Sunday, September 1, 2013

On your pace at Sawtooth 100: what 2012's 50-mile splits tell us about slowdown

In 2012, runners who finished Sawtooth 100 slowed down by an average 39.75 percent from their first half (start to Finland, 51.2 miles) in their second half (Finland to finish, 52.1 miles). The proof:

Here's what the data tells us:
  • 89 finishers, 87 who have 50-mile splits
  • Average slow down for all finishers was 39.75 percent; median was 37.9 percent
  • The most even splits were from the top woman, who slowed down 7 percent
  • The most lopsided splits were from the 45th finisher, who had almost a 1:2 time ratio between the first and second halves
  • 25 people finished under 30 hours, with an average slow down of 35.88 percent; 32 people finished under 32 hours with an average slow down of 36.76 percent.
  • The standard deviation for all runners was 14.33 percent, meaning two-thirds of all runners slowed down +/- 14.33 percent from the average of 39.75 (a range of 25.42 to 54.08 percent slowdown)
  • The standard deviation for runners who went sub-30 was 14.99 percent, slightly wider than the group of all runners.
Being that I set my original pace chart at about a 22 percent slowdown (based on finishing 55 percent of the distance of half of my goal time and the remaining 45 percent of the distance in the remaining time), my goal is on the lower end of one standard deviation away from the average from last year's results. That's enough to make me think about it again.

Statistically, if someone runs a 30-hour finish on this data, two-thirds of the time they will be at Finland between 12:00:00 (50 percent slowdown) and ~13:36:00 (20 percent slowdown) elapsed. 

Tab two of my 2013 Sawtooth Pace Chart has my goal finishing times adjusted to account for at 35 percent slow down. Basically it takes my pace to Finland down 14:54/mi and my pace to the finish up to 19:52/mile. A similar exchange is made for my 32 hour pace.

I'd be very curious to see similar data from prior years.

Friday, August 30, 2013

On one's pace, etc.

Steve Quick has written much over on his blog about the so-called "best" way to pace your race at Sawtooth: here, here, here are three recent and good examples of his thoughts on the topic. They generally focus on course-record splits and pacing. Should you run hard to Crosby and try to make it there before sundown? Should you try to run even splits? Push the overnight and try to negative split?

But he's also put this post up: Two Thoughts on the Superior Sawtooth 100. Thought no. 1 is about of all things, spectating Sawtooth, specifically where to go to make sure you see all of the faster runners who will finish and all of the mere-mortals who will finish. Now ultrarunning outside of a 12/24-hour course (think a track ultra or something like FANS) is not a spectator-friendly event. At a race like Sawtooth or most every other ultra, spectators only see runners at three locations: 1) the start; 2) aid stations and then only for a few minutes barring the runner's serious needs; 3) and the finish.

When you extrapolate Steve's time slots to the pace a runner must travel at to be there while the dedicated spectator is spectating, his groupings make sense. For example, compare that pace with the mileage necessary and someone should fall within one spectating time slot or the other, barring a drastic decline on the overnight that pushes a faster runner into the second spectating time slot as well. This is what happened to me at Sawtooth 2011.

In 2011, I fell into both groupings. I came into County Road 6 at almost 7:30 PM exactly, and came into Sugarloaf at about 9:30 AM after my overnight sufferfest to and through Crosby-Manitou. In sum, it took me 13 or so hours to do 30 miles. Pretty unacceptable to me for future races, but it was first overnight run, I had no idea what I was getting into, etc.

As noted in my previous post, I'd like to crank out 30- to 32-hour finish. Something 29:XX:XX would be fantastic, and I think I am capable of it. Looking back on 2011, my run to County Road 6 felt great. Perhaps a little fast at the start with race jitters, but things eventually calmed down because they had to. And I just kept pushing. Then the overnight hit and I took a huge cratering nosedive.

I've put together a rough pace chart, based on the premise of running 55 percent of the distance (to Sonju) in the first half of the allotted time and running the remaining 45 percent of the total mileage with the latter half. That means you're running the fast pace at least through some darkness, whether that's 15 miles or more. It's a 22 percent slow down, and the percentages are based off of some ultrarunning discussion that I've read places other than NPR. (Storkamp provides 50-mile splits for 100 mile finishers, so perhaps I'll have to compare my theoretical slow down to actual slowdown and somehow control for runner's ability.)

What does it look like? Surprisingly, it puts me at County Road 6 at 7:30 - just like 2011 - for a 30 hour finish and puts me at Sugarloaf at just before sunrise for a 32-finish and damn-near middle of the night for a 30-hour finish. Based on Steve Quick's groupings, that makes me in the faster grouping. It's also puts that last marathon at eight to nine hours, and the last 50K at 12 to 12.5 hours. Something crazy-slow just reading on paper, no? But absolutely realistic under course and race conditions.

