Pace to Victory!

  |   Coaching, General, Psychology, Swimming, Triathlon

Pacing – it is one of the most important elements to successful racing at any level, at any distance, and in any sport. Correct pacing can win or lose you a race, but it’s not always easy to get right, even the pro’s get it wrong – put a little pressure into the equation and the wheels can really come off if we’re not disciplined and if we don’t work on our pacing during training.

Anyone watching the recent FINA World Swimming Championships in Shanghai will have seen not only some seriously impressive swimming but some great examples of races paced to perfection as well. There was one race in particular however which i wanted to highlight, the women’s 200m freestyle final, as it was a great example of both a perfectly paced race and a disastrously paced race. A video of the race can be seen here

Day 4 saw the 200m freestyle final which Italy’s Federica Pellegrini won by less than 0.5secs. The story of the race makes for some very interesting reading however. After a blazing start Holland’s Femke Heemskerk swam into turn one in 1st place, covering her first 50m in just 26.63. Pellegrini, the pre-race favourite, turned in 7th place in 27.62, seemingly not a great start. Heemskerk went on to lead all the way through turn 3 before blowing up in the last 30m, finishing way down the field in a disappointing 7th place. Conversely, Pellegrini swam herself from almost last place at turn one to a 1st place finish and a gold medal through some almost perfect pacing.

Examining the individual splits for each 50m we can see how the occasion, and perhaps the competition in the next lane, got the better of Heemskerk. She sprinted off at the gun way too fast and swam each consecutive 50m at a progressively slower pace, whilst Pellegrini remained composed and swam an almost metronomic race, exactly as she had planned and practiced.

                               Heemskerk     Pellegrini

Turn1 (50m)               26.63               27.62

Turn2 (100m)            28.98               29.42

Turn3 (150m)            29.90               29.14

Finish (200m)           32.12               29.40

Total                       1:57.63           1:55.58

And the final insult for Heemskerk… although her pacing isn’t quite up to that of Pellegrini, she attacked her semi-final in a much better fashion, winning it in a time of 1:55.54 which would’ve won the final and bagged her a gold!

So the next time you’re in the pool or out on the track, don’t be afraid to make friends with the pace clock and really learn what your race pace is. It might just win you the race.

Stay Positive.

Coach K.