Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Plans for 2012


Yes, another post already.  Yes, thought I better sort out  my plans for 2012 before the year was half over.  Tonight's post will only look at my planned races for the year, my following post will consider my planned training.

In looking at what I hope to achieve for 2012 I first spend quite a bit of time reflecting back to the previous year, i.e. 2011.  As my last post indicated 2011 was a mixture of a year, with some great highs, but overall there is a feeling of not achieving what I set out to do.  At the start of 2011 I had two main focuses: (i) Get selected for and then perform well whilst representing GB at the World Ultra Trail Champs, and (ii) Perform well, improving upon my 2009 performance at UTMB.  So for 2011 it was a tick for (i), and a still to be achieved for (ii). 

Initially it was tempting to go back to UTMB in 2012 to complete what I did not achieve, however, I believe that it is only possible to race well in one 100 mile race per year.  I'm not really sure what has led me to form this opinion, but sticking to only one 100 mile race fits in well with all of the other commitments I have during the year.  Although from having raced and completed two 100 mile events, both times it took a minimum of seven weeks before I felt recovered, i.e. I didn't feel tired at the start of a run! 

Anyway, with only one 100 mile race per year, I decided to stick with my original plan, to race the Montane Lakeland 100 in 2012, and then go back to UTMB in 2013.  The Lakeland 100, although only having raced it once, (although also watched it 2011), it really is the UK premier ultra trail race.  There is such a strong positive friendly spirit, a real community feel for the event.  With the recce weekends really adding to the overall positive experiences from being involved with the race.  I am already looking forward to the evening of the Olympics Opening Ceremony, where I hope my preparations will have gone well and at 5:30pm I will have the confidence to 'blast off' in accordance with my ultra pacing philosophy and fully enjoy ever moment!

This therefore leaves six other races to decide upon.  Why six?  Well, having got back into racing in 2007, after only racing one or two marathons per year for the five years prior to that.  It was when reviewing years 2007-2009 that I noticed that I had raced seven times in each of these years.  With these three years being my most successful in terms of race performances, I decided then that seven races per year must therefore be the ideal number.  Nothing scientific, based on little evidence, but it just seemed to feel right.  So now I simply stick to seven races, with the marathon being the shortest distance I race.  In essence the marathons are my speed work for the ultra races!

First race to add is the Beachy Head Marathon ( http://www.robin-web.co.uk/beachyhead/ ).  My local marathon that is entirely off-road within the South Downs National Park.  I have mentioned this before, but trail marathons don't come much better than this event.  Having run it ten times, all ten Beachy Head Marathons (it was formerly known as the Seven Sisters Marathon for 21 years), I feel a bit like 'part of the furniture'.  The last few years this race has just sort of been 'tagged on' to the end of my racing season. However, after being beaten into second place in 2011, the plan is to give the race increased focus for 2012.

The other five races?  In order to perform well at the Lakeland 100, a race is needed around 5 -6 weeks before.  The Endurancelife Classic Quarter 44 mile ultra trail race at the end of June is therefore ideal (http://www.endurancelife.com/event.asp?series=55&location=138 ).  Having raced three Endurancelife races, their courses are spectacularly scenic, well organised, and there is always a really good 'buzz'.  The Classic Quarter race has been going for around five years now, but this year it is on the same day and course as the Endurancelife Coastal 100 mile race, so the buzz on  the day should be even greater!  The Classic Quarter is also part of the Runfurther National Series, which I try to support whenever I can, as with the race being part of the series it often results in a slightly stronger field which is always a bonus.  Trying to fit in four series races is not always possible, and with Lakeland 100 no longer being part of the series (I guess due to being sold out prior to the series being announced), unfortunately I will not get four series races in during 2012.

What about the early part of the year?  Well it got down to deciding between the Highland Fling ( http://www.highlandflingrace.org/ ), a great event that I have raced twice, or the Fellsman ( http://www.fellsman.org.uk/doku.php ) which I haven't run, and for 2012 being the 50th anniversary.  Both events were on the same day.  Just as I had finally decided on the Fellsman, we received some news from New Zealand that the health of my father in law was declining.  After evaluating what is most important to us as a family, i.e. me, my wife Frances, and our two boys Robert and Chris, we made the decision to head out to New Zealand for a significant length of time, i.e. three months, in order to spend quality time with our extended family.  So come the start of March we are off to New Zealand.

