Monday, February 7, 2011

A Learning Run

This past weekend I ran in the "ICY-8", 8-hour "ATR" (Adventure Trail Run, apparently). The event was nice and low-key, and I'll certainly consider it again next year (and probably the longer variants throughout the year). There were two different loop options, one was 4.7 miles and the other was 8. Both had some hills, but it was all runnable (well, for the first few hours :)).

My goal for this run was 40 miles, and staying out for as much of the 8 hours as I could. I ended up stopping around 6:40, having covered 36.7 miles. I think that makes this the first running event I've done in which I didn't meet my goals. Which is probably, itself, a good learning experience. I think I learned a few other (transferable) things, and thought I'd share them, in case they can benefit somebody else, or help me remember them:

  • Sitting isn't a good way to control your pace. I decided early on that to get my 40 miles in, instead of keeping track of all those .7s, I'd just run 5 of the 8-mile laps. I figured 1:30 for each lap would be a pretty comfortable pace, and bring me in at a respectable 7:30 stopping time. My first loop was around 1:08, and the second was around 1:12. Since I was then 40 minutes ahead of pace, I figured I'd sit for 10 minutes at the aid station, and still be half an hour ahead. This also gave me a chance to snack, for better or worse (more on this later). I repeated these shenanigans for the next two laps, running each of the 8 mile loops at something like 1:15 and then resting to the 1:30 mark. I really think it would have been better to walk some of the hills as a way to keep my pace in check, instead of sitting so much.
  • Don't take your gloves off unless you're going to change them. It was about 40℉ and rainy all day. While I was dawdling at the aid station, I decided to take off my gloves, thinking maybe it was more hygienic for grabbing food. After I put the gloves back on and headed out for another lap, my hands got painfully cold. I decided it must have been because the gloves, without my hands to keep them warm, froze up a bit and then froze my hands a bit when I put them back on. I was glad I brought another pair I could change into after that lap.
  • Your feet will get crazy prune-y and probably blister when you're running in sloppy mud for a few hours. Changing socks seemed to help a little bit, but only so much. I didn't try dealing with blisters until I got home, so I'm not sure what to say about that.
  • Avoid opportunities to stop. I started my 5th lap still feeling fairly good, with about 2:30 remaining, and started doing some calculations. If I ran a 1:30 8-mile loop, I'd have a whole hour left, and figured I wouldn't want to shoot for a 4.7-mile lap but I'd be disappointed with myself for stopping an hour early. Instead, I decided I could probably get 2 4.7-milers in with the remaining time, and thereby go further and occupy more of the time. So I took the turn for the short loop. I might have made it a bit past halfway through the loop before I, apparently, hit a bit of a wall, as people say. I started walking, never really got back into a run before the final downhill into the aid station, plunked down in my chair with 1:20 remaining, and only got back up to change into warm, dry clothes (which felt amazing, by the way). If I'd opted for the 8-miler when I had the chance, that last lap would have sucked for rather a bit longer, but maybe I would have overcome my rut, and at least I would have met my goal.
I wish I had something specific I could take away from this run in regards to eating. I think I didn't do it right, but I don't know which parts of what I did were the most wrong. I didn't carry anything with me for the first lap, and had a hand-bottle of water on each subsequent lap (which I finished during the laps). I carried GUs for all but the first lap, and had one about halfway through two of the laps. Just when I was about to take one on one of the laps, I started feeling slightly nauseous. I figured GU wouldn't help so I just walked for a bit, and when I started running again things seemed ok. I also felt slightly nauseous on my last lap, which again discouraged me from having GU, and kicked off my walk to my finish. I think the big mistake I made, besides perhaps nothing on that first lap, was sitting at the aid station with all the food. They had a great selection, I must say. Chips, pb&j, skittles, boiled potatoes and salt, ramen (and some other soups), pierogies, quesadillas, grilled cheese... When I was sitting at the end, they had started making hot dogs. Quite a sampling for a guy who likes to eat, and thinks he has a pretty good excuse, running in the mud for a few hours. I didn't have any soup, and avoided the cheeses, but had some of just about everything else. I'm guessing this wasn't the right strategy. I think a powerbar somewhere in there would have been a good idea.

I'd say I learned I'm a bit of a quitter, but I already knew that. I can't seem to find it again, but last week I watched an interview somebody did with Scott Jurek, and he said something about how he likes to say "It's 90% mental, and the other 10% is mental too". I know that I don't have the "mental" (not the kind ultras seem to need). I think this run did get me comfortable with my physical fitness, so I can maybe focus on my mental game a bit more. Sure, I got tired, but I'm feeling pretty good in my recovery. I went out for a few miles yesterday (the day after the event), and nearly went out for some more today, but convinced myself I'd just run to work tomorrow. So I think my legs are there, and I still know I can improve them. Perhaps the disappointment from this run will help push me for the next one.

And there is a next one. I'm signed up for a 50 miler at the end of March. In fact, I just heard about this 8-hour run two weeks ago, and realized it'd make a pretty good training run (would have been better if I'd gone further, longer, but alas). I think a few of the issues I had on this run won't be factors for the 50 miler. First off, the 50 miler is a set distance (clearly), and not a lap course. Secondly, the 50 miler has worse hills, and that'll make it much easiest to incorporate more walking time. And maybe, just maybe, the course won't be quite as muddy.