Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Highland Fling Analysis

Hi Again,

It's been a while since my last post. Hopefully tonight's post will be (i) shorter, and (ii) without the detailed statistics of last week!

You may be wondering Highland Fling?! Did I run it this year? Well I didn't, but with it being such a good race I have been taking an interest in the results and various runner's reports from the race. Although I stated above that I will avoid detailed statistics, I feel I need to finish my pacing strategy discussion.

Although I am a firm believer that there is NOT ONE correct strategy, my last post was attempting to try to get a guide, by using statistics, at what could be more likely to work. Having re-read what I wrote, apart from probably confusing you all, and to be honest, even myself! I think the only thing one can conclude from the statistical analysis of the results of the Highland Fling 2009 is that for the top three quarters of the field the pacing strategy in terms of the percentage time to get to halfway in the race, pretty well, has no influence on one's finishing time.

What about last Saturday's Highland Fling? I thought I would have one last try at attempting to get some guidance from the results at what pacing strategy may improve finishing time. This time though the plan adopted was to look at the difference in performance for those runners that finished both 2009 and 2010 races.

I wont present all of my analysis as I have promised that I will keep this post short so below is my summary.

87 runners ran in both 2009 and 2010.
48 people ran faster this year ranging from 13 seconds to 2:50:31 faster, with an average time for these 48 runners of 37 minutes and 48 seconds faster.
39 people ran slower this year ranging from 30 seconds to 2:07:04 slower, with an average time for these 39 runners of exactly 40 minutes slower.

If we look at the data for the 48 people who ran faster in terms of pacing strategy, we can use the split times at Drymen (12.6miles) and Rowardennan (27.2miles).

To keep things simple, there are three scenarios into why someone has ran faster:
(i) they could simply be fitter, and therefore run faster through the entire race
(ii) they have adopted the UltraStu strategy of "Run as fast as you can while you can" and cover the first sections faster and then slow down at the same rate so the second half of the race is run in the same time.
(iii) they have adopted the careful approach and started slower and therefore able to run the second half of the race more quickly, resulting in an overall improved time.

So what does the data tell us?

Of the 48 people that ran faster in 2010:
33 of them got to Drymen quicker, 15 got to Drymen slower.
33 of them (30 out of the 33 the same as for Drymen) got to Rowardennan quicker.

Did they continue to run faster over the second half of the race, or run at the same speed as 2009? 44 out of the 48 ran the second half of the race faster. So only 4 runners appeared to adopt strategy (ii)!

I have looked into more detail at the split times for the 87 runners, especially the 48 that ran faster, but the only conclusion I can really draw out from all of my number crunching is:


Just to further emphasis this conclusion I will present the data on three runners who have over the last few weeks contributed to my blog.

Case study 1. Thomas Loehndorf
Thomas finished in 2nd place overall in a time of 8:09:05, an improvement of 11minutes 35 seconds. Thomas indicated within his blog prior to the race that his intention was to start faster. He was 2:27 faster at Drymen, 11:53 faster at Rowardennan, and then ran the second half of the race in pretty well an identical time to 2009, actually 18 seconds slower. Was he fitter this year? Or does he simply illustrate my belief, that no matter what pace you start at you will slow down the same amount, so start fast, gain time during the first half and then run the same pace.

Unfortunately, this approach doesn't seem to work for everyone!

Case study 2. John Kynaston (Hi John, your personal coach here again!)
John finished in 51st place overall, 6th Super Vet, in a time of 10:14:09, this being 24 minutes 58 seconds slower than 2009 (sorry John for reminding you of this fact!) John indicated within his blog prior to the race that he was tempted to try starting out at a faster pace, but in the end his approach was for a target starting pace similar to 2009. However, he was 1:06 faster at Drymen, but by the time he arrived at Rowardennan he was 2:55 slower and then continued to slow more during the second half of the race. Was he fitter this year, or less fit this year? Or does he simply illustrate that you should not start too fast as you will 'pay for it' later in the race!

And finally:

Case study 3. Andy Cole
Andy finished in 47th place overall, winning the 60+ category, in a time of 10:10:43, this being 12 minutes and 19 seconds faster than 2009. Andy indicated within his blog that his intention was to get to Drymen in 2 hours or slower, this deliberately being a slower starting pace than the 1:55 it took him in 2009. He arrived at Drymen in 1:58:56, so 3:56 slower and at Rowardennan was still 3:53 slower than 2009. However, he then ran the second half of the race 16 minutes and 12 seconds faster. Was he fitter this year? Or does he simply illustrate that it best to start slowly so one is able to run quicker during the second half of the race!

Three different case studies, three different answers to which strategy works best. I will let you decide!

Well I haven't quite achieved tonight what I set out to do, there is a bit of maths, but at least it is shorter.

Within my post above I ask the question "Was he fitter this year?" Many or maybe most of you would have interpreted this question as was he physically/physiologically fitter this year? However, I was asking the question, was he overall / totally / 'globally' fitter, to do with every aspect that contributes to performance. With regards to this overall / total / global fitness, I will sign off with a quote from Charlie Spedding from his book titled "From Last to First".

"I was sure that it was almost impossible to achieve a performance that my mind, or self image, thought was beyond me.....I would train my mind to accept the reality of the performances I imagined." p85.

To everyone that ran the Highland Fling, well done on your achievements. After deciding not to run this years race, I have pencilled it in the diary for next April. So see you all next year at Millgavie.

Enjoy the running experiences,


1 comment:

  1. Stuart, excellent analysis. And I am sure most of your readers will agree (because you covered the different stategies and exemptions very well).

    I was certianly encouraged by your previous posts to go a bit faster at the start. To take that small risk. And it has its benefits.
    About my fitness:
    However although I was not that sharp on race day as last year (because I had absolutely no speed work done & I tapered too much because of a cold I had the week before). But I still started faster (which was hard work).
    On the other hand I had good stamina because I peaked at 105 miles which was 30 more than last year.
    So my fitness was better in regards of overall endurance but worse in respect of sharpness.
    I am almost certain if I had started a bit gentler I would have achieved a similar end time. But you never know...

    Very interesting was Marco's approach. On that short and flat section to Drymen he ran 11 minutes slower than last year. (although he is a very fast runner and he did loads of speed work). But he still improved his PB by half an hour!

    Anyhow I enjoyed the race very much (which is the main intention of doing this kind of activity) although the last section this year was not as easy as last year.