Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pace Yourself Part 5: Wind

This is part four of specific conditions to consider when pacing yourself during races or training runs. To skip to the specific tips, head to the end of this post. Here are previous posts on pace:

Source and interesting analysis of 2011 Boston wind
I've done many training runs where wind played a significant factor. The most vivid of which occurred back in 2002. On a run with two other steeplechasers, wind gusts had to be close to 40 mph on the fairly treeless landscape surrounding Seward, Neb.

The route we'd chosen was not ideal for the conditions. We ran in a lot of open space, and at one point we were running into the wind on a dirt road. After what couldn't have been more than a mile, our faces getting pounded with farmland dirt and dust, we decided to turn around--it was a much shorter maintenance run than the coach had called for.

Factoring wind into training runs and races is not easy.

I love the title of the Runner's World Article, "The Science (and guesswork) of Race Equivalent Predictors." In he article, author Matt McCue mentions the Jack Daniels calculations on wind's effect on pace.

To sum up, Daniels data shows an 18 minute 5k run into a 10 mph headwind is equivalent to running a 17:05. An 18 minute 5k run with the aid of a 10 mph tailwind? It's only worth a 19:38.

To factor in a specific time, check out this Running Calculator from Runworks. One of the variations it allows is for headwind and tailwind.

Of all the factors in pacing, wind is the most difficult to nail down. Rarely will you run straight into a headwind or tailwind for an entire race--even point-to-point courses are not straight, and wind directions often shift during the course of a race.

Two races I've run run where wind has played a significant factor include the 2011 Boston Marathon (see race report), and this year's Ron Daws 25k (see race report).

At the 2011 Boston Marathon
In the case of the 2011 Boston Marathon, wind aided my performance. The calculation given by the Runworks calculator indicates my time was improved by a few minutes. However, the temperature at that race was warmer than ideal, and the elevation profile was quite a bit different from the training I'd done--mostly indoors on a treadmill with little downhill running due to near record snowfall in the twin cities.

A tailwind also reduces the cooling effect of wind--a headwind or crosswind can increase that cooling affect, while the cooling effect of a tailwind is nonexistent or negligible--again, the factor wind plays is difficult to nail down.

At this years Ron Daws 25k, wind significantly hindered my performance. Several times it felt like I was running in place due to a massive headwind. And, due to very cold temperatures, the cooling effect of the headwinds and crosswinds made no difference.

With the myriad of factors to consider for wind's effect on pace (not to mention the other factors like temperature and hills), how do you go about adjusting your pace? Here's some tips:

  • Wind calculations are more useful after a race. Use them to see what you may have run with different wind conditions.
  • During runs, don't be married to the pace on your GPS. Plan to slow down due to a strong headwind, and factor in the cooling effect of wind on a hot day.
  • Wind, along with all factors, can be summed up by the following: run by feel. This takes experience but:
    • Easy runs should feel easy--don't push it just to keep a specific pace.
    • When external factors are significant, be OK that your tempo runs and intervals will be slower (or faster given ideal conditions).

There are things you can do to mitigate wind's effect on pace. In a race or when running with training partners, run in a group and draft off each other. Be nice about it and offer to take a turn running into the wind (see my race report on the 2012 Securian Half Marathon).

On training runs, find routes sheltered by trees--in the twin cities there are several trails in county and regional parks, along with the Big River Regional Trail and the Gateway Trail.

These trails offer some protection on Windy Days. Search for parks and trails, ask other runners, or consult running store employees to find some routes that may offer some shelter from the wind.

Run well.

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