Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nothing Else Matters

"So close no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trust in who we are
And nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don't just say
And nothing else matters "
-- Metallica

Reader be warned, I am about to compare my training and approach to the LT100 to Matt Carpenter's. But don't be fooled, I am not Matt Carpenter.  I know that. However, I believe that there are lessons to be learned by reviewing others' experiences in a race like this. Or perhaps it is just convenient that Matt's views line up with my own and I am exhibiting bias? Nonetheless, here goes...

I was doing a Google search today and stumbled up on this amazing piece written by Matt Carpenter about his 2005 LT100 experience. Matt beat the course record that day and had a nearly flawless race, finishing in 15:42.  He was an unbelievable 41 years old.  (Anton Krupicka owns the 2nd fastest time of 16:14 in 2007).  Note that Matt had  run LT100 in 2004 and had a pretty bad blow up. He walked much of the final 30 miles and finished in 22:43.  (Walking in to a disappointing finish with most of his big goals blown is something almost no elite would do today.)

Needless to say this piece inspired me greatly. Things continue to unfold for me in a way that is giving me an intense focus on what I want to unfold August 18th. Matt's sharing of his plans about training and race day have re-energized my motivation to give this all I have. While there are several good points worth expanding on (below), the thing I appreciated the most was the singular focus with which he approached this race.  "Elite" racers today schedule numerous events all season long. They don't put "all their eggs in one basket" the way Matt did. I love this post but it is exactly where I am at: Nothing else matters.

After reviewing this blog several times, here are some of the takeaways:

He raced both San Juan 50 and LT100 in the same year

The year of Matt's blow up, he raced both the San Juan 50 miler and the LT100, just as I was about to do. While his record of 7:59 at San Juan is out of this world and will be incredibly tough to break, he suggests it cost him during the LT100 time because he did not recover fully. This is a lesson that I learned last year while racing the Leadville Marathon two weeks before the Leadville Silver Rush 50 last year; I have no doubt it cost me. I won't make that mistake again this year. If there was any doubt before, I can guarantee now that I will not be racing at San Juan.  I need to keep my body fresh so I can continue to training at a high-level for LT100. Nothing else matters.

The use of mostly carbs for fuel

In Matt's post, he challenges the assumption that runners need to eat solid food during an ultra. I am not sure if I agree with his stance here. But I think there is some middle ground. While he ate primarily easily digestible carbs, I plan to incorporate some solid food into my plan. However, I won't be ordering pizza or cheesecake like Dean Karnazes. Instead, I will rely on calories from rapidly absorbing drinks and enough calories from fat and protein to keep my body functioning properly. The "solid foods" that I eat will be mostly engineered foods for the ultrarunner. My belief is that the longer you race, the more your caloric needs change. Matt ran this race in under sixteen hours. On my best day, I might be able to do it in 24 or 25 hours. The difference of eight or more hours is significant in how you take care of your body. A secondary argument could be made for body weight. Matt is a full 60 - 65 pounds lighter than me. My guess is that he needed no more than 250 calories an hour to complete his journey -- easily done on sports/electrolyte drinks. It will be tougher for me to swallow 400 calories of sugar per hour.

How precise he had his fueling strategy down

Matt's plan for taking nutrition was the most precise I have read from an elite racer. He had his plan calculated down to how many sips he would take per ten minutes in a race. Many people, including other ultrarunners, think I am nuts for the amount of time I spend obsessing over nutrition and hydration. Reading Matt's plan gives me hope that this work will pay off. Surely, I am not going overboard by trying to determine precisely the number of calories -- and from what sources -- I will take in per hour?!

He had ONLY a 32 minute positive split

He posted an incredible near even split in the race. (Anton posted a 45 minute positive split two years later.) This is another topic where I find many runners think I am crazy. I would like to come as close as possible to having an even split in this race as I can. In all the endurances races I have done, pacing has always been key. The rules of the game don't change when you lengthen the course -- go out too fast and you will pay for it. My ideal course strategy for LT100 is to have a two hour positive split. This makes sense given the fact that the course is harder in the second half (3 big climbs compared to 1.5) and that it'll be my first experience with the distance. The key is to save energy and obsess about nutrition and hydration in the first half. Any chance to run a perfect race relies on my ability to keep a steady, even effort all day while continuing to replenish my energy stores. Is this a sensible strategy for a first timer? I think so. I will find out for sure in about two months.

He listens to Eminem

This isn't really relevant to anything, but I find it pretty cool! I would have expected an old school racer like Matt to go without music. And a "masters" runner finding motivation from an iPod and Eminem... awesome!!! Want to talk precision and over analyzation? He had a play list specifically identified down to the section of the course that he'd be running. That is how I roll.

He focused his training on B2B long runs and strength training

Matt reveals in his post that he used strength training -- particularly the hamstrings and quads -- as part of his plan.  What's more, he did not believe that running 30 - 50 miles frequently was a good strategy.  Once again this an area where we agree almost completely. In fact, my latest training wrap covered this exact topic. It is true that I have done several long runs (31,32, and 53 miles).  But, I have done them all in a fashion that allowed me to recover quickly and primarily as a means to practice nutrition, hydration, and pacing (run/walk patterns). Only the 53 mile Grand Canyon trek required more than a day or two of recovery. In fact, the final 3 miles of my 31 mile effort were done near marathon pace -- a sure sign that I was not overdoing it. The remainder of my training will focus on B2B long runs as I did this past weekend. In addition to hill work, I have been consistent in doing squats and leg press at least once a week to strengthen my quads. Running all weekend on dead quads is a real downer, but great race preparation!

He spent almost no time at aid stations

Many of the "just finish" strategies that I read suggest taking time at aid stations to recover or rest, particularly those aid stations in front of big climbs. Matt challenges this assertion and feels that it just means you'll have to make up time later. My crew can tell you that I spent the bare minimum amount of time at each aid station in my first 50 mile race. I'd rather recover "actively" with a heart-rate-recovering-walk than go dead stand still. Stopping only makes it harder to get going again and wastes time. Sure there may be times that I need to stop to remove rocks from my shoes, deal with blisters,  change clothes... something. But why intentionally stop if you don't have to? React to what is happening and be aware of what your body is telling you, but relentless forward progress is key. As such, I will have all my gear and nutrition lined up to minimize aid station visits.

Mental Games

I loved his piece about his mental games. This is a race -- my goal race. No risk, no reward, right? I think I have analyzed this enough to know that I am capable of my goals. They are goals that will challenge me, but they are attainable. What's more, I have been able to predict my finish times in nearly every event that I have raced the past few year. There will systems in place to know whether I am on track or not. If I blow up, then I'll walk it in like Matt did in 2004. My pacing plan has a dual benefit of not only putting me on track for my goal, but also buffering in case I start to unwind. That said, I need to trust in my planning, strategy, and training. Backing down in fear of what might happen is no way to approach this race. After August 18th, I have no plans, nothing else matters.

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