Sunday, 4 July 2010

Friday track session with an ultra twist

Nothing unusual about doing a track session on a Friday evening except this was going to be a track session with a difference. The training goal for Fridays session was to run for 12 hours continuous around a 1/4m concrete loop from 6pm til 6am. This was to be my last long-long training run in preparation for the Adidas Thunder Run 24hr at the end of the month. I wanted to test out a few things including nutrition, what to wear and how to stay sane running in circles through the night. This was my first full night run too. I didn't want to leave such an unknown until race day, and was curious how the body (and mind) would respond to being asked to run all night when they would normally be recharging the batteries.

So it was that after a days work and a bit of carbo loading I set out at 6pm to run through a lovely calm summers evening and night. I had prepared well and had borrowed my mum and dads cool box that was well stocked with food. The menu included a Hawaiian pizza, hot soup and bread rolls, malt loaf, mini flapjacks, chocolate, a flask of hot tea, flat coke, and about 8 litres of SIS energy drink. yum yum. It sounds more like an ultra picnic than an ultra run but eating is an essential part of any long distance run if you want to stay on your feet and keep moving forward.

So what is there to tell about the 220 laps I managed to complete. Well at mile 40 I almost trod on a hedgehog which was probably the highlight of the night! :-) Backtracking a bit though from the beginning of this run even in the early miles it didn't feel that easy and felt like I was having to exert more effort than I normally would at a given pace (not a good sign). However this run wasn't about pace so I didn't care how fast or slow I went. Time on my feet was what counted here and the only given was that I would be on them for 12hrs.

My early pace during daylight projected me to around 60 miles, as I hit 30 miles in around 6 hours. But in the early hours of the morning my pace dropped to 12 minute miling. Every mile felt like a real achievement at this stage. In fact every lap did! The way I broke up the time both in my mind and physically was to only stop for food on the hour every hour. This was a real motivator and also closely replicates the format of the 24hr race too which is a 10km loop so I wouldn't have the luxury of passing a food station every 1/4 mile. So there was no point me tucking into pizza or chocolate whenever I felt like as this wasn't going to be available in 3 weeks time. I also did the same with fluids keeping an eye of how much I was consuming every hour. I ran with my 1 litre hand water bottle which I filled up every other hour so half an litre per litre. Doesn't sound a lot but 6 litres of fluid is a lot to process so I think over that distance and taking into account the slow pace its about right.

There is not a lot more to say about the actual run, and I don't think the the plot writers of Series 24 will be too interested! In summary I completed 55.13 miles in the 12 hours. I had to really push in the last two hours to get to the 55 mile mark. Keeping my pace at 12 minute miling at that point felt like an enormous effort(even though I could of been overtaken by the hedgehog I saw earlier!)

So what did I learn from this run that I can take into the 24hr race in 3 weeks time. A lot actually.

1 - Running with a hand water bottle for that amount of time is too much of a burden, and effects form. Hence I went out today and bought a camelbak waist water bottle holder which will leave me hands free and able to pump my arms better.
2 - I can not expect to run the same pace at night as during the day. Not because of fatigue but simply because the dark changes how you run and process your surroundings in the mind, and hence the pace drops. So I figure that its better to push a little harder during daylight hours than perhaps seems sensible for a race of this duration because after dark the pace will be slow whatever happens. Then use this time sensibly to recover, and hopefully have more to give when the sun rises
3 - Well planned refulling stops are vital to save time. I had everything prepared and to hand in the cool box, and what I took worked well and kept my energy levels up. The pizza was a bit hit, as was the hot soup in the early hours. Flat coke was also great and a nice change from the energy drink.
4 - Tunes on the ipod during the night really helped to keep motivation levels high, as I chalked up lap after lap. Note to self - update songs on ipod as hearing the same tune (or what sounded like the same tune 3 times messes with your head)
5 - Don't worry too much about pace or slowing down but minimise down time. Keep moving forward no matter what.


  1. Madness! Running around a track just seems crazy but I understand and appreciate the method in it :-)

    Definitely agree with the waist pack belt for the bottle, I found the exact same form issue when running with a bottle over the long haul.

    Good luck with the Thunder run! I'm sure it will be the highlight of the year :-). Looking for another race at the moment but just cannot decide.

  2. How about the Ridgeway 28/29 August. 85 miler. I've just registered for it. A great trail.

  3. Hi Stu, I have to say I admire anybody who has the discpline to take on this kind of 24hr race. 12 hours on a track would have me screaming I think! I'll keep to the comfort of ever changing off-road scenery where I can get away with slower pace and longer rest/food stops.

    I suspect the 24 may be easier at first than this 12 as you have more company (I guess). There's a 24hr runner at my club I run with on Thursday nights. He won the AAA ULTRA DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIPS when it was held in Hull going back a few years, I'll see if I can get you any sage words from him.

  4. Good luck with the Thunder Run, Stu. I guess it will be less mind numbing with it being a much longer loop. Is it an undulating trail run to give the muscles variety and rest? The track run must have destroyed your legs and not been conducive to a fast time. Possible proof of that is my Round Rotherham time of last year (50 miles in 9:13). I know you're much faster than I am, so 55 miles in 12 hours strikes me as below what you should be capable of. If the 24hr isn't on a flat trail and you hit it right, you'll exceed 100 comfortably. Hey, eat on the run and aim for 110! ;-)