Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Endure24 Part 4: Race Strategy

So here we are: the final few days before the big event!

Thus far training has gone better than expected and physically there isn't much more I can do over and above what I'm already doing. Ideally I'd like to have trained more, but the injury to the foot prevented that, and so I've done the best I can given the circumstances. There's a whole strategy that needs to be devised and implemented along with ensuring I'm prepared and have everything I'll need for those long 24 hours. Hopefully you'll get an insight into how I've prepared for this challenging event. I'm just hoping I haven't forgotten anything!

Key Facts

I've listed below some basic key facts about the event and my targets for it. Hopefully this will put my strategy and preparation into some kind of sense (hopefully!):

Start Time:
12 Noon (Saturday 28 June 2014)
End Time:
12 Noon (Sunday 29 June 2014)
Note 1:
If runners complete a lap just prior to the End Time, they are allowed to continue for an additional lap (this taking them over 24 hours)
My Target Distances
Km (equivalent )
Laps (equivalent )
Note 2:
Solo runners are able to start/stop whenever they want and for as long as they want. They have their own camping area next to the start/end area for quick access to their kit
No. of Solo Runners

Newbury Runners

Team Event:
Quite a few!!!

If there is one thing I've had the most difficulty in planning for this event it is the strategy that I'll adopt. Having never run a 24 hour race before, and with only one lonesome ultra before the event, I'm not really well qualified to say what the best strategy or not. The ultimate mileage I'm aiming for is 100 (20 laps). This is an impossible target for someone of my abilities and my lack of endurance experience (not mention injuries), but I need to start somewhere and 100 sounds like a nice round number. The strategy I'm putting together therefore is based on that target of 100 miles or 20 laps. However I know that during the course of any race, especially long distance races, strategy can (and often does) change (and along with it expectations). Therefore the strategy below is my starter-for-ten and I'll see how I go with it during the course of the event.

I plan on taking a whole week off from running prior to the event.
I'm arriving on the Saturday morning; however depending on the weather I may pitch my tent and register on the Friday afternoon.
Running Style:
The course is pretty much run in trails with a couple of hills thrown in for good luck (I'm sure they'll feel like mountains after 10 or 15 hours of running). I'm therefore adopting a Run / Walk / Jog strategy: Run downhills, walk hills, jog flats. This is likely to change during the course of the event, with more jogging than running and then eventually (during the evening and latter stages) more walking than anything else.
Due to the terrain, distance and duration I'm not setting an average pace. In order to achieve the target mileage I'll be looking to run each lap in approx. 1 hour (or at least that's the plan for the first 10 -12 hours). The challenge is not going out too fast. Some will say 1 hour to run 5 miles (8km) is slow, but after 12 hours it is likely to feel hard and every hill feel like Everest! 
Hydration & Energy:
The hardest thing to plan for.

Hydration is not so much the problem. I will be looking to drink approx. 500ml each lap (dependent on the weather and probably less in the evening), with a 50-50 split between water and an Electrolyte drink after the first 3 hours of running). These will be carried in separate bottles on my hydration vest. To mix things up a little, I will also be drinking different flavours of Lucozade Sport (an Electrolyte). 

To combat the loss of salt through sweat (and thus mitigate cramps) I will be taking on board additional salt. Most of that will come from the Electrolyte but I will also eat some ready salted crisps and salted peanuts. I'm also tempted to eat some lightly salted boiled potatoes that have been sliced up like crisps (for easy digestion).

Energy has been harder to plan for. I've run some long distances races (including a 9 hour ultra) so have a good idea as to what works and does not work for me. As usual I will take the SiS Gels, but to be honest there is only so much I can hack of them after a while. The event organisers will be giving away Cliff gels so I may grab a few of them. However at some point I will need to start eating some real food, all be it in very small doses. 

The usually suspects in the form of jelly babies, fig biscuits, Jaffa Cakes, energy bars/flapjacks, Snickers Bars, bananas, milkshakes, fruit pots will be in my cool bag. As for the more substantial food - this needs to be something that I can eat whilst running as I'm not planning on stopping for any great length of time (or risk seizing up). I'm therefore going to give the following a try: some cooked chicken slices, small slices of thin-base cooked pizza, and cooked sliced potato (as described above). The idea is to eat little at a time whilst also walking. I will take some cooked pasta on the off-chance that I need extra carbs (as an emergency).

Worse case is pack for all eventualities - after all, it's not as if I am lumbering the whole lot around with me!
Kit & Equipment:
Another interesting topic and one I need to get right.

Hydration Vests: I would like to run as many laps as possible in the initial stages without having to stop for supplies; but at the same time I don't want to be  weighed down  either. 

I will start the event wearing my Camelbak LR Ultra hydration vest. There is plenty of storage and it allows for either 2 x 800 ml water bottles on the chest and/or a 2 ltr bladder around the waist. If it's warm weather then I will start with the water bottles (one with an Electrolyte); if it's hot weather then I will use the bladder and have 1 bottle with Electrolyte. As the event wears on, especially into the evening, I may switch to my lightweight 2lt Camelbak. It has no storage but is very light.

