Sunday, November 02, 2008

12 Hours of Self-Control

Last weekend I ran the 12 hour event at the San Francisco One Day. Running around a 1-mile (1.067mi for the precision obsessed) circle that is nearly half pavement is certainly not my preferred race format. It is also doesn't make for very interesting race report fodder. Then again, I'm pretty much done with the "race report" as a written format. I'll promise to write more about that in a future post. For now, suffice it to say, I'm still going to write about my races (and other runs); just not the sort of report that necessitates detailing every mile along the way.

So, what's a trail runner to find for inspiration in a fixed time event set within city boundries?

For me, this was about discipline. Having missed Firetrails, I wanted to get a 50-miler in as a final training run for Javelina. I decided that the SF One Day would be a good format to test both my psychological discipline as well as my ability to stick to a plan. The plan I set going into the race was not a strategy for optimal mileage. The goal was to get in at least 50 miles, starting out easy and running as even a pace as possible. I wanted to try to do the first lap at around a 12 minute/mile pace and then keep things around 10:30-11 minute pace throughout. I knew from my experience at Ruth Anderson that I could maintain close to 10 minute miles for 50 miles, so going a bit slower than this would allow me to hit my main mileage goal with plenty of time and energy in the bank.

I didn't plan on doing much walking except through the aid station area. A run/walk strategy would be a much wiser one if I'd have intended a consistent effort throughout. However, I devised a plan that would give me a tough workout by maximizing my running; keeping me at a consistent pace that would feel too easy early on yet require me to push a bit as my mileage goal approached. I would then further discipline myself by winding down my pace for the final hours. The basic idea was to run a 50 miler at a descent clip followed by a couple hours of walking or very light jogging -- a sort of "in race" recovery if that even makes sense. If I ended up with 60 miles that would be great, but I was not going to push it for a goal much beyond that.

I'm happy to say that I actually executed my plan with minimal race-day adjustments. My first lap was completed at around an 11:30 pace. I spent most of the remainder of the day monitoring my GPS to not go faster than 10:30. I entertained myself during the early hours watching a number of people who I believed were going out much too fast. I imagined that I would later go on a "fishing expedition" as I reeled them in with my steady pace. I hit the 50 mile mark at just over 9 hours and 10 minutes. Almost exactly 11 minute pace. I then took about a 5 minute break before deciding I'd continue running a few more easy laps until the 10 hour mark. At 10 hours, I would work on power walking.

I was managing my walking well, keeping below a 15 pace and dropping below 14s at times, but taking it especially easy through the aid station area. Unfortunately, as I finished my lap just before the 11th hour, I stopped to ask Wendell my mileage. At first he could only give me my laps, but he then did a quick calculation and let me know that I was at 56.6. Damn! One lap more and I could cruise to a 60+ mile finish. One lap less and it wouldn't be worth the attempt. With my walking pace, I could just about make it continuing as I had been. However, I'd want some insurance so I'd have to pick it up and run for the last couple laps.

One thing I always do as I am approaching a goal race is to make find meaning in many different aspects of my training runs. These final few laps were me pushing to meet my finish time at Javelina. Not an end-race kick to the finish, but something even more significant. A final push is something your body is either up for or not. However, in the last hours of a long race, being able to find a pace both maintanable and hard is often the difference between making one's main goal and having to settle. I finished with 60.8 miles and over 3 minutes to spare.


Peter Lubbers said...

Nice (controlled) running, Steve!
I wanted to run the SF One day 12-hour run, but it was sold out before I knew it. Maybe next year...

Anonymous said...

:-) ... freddie's going to be hoopin for 12hrs when he's a dad. hopefully he shares his report with us!