I'm trying not to be overly specific here since this way of thinking applies not just to running (which is what I'm obviously going to be talking about), but may also applies to a persons career, family life, and other recreational endeavors. As for me though, this is of course about running.
Like any competitive person I want to get better at running because it is what I love and I want to compete at my absolute best level. However, as an ultra-runner I believe it is considerably more difficult than the average road marathoner for a few reasons:
- While many people experience a mental and/or physical low during a marathon, ultra-runners often experience several. Managing through multiple lows can have a major impact on ones overall race time.
- Time at one or two aid stations during a road half or full marathon might impact your overall time by up to a couple of minutes. In an ultra the same delays at the up-to a dozen or more aid stations can impact your overall time by an hour or more.
- While many people in marathons have to stop for a bio-break, ultra runners have to do it many times (hopefully, if not they are in trouble). Again, a big impact on overall time.
I've been reading reports of elite runners going sub-20 hours on tough courses and much faster on the flatter ones. While I know that's well out of my league right now I do have the desire to at least go sub-20 hours on a flat, faster course. It's my goal to go under 20 hours this year at Pony Express 100. To do that I will have to knock off more than 2.5 hours from last year's time. And my only basis of comparison in a 100 miler since was at Laramie where I ran 23:21. While it was 40 min slower than my first 100 miler, the course was significantly harder, was run at elevation, and I was really not feeling it that day. So to add only 40 minutes onto a course that had 10,000 ft more vert and was run on a slightly technical course (a few of the miles on the loop were technical) is a huge jump in performance, at least that is how I'm viewing it.
So how do I go sub-20 this year at Pony Express? Well, the reasons are numerous:
- First and foremost, I can't bonk at mile 18 and then continue to flail until mile 31. I was a wreck at mile 20, sitting on the back of the car bumper with ice on my legs. I lost 40 minutes over the several times I spent just sitting there icing my legs.
- Avoid any kind of allergic reaction. Ha. If you need to know what I'm talking about, read last year's race report.
- Shorten my longer aid stops. In a 100 miler I expect to have 2 - 3 longer stops (upwards of 10 min). However, last year I had at least two stops that were in the 20 min range. My goal this year will be to keep all stops under 5 min. It might be hard to do, but it's a goal.
- Run more consistently the last 40 miles. I just need to run more and walk less, it's simple math.
- Finally, fuel better. I have a much better understanding of fueling this year and plan to take full advantage of it. If I can keep my energy up then I can run faster, longer.