Trainers: The condition of the terrain will vary depending on the weather. I will initially run in my trail shoes (New Balance Leadville's) as these provide support, cushioning, stability and toe box space. If the weather remains dry and my knees start to hurt in the latter stages then I may change over to my more cushioned road runners.
Combating Tedium:
Running around the same 5 mile lap (hopefully) 20 times will get boring, especially during the day. At night I will need to concentrate and focus on my footing as I won't be able to see much and the terrain underfoot will have potential ankle-twisting pot-holes, tree routes etc. Nevertheless, to combat the tedium during the day I will use my iPod with both comedy postcasts and music on it.
Body vs. Mind:
The first half of the race will be physical and my body will start to become sore as I go into the evening. That's when the mind games come into their own. It will be all too easy to stop and rest at the end of each lap, or stop and sleep. It's going to be a mental challenge to run throughout the night in the cold dark forest. I cannot prepare for this - I just need to make sure I continue putting one foot in front of the other.
Peer Pressure:
It's all too easy to fall in line with peers and align with their pace. The majority of runners will be running the event as part of a team. They will naturally be running at a faster pace. Even some of the solo runners will be running faster than me. For me it's not technically a race. It's an endurance event. I have a target and so I will stick to my own plan. I must run my own 'race'.
Night Running:
For most runners this will be the time they are not looking forward to. Personally I don't mind running in the dark, and did most of my base-training in the dark during the winter months. I therefore know what it's like to run for hours on end with nothing to see except the spot light on the floor from my head torch. What will be interesting is how I cope when fatigued.

I'll be packing quite a few spare batteries for my head torch and I will also carry a spare head torch for either backup or as an extra light source. I want to see as much as possible. I will also make sure I take a running fleece as I suspect it will get cold at night, especially in the forest. Note if my pace really falls in the evening (which I expect it to) then I may also take a light pair of tracksuit bottoms and run in them.
Injury Management:
BOOM! Finally last but by no means least injury management!

This is the one thing that will stop me from putting one foot in front of the other and continuing when everything else is painful. The key injuries for me for an event like this are likely to be to the following:

Feet / Tendons / Blisters / Knees / Achilles / Cramps / Chafing / Left Tibia

Anyone one of the above can knock me out the event. Even as I write this, there is an 80-20 chance I won't make the start line due to an existing injury to my tendon. Let's take each of these individually and how I plan to mitigate (or overcome) any issues:

Feet: Not surprisingly running on trails for any length of time is going to eventually cause the feet to become painful. Trail shoes are the only way to go for this type of event. The New Balance Leadvilles I'll be using incorporate a rock plate, cushioning, stability, space in the toe box and durability. Designed by New Balance for ultramarathons on trails, I'm hoping they'll serve me well and protect my flat feet! If my feet become sore (and depending on the terrain), I may switch to my road runners towards the latter stages.

Tendons: As many of you know I still have an issue with my tendons on my right foot, and for the past 5 days those tendon have really hurt. If I make the start then the plan is to try and keep my foot as stable as possible without any roll-over in either direction. I will try and run on level terrain as much as possible, even when running up hill. The speed of running should help. I don't plan on running fast, so can stop, stretch the tendon and hopefully manage them. If there is a single factor that will knock me out of this race it is the injury to my tendon. It's one thing above all else I am worried about, and therefore needs to be managed appropriately.

Blisters: Blisters are the bane of any runner and all runners get them at some point. Thankfully I don't suffer from them that much unless I change trainers. Although my trail shoes are relatively new, I've now run over 70 blister-free kms, so hopefully I won't suffer too much. Nonetheless, relying on trainers alone is not enough, and so I will also have the following:

  • Twin-skin socks (helps prevent friction)
  • Vaseline on key areas of the foot
  • Compeed plasters on potential blister areas
  • Needles to pop any large blisters
Will take plenty of socks and change them if they get wet (through rain).

Knees: Recently my knees (especially my left knee) has started to become sore when running. I think this is down to the near-on 500 miles I've run in my road runners in the past 4.5 months. Running slowly and gently should help. Likewise if the knee starts to hurt, I will stop and massage the knee then gently continue.

Achilles: The Achilles on my right foot is closely linked to the tendon issue. Walking up the hills should help elevate any pain. Will try to keep the foot as flat as possible (difficult on the terrain though).
Cramps: Painful as hell. I've yet to suffer from them whilst running and I don't intend to on this run. As per above; will keep hydrated, use electrolytes and ensure I replace lost salt. Stretching the legs every so often will also help.

Chafing: I've done a lot of testing during training and the following seems to work for me: plasters on the nipples; lots of Vaseline on the feet and toes, inner thighs, crotch, my little "member" and his "accompanying friends", base of my neck and my lower back (to prevent rubbing from the hydration packs); changing socks, shorts and running tops when required.

Left Tibia: A recent addition to my injury list. I'm hoping its not the beginnings of a stress fracture. Need to be careful how I run, the pace and to be as light as possible on my feet and in my stride.

Final Thoughts

I'm really excited about this event; I just wish I wasn't injured (as this is having an impact on my positivity). For personal reasons this will be my last long distance event for quite a while, and that is why I am running it. My two main concerns are the tendon in the right foot and the left tibia. Both injuries can knock me out the race at any point as the pain from both will be too great.

Rain is forecast for the weekend; this will add a new dimension to the run. I'd rather not run in the rain for this event. I'd prefer the weather to be mild, cloudy with a bit of a breeze (similar to when I ran the Manchester Marathon). 

My honest belief is that even if I do make the start line, my injuries will knock me out the race before I achieve any of my targets. I'm not being negative; just trying to be realistic. But whatever happens I will enjoy myself and have fun, and that is all I can ask for.

Bring it on!

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