One focus of my current training plan is to try and work out exactly how fast I should be running (walking / crawling) the ultra in order to finish it without running out of gas at the half way point.
Alongside this I've been testing what nutrition works for me, how often to drink and looking at how things like heat and humidity affect my pace.
Below is a breakdown of the plan so far. I'll keep updating it as things change (I seem to change my mind after each training run atm!)
Common running wisdom dictates you should always set 2 goals, your "ideal" goal for when things all line up on the day, and your "backup" goal that you fall back to if things go pete tong.
For me, as this is my first 45 miler, I want to be realistic about the targets, so they are:
- Finish the race in under 9:00 hours
- Finish the race before the 12 hour cut off
9 hours seems realistic based on the 45 mile (72km) distance. My fastest marathon is 4 hours 7 minutes at a 5:52/km pace. To do 45 miles in 9 hours is a 07:27 average pace, which is plenty of leeway for walking the hills and getting progressively slower as the race wears on.
Pacing & Heart Rate
I want to try and stay in HR Zone 2 (The easy / endurance zone where you can have a conversation without having to catch a breath) as long as possible which, for me, sets an average pace of 06:15/km.
This does get progressively harder as time goes on as I learned on Saturday. Around the 2 hour mark I struggle to keep my heart rate in zone 2, instead it starts to jump up into zone 3 and stay there.
For the day I'll aim to stick as close as I can to 06:15/km and at HR Zone 2. When my HR starts to creep up I'll drop the second target and stick to 06:15/km. More on this in the watch configuration part.
The current plan is formed from plenty of practise long runs and I'm pretty happy with it:
- Eat 20g of carbs every 30 minutes. Have 3 options on me: jelly babies, dried banana slices & Gu salted caramel gels. Jelly babies and banana slices early on, gels as the blood moves away from my stomach later
- Every 2 hours eat something more substantial. I've been having Clif protein bars which seem to work well. I do wonder though whether I should practise eating more real grub too like sandwiches, 9 hours on gels, jelly babies and bars is a lot to ask of a stomach!
- 500ml water every 1 hour with electrolyte tablets in every other bottle
Probably where I've spent the move mental energy so far, how to set up the watch to help me stay on target.
I've got 3 options on my current watch (Garmin Forerunner 945) that can help:
You set a course/distance and time you want to hit, then it tells you what pace you should be aiming for based on upcoming elevation, how far off target you are etc. It's super smart stuff as, let's say you've about to hit a long downhill section, it tells you to get that pace up, then tells you to go much slower when you hit a large hill.
It's also doesn't interrupt you too much, the downside being it doesn't alert you when your pace goes outside the suggested range.
Heart Rate Zone workout
Set a zone I want to stay in and the watch will alert me if my heart rate goes outside that zone.
I've found this immensely useful during training for sticking to Zone 2, the alerts keep me honest and remind me to slow down.
However there's 2 things that frustrate me: firstly it can get quite annoying hearing it tell you off every 5 mins because you've ran fast over a road or gone up a slight incline. Secondly as the race progresses this strategy becomes less effective, as staying in zone 2 after 2 hours becomes more and more difficult without dropping to a crawl of a pace.
Pace Zone workout
Set a pace I want to stay in (e.g: 06:00/km to 07:00/km) and if I go outside of the zone on average then it will tell me off.
The on average bit is important as it gives you more leeway. If I set the watch to keep me in a pace zone every 30 mins, it won't tell me off for a short burst of speed, or slowdown on a climb. Instead it'll take into account my average speed for the entire 30 mins.
However I have found that it is still unforgiving of walking breaks and uphill climbs, pushing your average pace way way down and telling you off until the average gets back in line. I also find I try to keep up with it more, running faster after a hill to get the average back on track when in reality I should be keeping it steady.
For now I'm leaning towards continuing to use HR and Pace Zones for training, and using PacePro on the day to give me a better idea of how I'm doing overall, where I can go a little slower and whether I'm going too fast.