"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thoughts on the Teapot and a decision on 2010

After doing Ice Age, I wondered what would happen if I were forced to walk at the same point in the Kettle Moraine 100 (same course). I did a linear regression of my splits and came up with a finishing time of 29.5 hours. It'd be ugly to walk for 60 miles, but I could still finish. Fortunately, I've been feeling a slight rebound in my legs in the past few days (went from 10 min/mile to 8.5); having my 50K times go from 5 hours at Trail Mix to 6 at Chippewa to 7 at Superior was a trend that had me worried. If I can get myself back to running 1.5-2 hours a day, I'll be heading into the race fresher than I have for the past 5 races.

There's a wealth of data for the "Teapot." One can find every runner's splits at every aid station for some years. I looked at those who were the last few to finish and discovered some things that interested me a great deal. First, they usually finished in 28-28.5 hours, not 29:59, which had me thinking one of the earlier cut-offs must be challenging; few drop at the last place they can time out (85 miles) and very few drop at other places - they all quit at 62, where they can get an official 100K finish. That's not an issue for me.

I plotted out times versus distances for more than a dozen runners to see where people slowed down more than one would expect - these would be the hardest sections, I figured. There's a few difficult sections I know from doing the 50 Mile and the elevation maps show a nasty hill before the Scuppernong turn-around (I looked it up: scuppernong is a kind of grape), but these didn't seem to be a problem for these runners. The slowest sections didn't make any sense until I realized they all ended at an aid station where there were drop bags; they were "camping" at the aid stations, not slowing! They all slowed noticeably when the sun went down, as expected, and they slowed near the Rice lake turn-around, where the terrain would be tough at night.

It makes sense now. I know what I plan to do and how to do it. My first preparations for the Teapot are done.
I've also made a decision about next year: the ultra experiment is coming to a close. I started running them because I was getting lackadaisical in my approach to races and it just wasn't fun any more. Ultras meant learning. A lot of learning. I had to learn to run on my heels rather than my toes, for one thing. Then there was all the food and gear and terrain problems. It was an adventure.

I've won an ultra. I've finished a 100 Miler. If I finish all my races this year, I'll have proved I can run any race under any condition. If I break 24 hours at Lean Horse, I'll have met all my goals.

When I volunteered at Runnin' in the Ruff, I saw guys racing at the edge of flying off the course and "blowing up." I miss that! It took this long for me to get the desire back. I want to RACE, not just plod to yet another finish and, quite frankly, I suck at ultra distances.

There's still some desire to crank out a fast one at FANS and I enjoy Afton and Trail Mix, all in my back yard, but next year, it's time to take a new direction, at least for a while. I'm thinking of going for the MNTRS and WORS series of short trail races, so the trails are still in me, but the roads, they are a-calling.


Steve said...

Steve, if you can save your legs enough for Kettle, you'll have no problem finishing it. I have faith in you and you've learned quite a bit this year already. I'm looking forward to seeing you there.

As far as next year, I think you are making a wise decision. There's no doubt whatsoever you are a talented runner. However, I think your talents are best suited for the shorter ultras, particularly the 50K. Nonetheless, running the longer ones will make you a better ultra runner overall. I too, have made a change in my approach as to which races to run. For me, it's the exact opposite of you. I have no talent for the shorter races. I'm pretty much a 50 and 100-miler. I've yet to have a good 50K race where I felt good the whole way. So, my focus this year and going forward will be primarily 100's with a 50 here and there.

Stay rested and healthy and see you at Kettle!!!

Londell said...

Remember, trail mix is an easier course than Chippewa which I would argue is easier than Superior so that accounts for the times as well. I know what you mean by getting the road /speed itch... I have felt it and then realized, I am far from wanting that pain again. Speed has always hurt for me, but you seem like the opposite. Whatever, I pray you get through this year with all the goals, which are beyond comprehension for me but you seem to have conquered them so far.

keith said...

Say it ain't so! I just don't get racing on asphalt at all...but I know whatever you choose to do you'll probably do damn well at, so good luck!