Earlier this year, researchers published a paper analyzing 92,000 marathon performances to determine that women are “better” at pacing themselves—that is, women slowed down by 11.7 percent on average in the second half of their races, while men slowed down by 15.6 percent.
Click here for the Abstract from the research paper on pacing.
Take away from the research and the article on pacing…
There are layers upon layers of complexity in the execution of every skill within a sport, and flawless execution of any skill is the result of free interchange across all three dimensions (i.e. physical, mental, and emotional).
A point which arises from the hypotheses of the researchers is that due to the complexity and multi-dimensionality of our being, there is a time when physical training (i.e. single dimension) solutions are sufficient to improve, and there is also a time when all the pace training in the world will yield diminishing returns as training must evolve in order for the athlete to evolve (i.e. a multi-dimensional solution is required).
Using the hypotheses by Deaner and Hunter as a backdrop, lets examine pacing differences between the sexes during endurance competitions (i.e. marathon) beyond the physical dimension:
Male athletes who train repetition after repetition on a track to develop pacing can discard the strategy well before the race begins as they fall prey to a surge from pre-race energy, their taper, and the heat of the starting line. They repeat the pattern of going out too fast and blowing up. The unseen competition for position of alpha male at the start overrides months of pace training as the bang of the starters pistol bursts an adrenalin filled bubble.
Female athletes are often able to sustain steady pacing from the outset of the race immune to the alpha competition setting themselves up for a negative split and a strong finish, but are unable to utilize reserves to finish the race with a final kick as they find themselves stuck in the mud. Female stability becomes a double-edged sword as the escape velocity required to change pace, to kick into a higher gear, to surge into the finish is overwhelming when fatigue is already at a maximum.
Competition after competition, because of deeply embedded behaviour patterns to which the athlete is blind, the planned and trained strategy is not followed and the athlete fails to achieve desired race results. Without appreciation for our multi-dimensionality, athletes are trapped to repeat the same error(s) time after time despite hours of reviewing race results and training data, as the hope becomes that digging deeper – in the same hole – will yield the solution… next time.
Consider how a change in mindset – how mental and emotion training – could release both male and female athletes from sex based pacing error bondage, allowing them to finally take advantage of months of training which has so far failed to deliver results.
So how do you find that next level of performance, how do you solve training errors which lead to execution failures in competition? Dig deeper, or start to dig… but in different holes.
Dig deeper into evaluating performances across all dimensions, and have your performances observed, evaluated, and reviewed by an experienced coach, so that your training is redesigned to take you with specific intent to the next level. Being honest with ourselves is not necessarily a gift we are each in equal possession, but it is a skill which can be developed; especially with repetition, and honest feedback from a trusted knowledgeable source who has a healthy vested interest in your success.
It is for this reason that athletes work with coaches, and at times change coaches: to gain perspective on themselves from a different dimension, a different angle.
Tiger Woods has changed coaches throughout his career so that his golf game continued to evolve and to remain relevant amongst new competitors. Recently, female triathlete and iron distance record holder Mary Beth Ellis shared her decision to leave coach Siri Lindley, returning to coach Brett Sutton as a result of being stuck: unable to translate training into competition. In his book, “The Way of The Fight“, Georges St Pierre (GSP) shares how his coaches refined him. It was by being humbled that GSP became aware of weaknesses which would prevent him from reaching his highest potential: UFC Champion. One coach had GSP attempt simple gymnastic moves which an age group gymnast could perform, knowing that GSP would fail, threatening his narratives, self image, and his ego. Instead of protecting his weaknesses, defending his pride, GSP took ownership, accepted them, and used the lesson to redefine his training protocol to develop flexible power, strength, and endurance unlike any of his opponents.
Champions are champions not because they were without weaknesses, but because they sought out, chased after their weaknesses, and defeated them in training so that in the midst of competition there was nothing left that could take them down.
Champions train to be free: uninhibited and unhindered from delivering a peak performance.