Third Time’s a Charm
This is my third consecutive April 100 miler where I’ve been gunning for a sub-24 hour finish. My first attempt resulted in a DNF and I walked in the last 30 miles of my second try. Both times I was pretty confident that I had it in the bag so I’m obviously a little nervous to come out and say it again, but . . . I feel good about Project 14Forty (24×60=1,440) being successful. I’ve trained harder than I have the last 2 springs and I’m faster than I was based on my Naked Bavarian performance and Saturday’s MAF test.
As you can see from the above table, I’ve put in more mileage than before any other race than my first one. Unfortunately, that was too much mileage for my body resulting in a knee injury that showed up in a very slow MAF test (was running about 50 minutes earlier that year). I’ve done more 20 mile runs than any other training cycle and almost more back-to-backs. I ended up cutting this out of my training tool kit for a while, however felt like I had gotten a solid enough base to add it back in. The 100 days heading into Cloudsplitter and ES both included recovery from a prior 100 mile race otherwise the totals would have been a little higher for both. Regardless, the training volume was at or above what I did before any of my finishes, which has led to a fitness level based on my MAF tests less than 1% below my last 100, but 5% better than any other finish. I think it’s safe to say I’m physically more prepared than I’ve ever been, however I’m not sure how much time I can hope to trim off my PR of 26:20. I need to knock about 10% off my time to hit 24 hours so if I’m only 5% better physically, then I need to make up the difference by racing/running better than I have before.
What’s going to go wrong
Something’s going to screw up my race on Saturday. Probably more than one thing if history is anything to go by. While I don’t know exactly what it is, my bet is it’ll be my stomach and/or right knee. I’ve had some problems getting in enough calories in both of my last 2 races over 30 miles. I think I can head this off or mitigate it somewhat by increasing the variety of what I’m shoving down my throat besides just gels. I’m planning on drinking an Ensure Plus (350 calories) before every lap, 2 gels per 12.5 mile lap, and something small off the aid tables (banana, gummy bears, or whatever looks good). I’ll also start taking salt tablets every hour or so right from the beginning as opposed to waiting until mid-afternoon like I’ve done in the past. This would be 50-75% more calories and much more salt than I’ve ever consumed in prior races and hopefully this will keep me ahead of the nutrition curve for a change.
I’ve had phantom weakness in my right knee for the past week or so. This has bothered my off and on in prior races (2015 C&O, ES100), however not all of them. So I’m not sure if this is a real thing or just my head playing games with me since I don’t have any pain walking or running. I’ll have a couple different support options available to me and will not hesitate to throw one on at the slightest hint of any issues. The nice thing about the Umstead’s loop format is that I’ll never be further than 12.5 miles away from my main drop bag. And since the race staff doesn’t have to transport it, there aren’t really any size restrictions so I can load it up for any and all possibilities.
Aside from what will or will not go wrong as the day progresses, the key to finishing within 24 hours will be my pacing. I’ve had problems at my less mountainous 100s finding the right starting pace. I have an easy pace that I use when I’m out for a 20-30 mile training run. This gets me done in a decent time and allows me to bounce back recovery wise within a day or so. This pace is OK for races 40-50 miles in length, but reduces me to walking by mile 60-70. What I need to find is my too easy pace. A pace that is so easy that it seems like I could run forever. This pace is going to include a decent amount of walking. Since Umstead has about 1000 feet of hills per loop, I’m hoping that walking all these will be enough. My bet is it won’t be though and I’ll need to find away to relax and chill even more than that. My mantra for the race will be “Is this too easy?”.
My easy pace during my training runs with similar elevation gains has been just under 10 minute miles, however this has not included any walking. I think adding 2 minutes to this pace and starting out at about 12 minute miles should be a good approximation of my too easy pace. I need to average 14 minutes 24 seconds per mile for 24 hours so this would let me bank about 2.5 minutes each mile in the early going. Getting to the halfway point at about 10 1/2 hours still running well should give me a good shot of hitting my target. Anything over 11 hours and I’m probably fading pretty hard already or leaving myself no buffer for the last couple loops. I could attempt to run faster early on, however my experience is that any time you put into the bank will be taken out at a usury rate of interest later on.
There are quite a bit of cool things about Umstead, but the neatest is their runner tracking. If you go to their website, they have a link that will let you register for text message updates as I slog around the course. Enter bib #130 and you will get 3 updates each loop on my progress. Don’t worry if you see me slowing down as the race progresses. This is normal. Only worry if you see my lap splits much quicker than 2 1/2 hours early on or over 4 hours towards the end.
So as the clock ticks below 100 hours till the race start, my sense of nervous anticipation slowly builds. Can I get buckle # 5? Will I finally finish a 100 inside 24 hours? How much pain will either or both those goals require? What unexpected circumstance awaits me along the course? Can I ask seven consecutive questions? No.
Just like Santa, I’m now checking my lists twice (per day). Wish me luck.