The initial prompt to go to New Zealand although negative and worrying, we have decided to make the absolute most of our time whilst there and are therefore really excited and looking forward to this great opportunity to spend extended quality time together.  Just by chance, the Tarawera Ultra Marathon ( http://www.taraweraultra.co.nz/ ), what has now probably taken over from the Kepler Challenge as New Zealand's premier ultra trail race, is taking place two weeks after we arrive.  So some quick communication with Paul the race director, and I am added to the elite field, just in time for the latest press releases:



Then to top it off, Anton Krupica, as well as all of the top Kiwis and the top Australians will also be on the start line!  The first time I heard of Anton Krupica was this time last year, when after I posted by 2010 review, feeling pretty pleased with my 2276 miles, a comment is left on my blog saying check out this Krupica guy, who has completed triple your mileage.  So I checked out his Riding the Wind blog http://antonkrupicka.blogspot.com/ , well worth a visit.  So now I have the opportunity to race against him (and all the other 300 or so runners), I just can't wait!

In order to be fully prepared for the Tarawera Ultra Marathon a quick search of the race calendar was required to find a race, to get in some speed work, and to develop the important confidence.  So in one and a half weeks time I will be lining up on the start line of the 50km London Ultra ( http://www.ultrarace.co.uk/events/details/?eventid=111 ).  Checking out last year's results it was jointly won by Craig Stewart (GB team mate in Connemara, Ireland) in 3 hours 42 minutes.  So this gives me some indication of the demands of the course in terms of race duration. With regards to terrain, undulating or flat, muddy or dry, I will have to wait for the day to find out.  So an early start to my racing this year, prior to hopefully some warm weather training in New Zealand.  I'm not totally sure of what other races I will do whilst in New Zealand, however, with trail running just at the start of a boom out there, I'm sure I will be able to find one other exciting event.

This now just leaves one more race for the year, in between the Lakeland 100 and the Beachy Head Marathon.  For a wee while, following UTMB, there was some thought to maybe moving into multi-day ultra events.  I have never raced a multi-day event and the idea to give it a go seemed appealing.  Probably the most prestigious multi-day event I have heard of is the eight day Trans Alpine Run ( http://www.transalpine-run.com/alps_cross_start.htm ) at the start of September, that runs through Germany, Austria and Italy.  Being only 5 weeks following the Lakeland 100, would I be recovered?  Another concern was would the prospect of running such an big event detract me from the Lakeland 100 being my key focus for the year.  In the end I decided to leave the Trans Apline Run until 2014 (well that is really long term planning!).  But the idea of a multi-day event within the UK still sounds appealing, so I am tentatively thinking about the three day Ring of Fire Ultra Trail event (http://www.ringofire.co.uk/ ) at the start of September, that invloves one complete circuit of the Isle of Anglesey, North Wales.  However, no firm commitments will be made until our return from New Zealand in June.

So all sorted, my seven races for the year:
19th February - London Ultra - 50 km
17th March - Tarawera Ultra Marathon - 100 km
May - Race in New Zealand
23rd June - Endurancelife Classic Quarter - 44 mile
27th July - Montane Lakeland 100 - 104 mile
September - Ring of Fire 3-Day Ultra - 131 mile
27th October - Beachy Head Marathon - 26 mile

It looks like it should be another great year of trail racing.  Remember if any of you are doing these races, please say hello and introduce yourself.  It is always nice to meet readers of my blog, as with over 40,000 hits I know there are at least a few people that read my 'words of wisdom', but until I meet them they are simply a number on the page counter!

Just a couple of things before I sign off.  A week before Christmas within the blog post http://ultrastu.blogspot.com/2011/12/thoughts-on-pacing-strategy-for.html#comment-form I gave my views on the negative split.  Starks asked the following question; "If you were to run a road marathon next week, what would be your estimated splits for both halves? How fast would you run the first half? As if you were running a half marathon? Similarly, how fast would you run the first 10K?"  Having not raced a road marathon for quite a few years I didn't really know how to answer, so I dug out some data from the 1995 London Marathon where I set my personal best time of 2 hours 29 mins to try to look at how much of a positive split is required to take into account fatiguing during the event.

