Sunday, 17 June 2012

Pacing the Western States Endurance Run

I recently saw a post on the Runner's World Sweat Science blog regarding pacing of swimmers and runners, and how this affects their performance. One of the papers that is discussed is this paper by Tucker et al. (2006), which shows pacing over a number of intervals for world record times at a variety of middle distance events (800m, 5 km, and 10 km). The results of this study seem to suggest that the optimum way to run these events is to go out strong at the start, settle into an even pace for the majority of the event, then finish strong again at the end (a so called parabolic profile):

A "parabolic" pacing strategy seems to be optimal for middle distance events (from Tucker et al.  (2006) c/o Sweat Science)

So I got to thinking - is there an optimum way to run a 100 mile event? Now, I think that this is a very difficult question to answer. Unlike track events, the terrain and conditions for a 100 miler event are so variable that judging pacing becomes a complex interplay between many different factors throughout the race; weather conditions, ground conditions, elevation change, fueling, hydration, navigation, gear choice - there is just much more to consider, and much more that can go wrong. Even ignoring the variable effects like weather, the elevation profile and terrain is so different between any two races, coming up with a simple strategy that would apply to all races is likely impossible. The optimal pacing strategy for UTMB (31,496 ft of ascent) is unlikely to be the same as that for the Thames Path 100 (2,100 ft of ascent) for instance.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Shires and Spires 2012

This month was a landmark in my life as an ultra runner, as it marked a year since I ran my very first ultra - the Northants Shires and Spires ultra, organised by Go Beyond. It didn't exactly go to plan. But hey, I've never been one to take the easy route with things, so why run just 35 miles through the beautiful Northamptonshire countryside when you can run 42? A slight geographical embarrassment resulted in a wrong turn only a few miles from the finish, and I ended up going in completely the wrong direction before looping back on myself to an earlier point on the route. But not this year! This year I had something to prove, and a year of running ultras has resulted in me now being an expert navigator who never, ever, ever gets lost. No siree. Never.


It was touch and go whether or not I would be able to run this race, as I have been suffering from a problem with my hip and with my ankle since coming off my bike in the winter (not helped by running the Thames Path 100 about a week after the accident). Since the TP100, I had not been able to run more than a few miles, but some expert physiotherapy by my good friend Chelsea Harding seemed to be improving things. The previous week, I had been told that I could begin to increase my mileage, but only by 10%. So that weekend I went out and ran 18 miles on the Saturday and an 8 mile race (coming third which was surprising!) on the Sunday. Well, she didn't say the time period the 10 % increase should be over, so I just increased it every hour until the weekend! Oopsie. But all seemed well, and I was now running with minimal pain. But would I be able to run 35 miles having done no training for 3 months?