Learn how to Split your Races Correctly

Learning how to correctly pace your effort level throughout a race is one of the most important elements of any race strategy. Whether it is a 100m sprint or a much longer marathon race like Crossing Lake Tahoe, controlling your energy is vital. Coaches often give their athletes effort levels to try to swim at during different phases of their race in order to pace correctly. But can we dig a little deeper and see some numbers about how the top athletes out there are typically pacing their races?

One excellent place to look for information is at elite level competitions like USA Nationals. Today we will examine the top 8 male and top 8 female swimmers in the 100m backstroke at the most recent Nationals in Irvine.

If you average their difference between their first lap of 50m and their second lap of 50m, you find that most of these elite swimmers naturally pace their races quite similarly. As you can see from the chart, men tend to go about 1.8 seconds slower on their second 50 while, women drop-off two tenths less at 1.6 seconds. A drop-off time in this 1-2 second range indicates to me that the swimmers are not significantly slower on the second 50, and that much of their time difference is coming from the start at the beginning of their race.

In the coming weeks we’ll examine some of the other sprint 100m races at the most recent 2010 USA Nationals, and I will compare the optimal drop-off time between different strokes.