Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lean Horse Thoughts and Goals

3 more days 'til my first hundred. Attempt. I wish I could say I'm chilling out, rested, rarin' to go, with my plans all sketched out and drop bags ready. Truth is, though, I've been so busy with moving and getting ready for school, that it's actually not the top priority on my mind. But now with some time to think about it again, here are my thoughts:

Taper was sub-optimal and weird. I didn't run much last week (2 weeks out) -- in fact, I didn't run at all Monday through Thursday. This is not a training statistics blog, but here's the my odd 2nd-to-last week of running:

Mon: Rest
Tues: Hike Longs Peak with J. 12 hours on the feet, longest time for either of us ever. Plus, 3.5 hours hiking at night, pretty darn tired with about 3 hours of sleep. Best idea or worst idea?
Wed: Hike Grey Rock with Neil. A good hiking pace on a day that ended up being around 100 degrees.
Wed night: Move most of our worldly possessions down a flight of stairs into the garage
Thurs: Move the rest of our stuff as well as furniture.
Fri: Move everything up 3 flights of stairs. Estimated total elevation gain of several thousand feet, usually with ~40 extra pounds each time.
Sat: Watched J's triathlon in the AM. Ended up bushwhacking through a cornfield to catch the bike portion, and got some weird bumps/rash and cuts on my leg (luckily it's gone away)
Sat PM, Sunday: A couple 1-hr sessions of jogging around the new 'hood.

Anyway, I didn't get much real running in the last couple of weeks, but I got anything from a long hike to lifting/moving boxes. Thankfully, got through all of that relatively unscathed, didn't throw out my back or drop something on my foot.
My knees feel a little creaky going down the stairs after moving, but they felt OK while running, so I'm hopeful there. Maybe all that power-stuff, in the heat of the day, was actually good for endurance? Who knows, it's all made up anyway. Guess we'll see!

I thought I had a really solid progression of training starting in March. I kicked it off early with a trail marathon in Salida, followed by a 50k in April, and a 50M at the beginning of May. That, I thought, would set things up for a long summer to train for a 100M. Well, I wasn't overly happy with my 50M at Collegiate Peaks -- I just got worn down in the 2nd half, and kind of felt worn down overall.

Then, a funny thing happened: I flew off my bike in the desert and ended up in the ER. One week of forced rest (OK, besides sneaking in some rides while we were still in Fruita) -- but a week without running.

But, I was signed up for a trail race in Wyoming, so I ran it while wearing a Maxi pad, testing the hip and circulatory system. I was again a bit slower than I would have liked, but the taste of running and racing again got me fired up. The next week I hit a 100 miles for the first time all year (maybe the 2nd time, ever), and didn't look back. Each week through mid-August, then, was at least 100 miles (this does include hiking miles), except for the 4th of July week which was around 80 but included a faster effort in the Silverton 10k. And, 3 weeks out, I hit 150M (again, including hiking, and some decent time at elevation).

My longest run was 45M, and I had 3 other runs around 40M, and maybe 3 more or so around 30M. I had a couple of 30M/20M back-to-back days. I would have liked more tempo running and speedwork, but was happy with the distance work, and Sir Nick's fortnightly Towers hillclimb challenge, which was just the right amount of "hard" to feel good.

I mixed in a few night runs here and there, a good one with Alex, a few more around the 'hood. I was a little concerned about this, but then I remembered that I've ridden my bike home in the dark dozens of times! Not exactly the same thing, but kind of close, as you have to pay attention to a narrow beam of light and the path in front of you, and you're tired.

Well, those few paragraphs felt more self-indulgent on numbers, but people need to know this stuff (even if it's just me) to figure out what to do in training and how it all plays out. I feel good about most of it. Ideally, I would have had a 50M in June or so -- early May might have been kind of early -- and a touch more speedwork, although admittedly I sacrificed some quality speedwork for "more miles." This is not to be taken lightly, I know, and no matter what I end up doing, my hat is off to all 100M finishers. The biggest part, though, was getting my head wrapped around 100M. It wasn't until late July where I was literally convinced this is something I could do and wanted to do badly enough to commit to it. I was finally able to answer the question, "Why?" The answer to this is incomplete, but I know how to find the rest of the answer!


