"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, January 4, 2013

How to Win the MDRA Grand Prix

Every year, the Minnesota Distance Running Association has a series of races called the Grand Prix and it's usually won by someone I know and not by someone spectacularly gifted, though some very fast runners enter. Last year, Steve Stenzel won it on 20 miles per week of training; so here's how to beat him!

1) You have to have a modicum of talent. If you can run a mile in 5 minutes, 10K at 6 min./mile, 1/2 marathon at 6 1/2 and marathon at 7 min./mile, you're more than qualified. Stenzel's never run a marathon, though the Grand Prix includes two (he's done a mile in 4:49, in the series). Last year's winner, Colin Gardner-Springer, has a mile best of 5:18 but has been running marathons consistently in the mid to high 2:50's. Previous winners Kirt Goetzke and Jarrow Wahman have some very fast PR's, but not recently (both are over 50).

2) Plan to do all the races and to sacrifice some races to winning the series.You can only score in 10 of the 13 races this year, but the way the scoring is set, your finish in a non-scored race can lower the scores of other runners (trust me, this makes sense). Beating someone by a second scores the same as beating them by an hour, so you should not plan to run PRs, but to save yourself for later races. Many years, one race gets cancelled with little notice and every year, it's the person who stays healthy and finishes the most races who wins the series.

3) Plan to race harder in the unpopular races. If you're the only one who shows up at a race (and you finish), you get a perfect score of 1000. If you are competing in the series with another runner and you tend to finish one right behind the other, you score better in the smaller races, so plan to work on those. [Example: Two races, one with 20 finishers, one with 10. First place in each receives 1000 points, second place receives 950 in the larger race, but 900 in the smaller. A runner who finishes first in the smaller race and second in the larger scores better than the runner who finishes first in the larger race and second in the smaller.] The marathons usually have the fewest finishers, as the series favors those who prefer shorter races; running a marathon without it being a goal race, but only a means to score points, takes a great deal of discipline.

4) #3 means you should plan to peak late in the year. The number of finishers dwindles as the season progresses and the faster runners tend to drop out (and hence the scoring gets easier). Still, the scores from early in the year can determine who ultimately wins.

5) Plan on a one race "mini-peak" at the start. The competition is greatest in the early races and particularly in the first race, an indoor mile. Most runners have no idea what kind of mile they can run, particularly in the middle of the winter. There's a series of indoor races held at Bethel College with 1500m and 1 Mile distances; you should do a few of these to get a feel for what you can do at the Meet of the Miles.

6) Just stay ahead of Kirt in every race. He's finished between first and third every year for at least a decade.


Colin said...

Nice summary! So will you be winning the Grand Prix this year? Luck also plays a big part: even with PR performances at every race I don't think I could have won the series any year other than the one I did.

SteveQ said...

Yeah, Colin, Kirt getting injured by TCM helped you a lot. I'm not in good enough shape to do well this year and I have yet to figure out how to handle summer allergies/asthma. I just think it's fun to scare SteveInaSpeedo.

Steve Stenzel said...

Steve, this is great! I'm going to link to this and post it next week. I'd never thought of #3 before, but you're SOOO right (and it DOES make sense).

Happy new year, Steve!