"Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations. If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won't exist because you'll have already shut it out." -Mae Jemison, astronaut

Monday, January 26, 2015

Australia Day Ultra 100k

Diary of an Ultrarunner:

Late December: 

Early Jan: 3 day/120k trail running block about to begin
I hear about new 50/100km road races to be held in WA over Australia Day weekend. It's hot. It's summer. Glad to hear there's a new event and I know the RD should put on a great one, but it's hot. It's summer. I get back to my base training for the World 24hr in April.

January 1st:

Email super nice RD. Sooooo, that new road event of yours - is it officially certified for distance so performances could go in annual rankings? It might be good for my 24hr training to have a hard hit-out at something. I'd at least like to know it would be an official distance.

January 8th:

Enter 100k race. Quickly rewrite program to drop miles and add a few speedwork sessions. A few will have to do. The race is in 2 weeks.

January 11th:

Continue to harass super nice RD, now telling him that though it's hot, it's summer, and I'm not in peak fitness (I've been running base with 150-200km weeks), I might just possibly be able to break my own AUS and CAN W45 100km records of 8.47.54 if the weather is kind.

First speed session in 7 months. 5k race in 30 degrees. This will at least give me a benchmark as to where I'm at. Perimenopause was anointed upon on me about 6 months ago (looking back with hindsight) as I had suddenly put on 2kg (which had me and my strength trainer very confused) and I developed hot flashes soon after that (attributed at first to international flights and adjusting to summer in Europe). 5k race result suggested I was just as fast as last year. (Hmmm, what if I could drop those bloody 2kg??)

January 13th:

Track. Oh, the horrors.
Two days after 5k race. Track session with Masters Athletics in the heat. OMG the pain. But further proof that the speed is still there. I have data to create a pace plan now. Said plan will factor in for the heat, estimating at least a 15 minute loss. More if it goes above 27 degrees.

January 21st:

Last hope of the RD ever liking me as a person again, as I send him yet another email asking if there might be a marking/tape out on race day to record my 6 hour split, as I should break the CAN W45 record. (I'm not even telling you about my other emails to him!)

Beetroot loading. Hammer Race Caps Supreme experiment continues.

January 24th:

Wake up at 2am. It's race time! To mitigate the heat, the events started at 3am.

For the next six hours, I ran to my calculated splits. People passed me and I passed them back. I just kept running to my splits. This method is tried and trusted for me. It keeps me from getting emotive, from chasing people or feeling hunted. I just repeated my mantra, "Run to the maths." Hammer Perpetuem in 250ml of water, carried in a handheld, swapped every 31 minutes or so when I saw my crew, Rolf, as I traversed the length of the 6.25km course. I tried to enjoy the very pretty course, run alongside an estuary with shorebirds, roos, and people out wading with their fishing nets.
Approaching my crew, midpoint on the 6.25k course. Perp and pear, please!

Given the early start, conditions were good for the first 5 hours, as expected. Starting temperature was around 14 degrees. But once the sun peeked out over the scarp about 6 am, the temperature slowly rose. Heat management started about 8.30am, with the first water being thrown over my head. From then on, the aid stations got to know me by my call of "Two water!" as I ran by. I would dump most of both over quads, hammies, calves, chest, and/or back, depending on what needed it most at the time. The last bits of water in the cups I'd swig.

As the temperature rose, so did the wind. Whilst this helped with evaporative cooling, it required greater push for the southbound leg of the course (6.25k north, spin around, come back south 6.25k. Repeat 8 times.) I had calculated splits to account for temperature as best I could, but forgot to add wind (I had meant to). One online calculator using Jack Daniels' formula suggested that a 20kph headwind might cost me about 11-12% in VO2 demand. The tailwind going north would only give me a 7-8% gain. Thus, once the wind picked up, I was losing a net 4% in having to work harder to keep the pace.

Well, I guess that science stuff is pretty darn good. Because I wrote a plan for 8hr 29 min and ran 8hr 32 min, falling off the pace after the 6 hour mark. So, 2.5 hours in 20kph wind, resulting in a 4% loss would roughly mean 6 minutes lost.
The 24hr shoes are now the 100k shoes, as well.

My A goal was to have a good, hard hit-out at something before World 24hr. I met that goal. The B goal was to break my W45 national records. Met. The C goal - the goal that if everything went perfectly, weather, my running form, crewing, etc - was to meet the Category A qualifier level for both international and Australian standards for 100k. That's 8hr30 for a woman and 7hr flat for a man.

I only missed it by 2 minutes. The writing was on the wall by the end of lap 7, the 87.5k mark. The wall was sealed with lacquer at the 93.75k turnaround. I looked at my watch (knowing what I was about to see) and had a good chuckle to myself. I had to do 6.25k at a sub 5 min/k pace. Wasn't going to happen! The slacker on my right shoulder whispered in my ear, "It doesn't matter now. You might as well take it easy. You're leading anyway." The pusher on my left shoulder slapped slacker upside the head and said, "You need to cross that finish line knowing you gave it your best, no matter what the conditions were. You need to finish at peace with yourself and the course." Thus it was that my next couple km were over 5.30 pace, as slacker and pusher tousled, me running into that bloody headwind. Finally, slacker fell off with a thud on the pavement. I then ran a 5.11min/k, a 5.00, and a 4.55, finishing the last couple hundred metres into the finish at a sub 4 min pace. I knew all along I'd miss 8hr30, but I finished able to say I'd done my best on the day.

As a bonus, first outright at the first event!

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