I've never really spelled out goals online a priori before, but I admire the guts of folks who do, so it's time for that. Let's put the goals out into the universe and see what happends. And, it'll give me a last bit of time for anyone reading this to offer encouragement or discouragement if I'm setting myself up for problems.

1. Finish (Sub-30)
2. Sub-24
---- The line between very happy and happy
3. Sub-20
4. Sub-19
---- The following probably requires everything to go perfectly...and still doesn't seem possible
5. Sub-18

Yeah, that's a pretty big spread, isn't it? In fact, there's a 12-hour spread between the top and bottom goals -- didn't I just say that 12 hours on my feet was the longest I've ever done?

Yes, this is my first hundred. I should be aiming for successfully finishing it, and there's danger of time goals especially for first-timers. But I also get inspired by other people's efforts, I know how hard I trained for this, and I want to put in a good effort. This boils down to one actual goal:

1. Finish a 100M as close to the best of my ability as possible.

There are many things outside of my control. The hardest and most obvious is the temperature: it's gonna be hot, around 90 degrees. If the high were around 70 instead of around 90, it would make a significant physiological difference, and I know that, so it's foolish to put out some goals and not consider the weather. But, I don't want to rule out the top goals without even trying.

So I'm thinking of setting up this way:
1. Miles 0-25: ~4:10
2. Miles 26-50: ~4:20
3. Miles 51-75: 4:35
4. Miles 76-100: 4:55

I guess the crux is running the first half around 8:30. I ran 50M here 2 years ago, same temps, in around 8:07, nearly to the best of my ability. I'm more fit now -- I would aim for around 7:40-7:45 for a 50M here now, and speed up the aid stations a bit. Is adding 'only' 40 minutes to what I would *try* for a 50 (which is also significantly different than actually having accomplished it) enough of a buffer? Or is it a recipe for disaster? I'm not married to 18 hours, in fact, I would be very happy with 18-something or 19-something -- I just also don't want to rule out the possibility immediately. And, I'm perfectly OK slipping some time in the last chunks to finish above 18 hours, this might actually be the perfect plan for a 8:30/10:30=19 hour plan, which I'll learn/figure out in the 2nd half. I just don't want the first half effort to cause me to blow up.

Lastly, not to be understated, is the incredible help I'll have from Neil with pacing in the 2nd half. My goal here is that looking forward to seeing him will help me finish the first half, then making silly jokes and such will keep me distracted from the letdown and hills going back up the 2nd half. He's talked about a plan where *he* bonks or gets drunk or both and *I* pull him through the 50M -- that might work, too! Either way, I'm optimistic about this new 'no-man's land' beyond 50M.

Any thoughts here on pacing? Should I go for broke in the first half (everyone likes a good car wreck) or go more conservatively?


  1. I know nothing about this course. And of course, I have deep 100 mile experience now after last weekend. So all I can say is, start slow, keep moving, eat a lot, have fun, it will hurt, do not stop. Good luck.

  2. Thanks Brandon! I'm not sure what to draw from your (and other) Pbville experiences, since the courses are so much different, and there aren't enough Lean Horse splits published. But, it appears to me that the difference between "0" and "1" completed 100-miler is huge! For all my effort, though, no matter what I won't be able to throw my name in the Hardrock lottery...How 'bout WS next year?

  3. WS100 lottery is on my calendar. Just sayin'...

  4. Mike,
    I would say finishing a first 100 is more important for confidence than anything, so save the superhuman effort for your second one. This time I'd say your plans are a bit ambitious. I'd hang back a bit more in the first half. Look at the splits you've planned for the last two 25 mile sections and go with those for the first two 25 mile sections instead. I don't know your running ability, but I can tell you from experience, it's better to finish your first one. If you bomb, you're going to have a lot harder time in future ones just because of the confidence factor.
    Just my $.02 and 20 years ultra experience talking here... I'll look for you at Lean Horse!
    aka AleneGoneBad

  5. Seems a little fast to start out, but I don't know the course at all. If it doesn't feel retardedly easy for the first 33 miles or so, you're going way too fast.

    And remember to eat early and often.

  6. Hi Alene, thanks for the comments and experience.
    "I don't know your running ability" -- the problem is, neither do I! I do want to find the proper balance of finishing but also setting a sufficiently challenging goal, which is probably realistically closer to 19-20 hours. What do you typically see as the delta between 1st and 2nd half splits?

