July 21, 2010

STORMY ultra race plan

With the 80-kilometre STORMY trail race a mere 2 1/2 weeks away it's time to make a race plan. It involves decisions on pace, nutrition and hydration, clothing and footwear.

While I make the same decisions before a shorter road race, such as the 10km or the marathon, I have done so many of them that I no longer need to think about it, at least not that long. For example, I already know my plan for the Bellingham Marathon, held in September. I will aim to cover my kilometres in about 4:25 each and bring eight or nine Powerbar gels. I will drink water at each aid station, without slowing down much, so a sip or two.

I will most likely wear Mizuno race shorts or Adidas 3/4 tights, depending on the temperature, knee-high compression socks, and one of my favourite race tops that have back pockets to hold my gels.

Running an 80-kilometre rail race, however, is a completely different story. I have not run that distance before, only walked a 100-kilometre trail which took me just under 24 hours and had my body ache like it never had before. (A friend, who ran it, told me afterward that running such a distance is easier. Hm, maybe.)

My pace will be a lot, lot slower, because of the distance and the terrain, and with a lack of experience harder to determine. I would like to finish in about 10 hours, which means an average of 8km an hour. The furthest I have run, both in distance and in time, is 45km in the Six Foot Track race which took me 6 hours and 18 minutes to complete in 2005.

For that race, I took a similar approach as to my marathons, carrying gels as I recall. My most comparable experience of racing for a similar amount of time as I expect to take in the STORMY is the five Ironman races I have done. Of course those consist of swimming, cycling and running, and with the latter two done on the road.

Since those races tend to be done at a relatively high heart rate, higher than I expect to be the case in the STORMY since I plan on running to finish, as opposed to racing to do it in the fastest time possible, I used a combination of energy bars and gels in Ironman.

With STORMY I am thinking that I may get a little sick of sweet gels and energy bars alone so I plan to mix it up with white bread sandwiches with peanut butter, pretzels (for the salt content) and bananas. Aid stations will also have food available. Unlike in marathons and Ironmans I will not see an aid station every 15 to 20 minutes, so I will need to better plan for my needs.

How much and what am I going to carry, in nutrition and hydration? What and where am I going to put food and drinks along the course? Am I going to stick to water during the race or am I going to add some Accelerade, a drink I have tested and love. Where am I going to put a spare pair of shoes and clothing? Can I give those to Tim who will come to support me, for sure in the second half of the race, or is there a risk I might miss him?

I learned the importance of race planning from my first triathlon coach. A amateur-elite level competitor, he believed in high volume and no-excuses training, including for those with full-time jobs, kids and spouses. Most of all, he believed in a race plan that meticulously determined nutrition and hydration in nearly all races, but especially those that take more than six hours.

My next coach, a former elite runner with a 61-minute half marathon PB and a 2:09 marathon best time, simply shook his head at my nutrition for marathons, shocked at the amount of calories I would consume. It works for me. And that's the main rule for me as I develop my race plan for STORMY, I will make sure to do nothing new on race - other than running 80 kilometres of course.

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