Apr 26, 2010

48-hour Strategy

Next on my schedule is a 48-hour race on May 14-16. It's a race where, rather than racing a distance for time, you're racing a time for distance. Typically run on some sort of short loop, these timed events are a lot less common than distance events, especially timed events longer than 24 hours.

This race, in its first year, is being directed my Rick McNulty of the New Jersey Trail Series. Called Three Days at the Fair, this race is less than a 1-hour drive from my house, making it logistically easy for my family to come and see me. Also, a number of friends will be there, and any opportunity to run with them is worthwhile.

As far as goals, I only have one: 100 miles. I'll have plenty of time to do it, so it's just a matter of keeping going. Everything I do on top of 100 is just gravy.

So, here's the question. How do you strategize for a 48-hour race? Stop by your local Barnes and Noble and you'll find dozens of choices about how to run a marathon - but there aren't exactly a plethora of books on the topic of timed races, especially 48-hours.

The answer, as is so often the case, is the ultra list. Search is a powerful thing. Following is the result of research conducted entirely by searching about three years old ultralist archives in gmail.

I think what I love about the multiday events in general is the patience it teaches you. You learn not to think about the whole experience but one lap or one mile, or just the morning at a time. For a very goal oriented person I learn that in other things in life when I'm getting impatient can be attacked the same way. I have heard all my life to take things a day at a time, but its not until I started doing multiday runs that I learned it.
I am on record as noting that a lot of finishing or persevering in ultras, particularly at 100mi, is between the ears, not below the waist.
John P:
I've always had that same problem with sleep deprivation and found out late that all I really need is about 15 minutes sleep to clear the brain. (snip) If you end up with 2 6 hours sleep breaks that's 1/4 of your time and I don't
think any amount of breaks is going to help your body it is just your mind.
Tim E:
The lesson I think/hope I learned: You need a plan and you need to stick to it. I had thought that I'd just figure it out as I went along, sleeping when I got tired, eating when I got hungry, etc.. Well, after 30 hours of running, you're tired no matter what, and it was just too hard for my addled brain to distinguish between "need sleep" tired or "ran a long time." You need to budget for sleep the first night. You need to plan for the times when you'll be feeling like crap - I've made it through some 100's never feeling even a quarter as bad as I felt at ATY. My advice - think everything through! Everything. And have a plan for every contingency. You probably already know what works well for yourself - I thought I did, but forgot most of it after 40 hours. Write it down, if necessary.
As Deb Sexton indicated the strategy is different for different people. I have run 48 hr, 72 hr, 6-day, and 7-day races. I never had any plan for sleeping. I stayed on the course as much as possible. When I felt I had to lie down for awhile, I did so. I never lay down for more than 2 hours at a time during any of those races. In the 6-day and 7-day events, I slept about 4 hours a day. These are exercises in sleep deprivation. I shall be at ATY 72 hour sleeping as little as possible.
Carl L:
the idea of sleeping and waking up really sore and stiff is correct. the idea that you wont get moving again is INcorrect.

you feel horrible like that and you start hobbling around. it's weird and
crazy feeling. 2-3 miles in you are moving ok and all of a sudden you think, "holy crap, i'm moving decent again, if i wasn't doing it i wouldn't believe it!"
Gary C (edited to contain only general information):
in my opinion 48 hours is the most painful ultra race
(i didnt like that part)
but it most rewards forward motion.
(i liked that part)
you dont have to go fast, but you need to go as much as possible.

one important thing is to not get caught in any extended periods of walking
(if at all possible)
i tried to make a point of never walking more than a quarter mile at a stretch.
it doesnt matter if you are running well at any given point.
focus on maintaining decent form and you will cover respectable distance.
if you cant run more than a quarter mile at a time, then walk frequently.
just dont allow yourself to walk more than a quarter mile.

there will be some rough stretches.
but if you perservere, things will get better
(before getting worse again)
at times, you might (hell, you WILL) feel like you are at the very end of your endurance
an hour later you might (hell, you WILL) be cranking out miles as if you were fresh as a daisy.
dont know why, but that is how it is.

being mentally prepared to suffer is important.
just remind yourself that your suffering will only go on for a finite time.
you will not be suffering the entire remainder of the race.

sleeping 4-6 hours is tantamount to quitting.
it is a 48 hour race, and 48 hours can be done with no significant stretches of sleeping.

naps of 10-15 minutes are all you need.
for me, one of those was usually sufficient for 48 hours.
i would take it around 22 or 23 hours, and by the time i was scheduled to take another
(around 40 hours)
i usually chose to pass on it, because the finish was so close.
i always scheduled a second nap anyway
because it gave me something to look forward to during the grim part of day 2.

it may not seem reasonable, but a 10-15 minute nap is more refreshing than 4-6 hours
if you are in continuous running mode.
there is not enough time to get stiff, or for your body to waste resources by starting to heal,
but your sleep sensor knows you went to sleep, & that will satisfy it for a while.
apparently the sleep sensor is not too adept at telling how long you slept,
altho later on it will let you know that it caught on that you tricked it (smiling to myself)

lastly, KEEP MOVING.
actually this applies to all ultras,
(i routinely used to beat people without ever moving faster than them anywhere on the course)
but especially the 48, where it is all about movement.
dont dick around at the aid station.
if what you want isnt there immediately, pick it up next lap.
dont piddle around with your feet or your gear.
if you absolutely MUST deal with a hotspot or something,
have all your stuff ready, get after it, and get it done.

if you stop moving and you arent asleep or taking a dump, you are wasting time.
the 48 hurts too bad to waste time.
Ray K:
As for 48 hour strategy it all works. I have run 131 day one on no sleep, and hung on to go well over 200 miles. I have slept 5 of the first 20 hours, then ground out the last 28 hours to go well over 200 miles.

I have slept some of each night to (you guessed it) go well over 200 miles.

At ATY I ran/slept parts of every day/night for 72 hours and barely broke 200 miles (go figure).

Make no plans, run what the day offers, do not eat too much (it makes you sleepy) don't be afraid of stiffening up, you will be tired/sore/tight regardless, so have fun, run 30-60 min longer than you think you can before you take the nap.

This is great stuff. Definitely will help me reach my goal of 100 miles.

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