out an actual wristband for your specific time (e.g. ‘2:09 for the half’).  What is neat is that if you aren’t sure if you will do a 2:09 or a 2:12, you can print and carry wristbands for both times!

PacePal- Manual Override to Tailor your Race

What is also neat is that PacePal allows you to override its suggestions to tweak segments of the race to run at a faster or slower pace. PacePal will adjust the total time accordingly. For instance you might decide to go up Peddar Road slower than PacePal‘s suggestion.

PacePal's manual override feature allows you to tailor your race strategy

PacePal’s manual override feature allows you to tailor your race strategy

Once you are done with your race, you can also go back to PacePal and check how you fared relative to PacePal‘s suggestion.

Feedback

If you have any feedback regarding PacePal, feel free to email the team at PacePal.2015@gmail.com or perhaps even leave a comment below.

Good luck with tapering and best wishes for a fun and injury free race day!

cropped-screenshot293-001.jpg

Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.