I have these thoughts of my ideal race looking like the first 43 miles of 2011 and the 50-miler from last year, with a little fudging to get myself from County 6 to Finland. I didn't write a race report from last year's race (and I haven't raced an ultra since then), but I came in at 13:45 on basically no training and ran comfortably up until I hit the roots next to the Cross River in the section between Cramer Road and Temperance. From there, I slowed down but muscled through it and felt like I had my fluids and nutrition dialed in. I ran evenly, and led a large group for a good chunk of time with people commenting how even keeled I was. I ran with no watch - not an option at Sawtooth, me thinks, but I haven't totally kicked the idea - and went on feel.

I feel comfortable with the first daytime section. My key will be keeping that first section mellow and keeping moving despite having long section lengths (three of 10 miles and one of nine) - if we were to run this race backwards, I'm sure you'd see some more serious carnage that you presently do, Carlton Peak, Moose and Mystery Mountain be damned.

The overnight will see headphones get plugged in and a push forward through present, in-the-moment mindfulness. I know I likely slow down, but that needs to be minimized. Geoff Roes has a post on his blog or on iRunFar regarding maintaining one's self can save a minute or so per mile when you're feeling well, but several minutes per mile when you're feeling terrible. The latter will be key in the overnight.

The goal of the overnight is to simply get to Russ in those pre-dawn or early morning  hours. With new lighte my circadian rhythm will kick back in and I will be more enthusiastic to push onward now that my vision is not limited to a headlight beam.

That's how I plan to run 2013 Sawtooth - on feel, namely if it feels too fast, it probably is. We're going to consistency and avoiding a sufferfest and the death march that it induces.

Taper, etc.

There are just a handful of days left until Sawtooth. Taper is in full swing, and I have already hit the feeling of being rested, ready and jittery. In taper, I do not gain fitness but instead lose fatigue. (H/t Joe Friel). So here is what's left.

It feels like a sauna in here: MN, especially southern MN, got hit with a heat wave this week. Temps have been 90+ with heat indices over 100. I've made it clear here and to my running partners that heat is my proverbial kryptonite. That said, once the heat is here there is not much one can do about it but train through it and hope you get some benefit out of the suffering.

And perhaps the temp increase could not have come at a better time. It is immediately prior to the race and will help me be be ready if it is scorching on top of the Beaver Bay and Silver Bay exposed mounds.

Pacing: I'm going to shoot for a 30- to 32-hour finish. Something 29:XX:XX would be fantastic. How do I get there? I think by running smart and consistent. I feel like I'm in about as good of shape as I was pre-Zumbro 2012, and that race went poorly because of my too quick first loop. I need to stay measured and controlled on Friday so as to hit the night with plenty of gusto in the tank. More on this in a separate post.

Unfortunately, my wife will miss this race again because of some new work obligations. I'm going to miss her because she's my strongest supporter and the best crew someone could have.

Without my wife there, I am going to share a crew with another runner. His wife and parents will be up there, and they'll help me get to Lutsen. Watch for updates on Twitter/Facebook from the during the race.

The only issue with this crewing situation comes up if we get substantially far apart such that the wife and parents need to split to catch us both. To protect myself from any logistical SNAFU's that could affect my access to my crew, I'm going to use drop bags at two key locations - miles 43 and 72. These aid stations represent the beginning and the end of the night, and I will need at least a fresh shirt to face the next section, particularly when heading into the darkness.

Russ will be pacing me from the marathon start to the finish. If all goes well, he'll start somewhere between 6 and 7 AM. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Crunch time

Sawtooth is a little over seven full weeks out. Crunch time.

When I ran it in 2011, I had two 50K's and a 50 miler under my belt by the end of July. That won't be happening this year due to circumstances far more important than 100 miles through the woods.

That said, I feel more confident in myself now than I did in 2011. My legs feel strong and muscular, my torso and hip girdle carry better and further and my shoe choice is far superior to what it has been. The New Balance 110's are about the perfect trail shoe, putting my MT10's to shame, traction wise. The latter still have the best shape and last of anything out there.

As usual, I haven't run as many miles as I had hoped. - 665 (recorded) YTD miles, 375 of those since May 1 when I got my 5 AM's back. I'll probably need to get lucky to hit 1,000 prior to toeing the line. But I have done more speed work and been happy with the runs I have been able to do. Longer tempo runs feel good, and I've hit a few marathon pace runs of longer distances that have carried me through a workout.

I have also gotten into the proverbial flow, vibe, etc. many more times this summer than I can remember. All of a sudden, I'm running on fresh legs, rejuvenated while far from home, and picking up the pace only to hold steady until I reach my front door.

The only thing left now is to do race-specific training i.e. hills, trails, hiking, and long, slow distance. Weekends belong to the 20 mile run, and weekdays belong to the hills that lead me out of my river valley. Everything else training wise just needs to fade away (speed work) or maintain (core and hips).

I don't have a specific time goal for Sawtooth, as I am going to run to be comfortable and not let my mind wander with the clock. I'm confident in my ability to maintain forward momentum without an LED glow pulling my eyes toward it. The goal is to finish, everything else be damned.

But I'd like to run sub-32:00 or sub-30 - both of which I think I'm capable with a smart, controlled run. I need to get to the nighttime, control the darkness, and push on at the new light. Simple, right?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mankato Zombie Run 2013 - course video

I ran through the Mankato Zombie Run course with a helmet cam on April 27. Course was 2.8 miles long, with the first mile or so mostly flat and the rest being up and down the ski hill via switchbacks.

