Reflecting on your months of dedicated training, the usual pre-performance jitters, and the energy of throngs of people all meeting at the starting line will get even the most experienced endurance athletes excited. Here's a performance tip from the Element Endurance Race Day Strategy Department: fight the urge to explode off the starting line and stick to your pace from the start of the race!
Here's why: through your months of training your body has learned to store increasingly greater amounts of glycogen in your liver and in your muscles. Glycogen, a stored form of carbohydrates, is one of the three sources of energy that your body draws on during an endurance race. When going the distance at your planned pace, your muscles utilize a delicate mixture of glycogen, carbs eaten before or during the race, and stored fat. The consumed carbs fuel you short-term, the stored fat works more over the long-term, but the glycogen is what keeps you going throughout and gives you your tenacity for that final kick at the end.
Keeping to your steady, medium-intensity pace allows aerobic metabolism to work its magic in the presence of copious oxygen to maximize ATP (muscle energy) production from that glycogen. Holding your pace ensures that your glycogen stores are slowly and efficiently melted down just as you have trained your body to do.
Should you give in to the excitement and energy of the starting area and dash from the start line at a heavy sprint, your body will burn glycogen anaerobically. This is a problem because ANAEROBIC metabolism uses up glycoen 18 to 19 times faster than AEROBIC metabolism!. If you give in to your starting line enthusiasm and make a high intensity push to the front of the pack you will be quickly burning up your precious glycogen and be more apt to enter glycogen debt (also known as “hitting the wall”) by the end of the race.So before the start gun sounds, take several deep breaths, meditate, visualize. Do whatever you must to leave the start gate in a focused, relaxed state-of-mind, and most-importantly, at your planned pace! This will keep your muscles pumping all the way to the end, keep you from hitting the wall, and may even help you sprint the last straight-away to the finish line!