Mar 17, 2010

Umstead Preview #2: Strategy

10 days to go. I had my last hard training run on Monday - 6 miles where I pushed hard on the steep hill climbs - but I'm officially tapering now. Will have an easy 8 miles on Saturday, and do Hook slowly tomorrow but otherwise have short sub-3 mile runs every day this week, and sub-2 next.

So I've been consulting some friends about a race strategy for Umstead, and now I solicit you, dear reader, for your thoughts about what I'm thinking here.

First, let me give you the facts:
* Umstead has a 30-hour time limit, and a 26-hour cutoff at 87.5 miles.
* My marathon PR is 5:42, and I have comparable or improved fitness now
* My 50-mile PR is 13:47 at JFK, and I have significantly improved fitness now

From what I can gather, 100-mile strategy can be summed up as "go slow to go fast", meaning that if you really ease off the pace in the first half, you won't slow down as significantly in the second half and end up with a net faster time. If Umstead had a 36 hour limit, then I'd just do this to the extreme. However, I'm afraid that if I take 15 hours in the first 50, I'm doomed to fail because negative splits in 100-milers are almost unheard of.

So where do I draw the line? Just how hard do I push it to have a realistic chance of finishing under the cutoff? I've thought a lot about this question, and have come up with this idea:

First 50 in 12 hours...

50 miles in 12 hours basically amounts to two consecutive 6:17 marathons. I think this goal is attainable for me, as my marathon PR is 5:42. Since Umstead is divided into 12.5 mile laps, I've figured out that I can run the first four laps like this and reach the 12-hour goal: 2:45, 3:00, 3:00, 3:15 - which is roughly the same as a 6-hour marathon followed by a 6:30 marathon. About a hundred things can go wrong with this strategy (stomach at Caumsett, anyone?), but I don't think that's too much of a stretch if things go okay. Honestly, I feel like if I was running a regular 50-miler on a good day, a realistic "stretch" goal for me would be sub-11. So 12 in the first half of a 100 counts as "pushing it, but not too hard."

...then survive the next 50

Optimistically-created 100-mile strategies rarely go as planned in the second half, so I'm keeping it really simple: just keep going. Whatever pace I can manage is what I'm going to do, but the point is not to quit. Successfully completing the first 50 in 12 will give me 18 hours to complete the next 50 (21.6 minutes per mile). More important to me personally, it will also give me 14 hours to complete the next 37.5 (22.4 minutes per mile). If I can make that 87.5 mile cutoff, I can continue to 100 miles. Then, even if I finish after 30 hours, I still will have the personal satisfaction of having run 100 miles, which might not be meaningful to the race officially, but it will be to me.

I've asked a couple of friends with experience in multiple 100-milers about this and they agree that this is a good strategy. One friend took it a step further, and suggested that I should shoot for a 15-hour second half and a 27-hour finish, pointing out that, on average, the second half of a 100-miler is typically only 2-3 hours slower than the first half. Contrast that to my plan of a 6-hour positive split. Another friend agreed that 27 hours is "definitely possible" if everything goes 100%. My attitude is, hey that's great. If that's the way it plays out, I'm all for it.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing

All of this is moot, however, if I quit. That's what I did at Rocky Raccoon and drop at 11pm on the first day. 17 hours into the race, I had completed 60 miles and felt horrible. Looking forward to Umstead, my main goal is not to quit. I MUST make it to 8am. If I'm not past 87.5 miles at that point, then at least I'll have the satisfaction of not having quit (Rather, I'll be pulled from the race.) If, however, I am past 87.5 miles, I'll be so close to the finish that I really can't imagine me allowing myself to quit. So the key, in my mind, is to make it to 8am.

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