Testing My Gear and Finalizing Race Tactics
"Try nothing new on race day."
I have always tried to follow this advice religiously, whether it be the shoes/socks I wear, the fluid I rehydrate with, or my chosen ratio of running to walking.
If something goes wrong in a short event, such as a 26.2 mile marathon, at worst you might have a few miles of misery to suffer. However, in longer events, you might have to endure for hours or even an entire day. A miscalculation of race tactics or an error in gear during an ultra could easily result in a DNF.
It has been very hot here for the last several weeks. Up to the 90 to 100 range almost every afternoon. I am expecting the weather in three weeks to be similar.
But hey, at least it is a dry heat, right?
I decided to get myself some new gear from REI to assist me with overcoming the heat.
Despite using high SPF sunscreen, the sun has been hard on the back of my ears and neck these last few weeks. My skin has been constantly peeling. So I purchased a Headsweats Pro-tech hat. They are on sale at REI right now for $19.83 (from $26.00).
OK… not quite.
I also got a Kafka-Kool Tie. I have seen other ultrarunners with them and was intrigued. It contains little crystals that soak up water and remain hydrated for long periods of time. I got the Navy instead of the Red that is pictured.
Evaporative cooling won't work in humid places such as Wisconsin. However, here in the arid west, it can be very effective. I remember living in the sagebrush desert outside of Reno, Nevada some years ago. We used an evaporative "swamp cooler" intead of a regular air conditioner to cool our house. It worked great and humidified the dry desert air at the same time.
Finally, I also got a Power Monkey charger with Solar Slave to keep my Garmin GPS charged. The GPS battery only lasts 13 hours but I might need it out to 30 hours. The Power Monkey has a battery that can be charged beforehand along with a solar panel to provide extra charge if needed during the day. I will strap it to the back of my backpack.
You know you definitely have a running problem when you routinely outrun the 13 hour battery charge on your GPS!
Both of these have been tested and well broken in over the past few weeks. There is nothing more annoying than a pebble in your shoe at mile 40.
To see my way at night, I will use my recently acquired Black Diamond Icon Headlamp. I like how they have a rechargeable NRG battery. I already tested them at the 24 hours at Laramie. They worked great and lit up the trail like a floodlight. However, the brightness did seem to attract moths.
They are on-sale right now at Zombierunner for $53.95.
I put together my pace and time chart with the cut off times for the race in red. To do 100 miles within the 30 hour final cut off, I will only have to do an 18:00 min/mile. That sounds like nothing but believe me, after those miles and miles, I will be fortunate to be able to do just that. Of course, this pace includes all time spent at aid stations, sock changes, rest breaks etc.
The "early" column will tell me if I am starting out too fast and the "latest" will let me know if I am falling off my pace too much and am at risk of being pulled. I hope to run somewhere between these two.
In ultrarunning, taking planned walk breaks are a race tactic, not a failure as it might be in a short race. My plan is to run 10 minutes and walk 4 minutes. I can walk at an under 15 minute pace without pushing it too hard if I focus on my technique and form. I have read that it takes at least four minutes to recover from aerobic activity which is why I chose that time for walking. Thus far, it has seemed to work pretty well for me.
Others use different ratios and I have tested out all the various recommended combinations in the past. A 20-25 minute run with 5 minute walks works acceptably well but after 30 or so miles, my heart rate seems to go up too much if I run for that long. On the other hand, I have also tried running 5 minutes and walking 2 minutes ratio which was OK in the 50 mile races I tried it in. However, I just don't think that 2 minutes will be a long enough walk break in a longer race.
Of course, the run/walk ratio will be subject to change based on how I am feeling, my heart rate, the weather, hills, etc. Most ultrarunners walk up all hills, even the smallest ones, and run the downhills. This race will be on an old railroad bed. Even though it will go up and down hills, the grade will be relatively flat so I will set a timer to remind me of when to run/walk. From 70 miles on, I hear that many runners spend a great deal of their time walking. I expect to be no different.
Yesterday, I assembled my gear and went for my last long run before Lean Horse. I purposely ran during the hottest part of the day. After my negative experience with heat and dehydration last weekend, I wanted to make sure I would be able to overcome such conditions during the 100 mile race. Finding out that I cannot during the actual race could be disastrous.
I ran on a section of the George Mickelson Trail where I did not have to go more than 5 or 6 miles without coming across a water spigot or pump. At each water spigot, I washed the salt off my face, soaked my hair, wet my hat and kool-tie and refilled my Camelback.
It was a much hotter run than I have done all year, the high temperature was 96 degrees (36 degrees C). Nevertheless, I did fine and maintained my pace. I went a total of 32 miles.
Today, I have just a trace amount of soreness. Indeed, if this was a back-to-back long run weekend, I could do another 15 or 20 miles today no problem. But I won't. The last thing I need to do is get overconfident this close to the race and injure myself.
My taper starts today. The longer a race, the longer the taper. Now I will do only short quick runs of less than 5 miles as well as swimming for cross training. The week of the race, I will do almost no running at all.
In the last two months, I have done a 40+ mile, a 50+ mile and finally yesterday in the afternoon heat, a 30+ mile run. I feel ready to attempt 100 miles. But feeling ready and being ready are two completely different things. Much can go wrong at these ultra-long distances, even for people who are prepared.
I have no idea how it will go on race day, but I feel as prepared and as trained as I could be.
Wish me luck!!!