Sunday, November 09, 2008


OK, maybe it isn't really big or audacious, but I am going into Javelina next week with a goal--and maybe an actually plan as well. When I was into rock climbing there was a tradition where people would often announce their major climbing project early in the season. The idea was that putting it out there in "public view" gave extra incentive to works towards the goal when training went bad or fear set in. I've seen a similar ethic in the ultrarunning community where having stated one's intention to complete a certain race or distance motivates training towards the goal. My hope is that by announcing my goal and plan for this upcoming race it will help me stay on track when I am out there and give me a wee bit extra motivation to push through any bad patches.

Last year, I accomplished my goal of a sub-24 hour finish in this race despite a less than perfect race strategy. I didn't start with a particularly strict plan, I didn't execute it all too well and I even got off course late in the race. Still, I finished with more than 15 minutes to spare on the clock. To give an idea of how my race went, I recently described my spits from last year as something akin to "Goldilocks Runs an Ultra."

Laps 1-2: WAY too fast (~5:40)
Laps 3-4: WAY too slow (~8:00)
Laps 5-6: Almost "just right" (~7:40)
Lap 7: Oh my god, I'm being chased by a bear and need to run my ass off! (2:27)

Basically, I ran my first lap around 2:35(!) and my second just a little over 3. I then slogged through the heat of the day, but still managed some sort of amazing recovery at night. On my final lap, I charged up the biggest hill (about 2/3 the distance) and almost collapsed at the aid station. I was revived by chicken soup and made it down the final hill. I then realized I had plenty of time so I jogged it in easy to the finish. Somewhere within this mess of different paces I hope to divine a more reasonable strategy to a better finish this time.

Let me first state my goal for this year's race: I plan to attempt to break 23 hours.

If things go really well, I would love to better Beat's time of 22:38. Anything in the low 22's or below is my fantasy goal. The one thing that did work in my favor last year is that I had so much "time in the bank" from the first couple laps that I was able to take it very easy during the heat of the day and manage a recovery at night. I have been a fairly strong finisher in all my long races so I am counting on still having something there in the end. However, I plan to execute on a plan that is much more conservative in the early laps while still being realistic in terms of my normal running patterns. Expecting to run even (or even negative) splits would be too much. But, there is no reason the range between my fastest and slowest laps should be expressed hours!

As evidenced by my analysis above, I tend to look at the first 92 miles of Javelina not as 6 loops, but rather as 3 sets of loops. Since each loop is run in alternating directions, it can really be thought of as three out-and-back routes. I like to think of it this way because the clockwise direction is generally a bit faster than counter-clockwise. Also, I find it easier to deal with things in thirds. Knowing how fast I am supposed to run lap 4 of 6 is harder to remember than simply keeping in mind what I am expected to do in the "middle section." In broad strokes, my plan is to target around 6:30 for each section. This puts me at 19 1/2 hours before the short loop. If I were to run that in 2.5 hours, as I did last year, it would give me a 22 hour finish. I expect I will be a bit faster in the early miles and slower in the late ones, but this plan gives me a full hour of slop with which to work. I don't think that is overly aggressive or risky.

Here is a bit more detail on my approach:

- Try to take at least 3 hours for the first lap and then around 3:15 for 2nd to finish the first section in 6:15 (50k)
- Depending on the temps (80s are expected), target somewhere between 6:45-7 hours for section two (13hr 100K)
- If everything holds together at night then plan to be between 6:30-7 hours for the final section (19:30-20:15 at mile 92.4)
- The final 9 miles I should be able to do in 2:30-2:45

The biggest risk in this plan is really the third section. I am confident that a more conservative start and lower temperatures will allow for 7 hours or less in the second section. However, it is really difficult to predict how I will run during the night. I am almost always slower than I expect. I recall having one of my "miraculous" recoveries during the night last year and I still only ran those miles in 7:40. Can I get that down below 7?

I am certainly more experienced now. I have have better leg speed in general. I expect to be more efficient through the aid stations. Finally, I have been working hard recently on knowing when and how much I can push myself. It is this last, that I am hoping to draw on in those final hours as the clock is ticking away and the desert is calling me to stop pushing, relax, and just enjoy the beauty of her night.


meredith said...

Wow, great plan!! Best of luck. Paul is racing the Ironman the following weekend...if only it were one week earlier, I could have come to Javalina to play :)

Anonymous said...

Steve... You've got it in the B.A.G! I hit the first loop last year in 2:48 and it felt like I was taking my time.... so I slowed down even more. If you force yourself to never run faster than 10:00 min miles and walk every up..... you'll find the 3hr rhythm ..I'm hoping to find it somewhere out there on the trail as well..

WHOO HOOO!! I'm too afraid to post my time goals... The only thing I'm planning on doing is trying to figure out how i feel at 50 and take it from there.