No more slacking off
The other day I was having a chat with Mr. Super Runner, the day after he ran the full course as a training run. That would be 50 miles out on Saturday and the whole way back on Sunday (!) And he ran both directions very quickly. I won’t say how quickly, but let’s just say… very.
Anyway, after that, he was taking off to go home (as in, out of state) and we were saying the usual “nice to meet you blah blah” and I said “Thanks, by the way, for rekindling my competitive spirit.” And then I said something to the effect of running sub-23 (only semi-jokingly) and he said “Well… I think you can probably run sub-25, if it all goes well.”
So that kinda put a damper on my spirits. Why? Was it that I was being called out for being unrealistic? Was it because my fitness was being appraised, and found lacking? Was it that I was too inexperienced to comprehend the enormity of running sub-23 at Leadville?
Of course, a combination of all the above.
Now, keep in mind that regardless of what I want to run, or what I say I’ll run, I am limited by my heart rate, leg durability, and VO2max, basically. I believe that I am fairly good at pacing myself, and so the fact of the matter is, I’m gonna finish when I finish. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to finish fast! And it doesn’t mean I’m going to try less hard! But in ultra running… you can only try so hard, because if you push too hard you crash and burn like Whitney Houston. Too hard, Whitney. Too hard.
So what factors are within your control?
- Pacing strategy
- Crewing plan, and aid station speed
- Nutrition, hydration and gear
- Pain threshold, determination, and willpower
Yes, I left the best for last. The rest (other than willpower) is fluff. But training! Training is everything. So as I was walking the dog last night, I realized: I have been slacking off. I haven’t even run a single double since I got here. I haven’t iced, I haven’t been eating right. I don’t stetch, I don’t do weight training, I don’t do shit! I worry about the dog being comfortable, and I worry about recycling. (Still haven’t made the trip yet. My house is like an episode of hoarders.)
So although my training plan was good… it wasn’t hard. I wasn’t pushing my limits. I was playing it safe, for fear of injury. Sure it’s 125 km per week, and a ton of hours, which for me is a lot … but it takes more than that to run 100 miles fast!
So I got up this morning and ran 17 km, and then ran another 7 tonight. I feel good about it. I’m going to aim for 160 km this week (actually, 160.93, aka 100 miles) and then take a rest week next week. I am then going to put it one more heroic week, and then taper down from that (75%, 50%, 5%, race). I’m gonna stretch, do my Gluteus Medius exercises, and be serious.
New Fuelling Strategy
On my last long run (45 km or so) I figured out a new fuelling strategy:
- Set your watch to beep every 12 minutes
- Drink every 12 minutes. Goal is 500 to 700 mL per hour (16 to 24 oz) depending on the heat.
- Consume a gel (or whatever 100 calories you want) every 24 minutes (every second beep!)
That’s it. Easy-peasy. There’s a trick, too. On even hours, you eat when the minutes start with an even number, e.g. you eat at 2:00, 2:24, 2:48. Then for the odd hours, you eat when the minutes start with an odd number, e.g. 3:12, 3:36. Next up is again 4:00, 4:24, 4:48. Repeat until you die, or cross the finish line.
This works out to a mathematically perfect 250 calories per hour (assuming 100 calorie gels) which is pretty much ideal, and the even/odd trick works great to keep the mental calculations to a minimum. After 50 miles, doing math loses a lot of its charm.
The other part of this is that it’s also a run/walk strategy: Every 12 minutes I slow down to drink. Rather than try to drink and run, which is exhausting and annoying, I walk for 15 seconds to catch my breath, drink, then walk for 15 more, and off I go. Gives the legs a little rest, maintains a nice slow average speed while still jogging at 6 to 6:30 mins/km, and means inhaling less water, and swallowing less air.
For the sections where I’m eating, or if I’m on an uphill, I can walk longer up to a minute. If I’m feeling great, I’ll just stop to drink and take off again right away. The important thing is also to make it a habit, because if you get in the habit of ignoring the beep, you’ll literally just stop hearing it. In a 100 miler, staying on top of your nutrition and hydration is critical.
I have also read that walking breaks can delay the onset of “loss of muscle elasticity”, and so fundamentally don’t really affect your time all that much, because (presumably) they allow you to run faster later in the race.
Anyway, I’m very happy with this strategy so far, and I’m going to test it out a bunch more, but I think it’s what I’m going to do for Leadville.
“By seeing the seed of failure in every success, we remain humble. By seeing the seed of success in every failure we remain hopeful.”