I looked at my average heart rate and average mile pace for five different 5mile blocks during the race.  I ignored the first and last miles.  I looked at how much I fatigued, how much I slowed down, and how that related to my heart rate for the slower pace.  During the race I did a massive positive split, being 71:16 and 78:18 to give me my 2:29:34.  The table below shows the data.  Really interesting in that for every 30 minutes of racing, for approximately the same heart rate, I slowed 13 seconds per mile! 

I don't think having this much of a positive split is really ideal as I must admit that I wasn't really doing proper marathon training at the time, as I was training for Zofingen Duathlon, which at the time was like the Unofficial World Champs in duathlon, consisting of 13km run, 150km bike, 30km run in an undulating and snowy part of Switzerland. (By the way I finished in 34th place!)  So I was doing quite a bit of cycling at the time.  What is interesting is that the fatigue is evident even for miles 6-10 where I require an increase in heart rate of 4bpm to run at a mile pace 4 seconds slower.  Remembering back to the race now, I still recall that the first half just felt relatively easy, and a real buzz, as the miles just 'flew' mile literally!

So what does this data tell us.  Not sure really apart from confirming that to run a negative split in race time requires a massively unbalanced split in intensity / effort / race focus, what ever you want to call it.  No wonder less that 5 percent of runners achieve it, and I would expect that most of those runners would have achieved a faster finishing time if they hadn't gone so slow during the first half!

So I'm not sure if I have answered Starks question, but it was interesting for me, going back nearly 17 years!

My second aside before I sign off is that I am doing another talk.  Yes, having presented in Lake District, Yorkshire, Cheshire and Dorset last year, I was approached by a fellow runner within my village, whether I would like to do a talk to help promote the recently renamed running club UCKFIELD RUNNERS (formerly Utopia Runners).  So at 7:00pm on Friday 17th February at Uckfield Civic Centre I am doing a presentation titled "Marathon Running Preparation Principles to Enhance Personal Achievement"  The talk will be relevant for both novice and experienced runners.  Click HERE for more details: 

E-mail Peter Wilkes petetherunner@btinternet.com to reserve a place.

Time to sign off with a quote from 2010 Western States winner Geoff Roes on his thoughts on speed training.  Relevant as I have been giving some thought to my planned training for the coming year:  "Racing 50 or 100 miles is about strength and endurance.  It's about nutrition and hydration. It's about patience, stubbornness, and determination.  It's about lots of things, but it's really not much about leg speed. ... I do believe that doing speed work in training for 50 and 100 mile races (especially hilly, technical ones) does nothing to make us "faster" on race day." (Geoff Roes, 2011)  Pg 42 from the book titled Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell (An okay book overall, but it does have a few pretty good sections).



  1. Looks like a good challenging year, have a great time in NZ, see you when you get back. The Anglesey race was my plan if I didn't get in to the TDG, I've run 80% of the course, a lot of it is really good. In spite of your sign-off quote I'm still pondering the speed thing, I don't think it's that simple!

  2. Speed work and ultras is interesting, Relentless Forward Progress does present both sides of the argument for and against. I myself consider it still as a 'quality' session and think a tempo run is worth a go once a week. Primarily it gives me an opportunity to practise the mental side of running namely dealing and trying to overcome physical discomfort in a relatively short session. I also think, as a runner who has to work for race weight, it helps with keeping the metabolism stoked.

    Shame about the Fellsman, its hard not least the navigational challenges and some of the awful terrain. Great fun though and brilliantly run!

  3. Hi Stu,

    Thanks for your comments. Sorry to hear about your father-in-laws ill health. I hope your visit to New Zealand becomes a positive experience. Toeing the line with Anton will be fun for one thing.

    Regarding race schedules and training. I think one of the great things about ultra running is that there really is no right or wrong. It’s is all about finding what works best for you. A very personal and rewarding journey. I really enjoy running and racing (although I do not always “race” at an event) and I think that is reflected in my training and race schedule. For me personally, running is all about the experience, journey and spiritual/therapeutic benefits I get from it.

    Here’s to good health for you and your family and I look forward to seeing you at the Lakeland 100.