Unfortunately, the video cuts out just after 21 minutes - I finished in right around 25 minutes, about a minute or two faster than the other participants based on unofficial timekeeping.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Strengthening the hip girdle

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know what is necessarily wrong with the muscle(s) posterior lateral side of my right hip. And of course that's not stopping me from self-diagnosing the issue.

I have a soreness in a muscle or muscles on the posterior lateral (basically 4 o'clock position if you were looking at me straight down and I'm facing toward 12) side of my right hip. I don't think this has affected my stride, but I don't want it to.

I think I caused it my playing disc golf, basically a result of pulling something in the twisting motion of the throw. What's wrong with my throw? My best guess is that it's a form issue in the twisting motion, starting from the fact that I twist on my ball of my plant (right) foot instead of the heal of that foot, and that I played a round or so in my hiking boots, which have a more elevated heal (my MT10s are about the perfect disc golf shoe, and Will Schusterick wears them when he plays).

Anywho, I felt like the stars aligned when in the span of about three days, I read about Tony Krupicka's injury issues and that they were related to weak hips/glute muscles, learned about Jay Johnsons Mrytl Routine, watched videos related to hip weakness from the therapist who keeps America's top marathoners healthy at the Oregon Project, and recalled meeting Eric Orton - Chris McDougall's coach - who again repeated the line that many running issues are related to weak hips.

So what am I doing about this? I'm doing Johnson's Mrytl (rhymes with "hip girdle") after almost every run, and adding two things to it. First, adding a set of 10 reverse clams after the initial set of clams, and adding Orton's one-legged-stand (for as long I can hold the form each time) at the end of the session. I can already tell my hips are not used to the exercises and are responding positively to them, although there is some pain still there. It's only been a week and I know I can't expect miracles, but I've been very pleased with the work thus far. I'm going to carry it into the season and see where it takes me. If it helps me stay injury-free and reduces core and hip fatigue in face, it'll be well worth the 10 or so minutes after each run it takes to complete the circuit.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Back at it for 2013

I've neglected this blog, as my last post was eight or so months ago post-2012 Zumbro 100.

Since then, I finished the 2012 Afton 50K, was graciously permitted to run the 50 mile at Superior Fall Races after my runner missed a time cut off at mile 42.8 during the Superior/Sawtooth 100, returned to disc golf when I wasn't/couldn't run, and oh yeah, had my first child. Running all-but disappeared post-Zumbro for all of those legitimate reasons, but I'm rededicating myself to running.

For 2013, I'm trying to stay as focused as possible toward my goal of Sawtooth 100 in the fall. I'll likely not race until then - my wife is finishing law school and taking the bar at the end of July - but I purchased a jogging stroller (BOB Ironman) so I can run with the little guy in the summer and give my wife a break whilst she studies.

Right now, I'm only able to run about four days a week, up to six runs per week (doubles on Saturday and Sunday, but that rarely happens). I'm focused on getting a solid base down of 30-40 miles per week, with 2+ hour runs on Saturday and 5-10 on Sunday. When May comes, and I can run in the morning again, I'll be back in my usual six to seven days of running per week, with the occasional double.

I am also newly inspired for 2013. I discovered Coach Jay Johnson's blog and the Mrytl routine, a hip-strengthening progression workout designed to be done in a build-up/injury-prevention (Phase 1) stage. I'm going to add a few things to it, two of which are stability exercises from the Oregon Project's physical therapy routine - again, to strength runners' hip girdles - and the one-legged stand that I learned from Chris McDougall and his coach, Eric Orton. From the OP's work, I'm adding reverse clams and the hip/leg orientations from their description of clams, reverse clams, and Jane Fonda's. The OP give more thorough description of the technique and potential pitfalls of the exercises for those two exercises. I'm also going to try and do Johnson's lunge matrix - something I already do with regularity, especially on cold days - before every run.

Finally, I am inspired to run some speedwork and perhaps a road half- or full marathon or two - likely Twin Cities in October. Devon Yanko, fka Crosby-Helms, wrote a great initial column on regarding lessons she learned from running fast road marathons (she qualified for and ran in the women's 2012 Olympic Trials for the marathon) as those lessons are applied to ultras.

I know what works for me is variations on Jack Daniels' Running Formula. I'm going to try and follow his recommendations to the best I can, because if you want to run fast [in a race], you need to run fast [in training].

EDIT: one more thing, I'm currently running in New Balance 110's, the next generation (not really an upgrade) from the MT10's. They're thinner in the sole/last, have a dedicated rock plate, and more tread for trail running. It really is a mountain shoe, but I was sick of the balls of my feet being hammered by the rocks on the trail and thus switched from the MT10's. I'm not sure I'm completely happy with them right now, they are markedly stiffer on first impression and for a while until they warm up in the winter. They are great on snowy, icy trails and roads but less so on snow-free roads. I'm probably going to get a dedicated road shoe, something like the Minimus Road Zero, 10, or 20. I think my perfect trail shoe is the sole of the 110's and the upper, last and everything else of the MT10.