    You're definitely giving the "good angel" sensible advice. Anybody else with some good -- or bad -- advice out there?

  7. "Retardedly easy for the first 33 miles" Not exactly PC, but probably a good suggestion!

    The first quarter is what I hit 2 years ago. (Then again, I turned around and only had 25 miles left). It felt pretty easy, almost too slow, and I walked up every single noticeable hill. But the run/walk ratio felt fine and I didn't have a desire to go any slower. I also ran most of this with a new friend, John from MN, who pulled out an awesome 18:36 effort in the 100. (Little does he know that his performance is one of the things I consider a "bad" influence =) ). Something like that felt like a good goal on a perfect day, so I just kind of took his pace and subtracted a section of time he spent puking (before a remarkable recovery), though I reserve the right to do the same!

    The course is hilly dirt roads 17 miles, flattish gravel rail-trail 33 miles with long gradual inclines, turn around, rinse and repeat. The most challenging part is probably the lack of shade and heat (90s). Luckily(?) it's not supposed to be super-humid also, so it'll be a hot dry day like pretty much all summer here.

    That is partly the reason for the relatively faster planned start: running in 70 degrees vs. 90 degrees. The goal of course is to run an even effort, which essentially means slowing down for the heat in the middle third, and then hitting the hills again at night.

  8. Alrighty, with more time to look at more previous race results as a cross-check, I don't think I have business even mentioning sub-18 on a 90-degree day. Compromise, 18:30 A+++ goal (while really aiming for 20 hours "A" goal):

    1. Miles 0-25: ~4:15
    2. Miles 26-50: ~4:25
    3. Miles 51-75: 4:45
    4. Miles 76-100: 5:05
    Total: 18:30

    Just saved a leisurely half hour, and makes the first half feel more comfortable.

    I will let Neil know that it's OK for me to drop time in the 2nd half for 20 or 24 overall. If I blow up due to this, I will accept the consequences. If it does feel too hard early, I will back off happily.

    I gotta put some sort of stretch goal out there, so there it is. I feel better about this. Something to aim for, but not obsess over.

  9. You've definitely put in the work to be ready for this fitness-wise. I don't know what great advice to give and there are so many variables on race day. When it hurts, just smile and think about how you have the privelege of taking part in something that most people could only dream of. Best of luck!

  10. Dude - I had no idea you were maintaining that kind of mileage. You're a machine. I'm a firm believer in stretch goals, and honestly I don't think 18 hours is that much of a stretch for you.

    With that said, under no circumstances should you be obsessing about splits, times, etc through the early going. Keep the perceived effort easy from the start and maintain it for the next, oh, 10 hours. Reassess at 60, and ratchet the effort (not necessarily the pace) if possible.

    Last 20 is where the race starts, unless of course you are in a puke-filled hiking survival mode, which would make finishing the primary goal and not racing. If you are still running at 80, then let 'er rip and go get that sub-18. And remember, it is a race, so use people in front of you as motivation.

    Most of all though, pay attention to perceived effort not pace.

  11. Thanks again guys, Nick you're articulating what I'm thinking. Yeah, I'm going for 'easy' effort, with some challenging goals in mind to keep me honest and have some sort of average pace ideas. But yeah, no obsession on the splits, and focused on effort. It's freaking hot here today, so likely the effort will be pretty tough in the middle third for sure.

  12. As a guy who ran only one organized marathon, a boat-load of 1/2's, a truckload of tri's, and untold miles ... just me ... off-road ... "back in the day ...." you that do this ... I bow to you all.


    My gut has been telling me (and has told Mike) to go relatively easy for the first 50, saving any and all kick he has for the 2nd 50, or last 25. Many of you have validated that theory.

    Particularly if it's going to BE that hot, bonking early is a risk. You can always leave it ALL on the course, in the last 12hrs, but ... there aren't a lot of do-overs for the FIRST 50 miles ;-)

    I'll be there ... with bells (and a pretty fair amount of kit) on. Stay cool. Whatever you do in the first 50 ... I'm with you for the 2nd :-)

  13. " but included a faster effort in the Silverton 10k"

    Which ... if I'm not mistaken ... you, uh ... WON :-)

    [you may be modest, but ... I'm under no such constraint !]