Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Moving Past OP50

Well, Old Pueblo is done and it is time to start moving on. Amazing how we put so much into training for something like this and then it is gone in the blink of an eye. I have an insane amount of inner peace about this race. That is unusual for me; I almost always  have some kind of regret or desire to get back out and prove something. Whether it be injury, poor performance, unrealistic expectations, etc..., I always think I can or should do better. In terms of the clock, I certainly didn't achieve my full potential. In fact, I believe I can run that race sub-9 hours.  Yes, close to an hour faster.

If you look back at my goals, I listed two: run my race and push through the wall. I'd give myself an A-minus or B-plus on both goals. In terms of running my race, my splits were roughly 4 hours for the first half and 6 hours for the second. But that wasn't that far off of what I think is optimal for that race. The course is tougher in the second half. I think I ran about 8 or 10 minutes too fast in the first half of the race. I didn't expect to go off course for 30 minutes in the second half. On pushing through the wall, I am very happy with how I handled the adversity of this race. Probably the biggest low point was climbing the Arizona Trail (around mile 30) and I stayed very calm and positive. I borrowed a tactic from Tony and just prayed. I thanked God for the ability to run, for the privilege to race. Soon enough, the climb was over. When I went off course, I took 10 - 15 minutes, got over it and ran pretty well after that.

I am very happy with the form my training has taken and I know that I was one wrong turn away from having a tremendous race. Of course, that means the stakes just went up for Leadville Silver Rush 50, my next goal race for this season.

What worked well

  • I was incredibly happy with my hydration vest. It held all the essentials I needed and was very comfortable.
  • More on this later, but I am very happy that I listened to my body and decided to switch from Roctane drink to water and gels late in the race.
  • I think all the things I changed about my training (XT, long tempos, more specificity, and speed work on infrequent basis) worked out super well. I will continue almost all of those practice moving forward, with some refinements.
  • I made a conscious decision to employ a run/walk pattern to slow down and I think it worked well. It is tough to employ on a hilly course, but the marked difference between running and walking provides a great opportunity to rest, eat, and drink. I normally walk hard on sections I walk, but then I never really allow myself to recover. And, walking hard just introduces new stress that I don't often train for.

What didn't work

  • Unfortunately, I suffered from some more friction blisters (like Leadville) on the bottoms of my feet.  Clearly, my sock and shoe combo has not worked well. I already retired my Saucony Peregrine shoes and I just ordered some new Balega Moh-rino socks.
  • While I didn't expect it to be 75-80 degrees, I probably should have spent a bit more time heat acclimation training.
  • I think I got a little careless (in both my 50's now) in the middle miles. This is similar to turning on the jets at mile 16 in a marathon. There is a fine line between exhibiting confidence and strength and blowing your race. Some more practice at the distance should help me find that line.

Areas of emphasis moving forward

The big thing here is that I plan to continue same basic training structure. I will probably divide my training a little differently by including smaller training blocks. And I will continue to tinker with ways that I can include more HR structure, fitness testing, and analytical scoring. Nothing is likely to change too dramatically, just refining of concepts that I am already putting into practice. There was a point where I thought I would increase my volume to something closer to 70 miles per week, but I don't see a huge advantage in doing that. I am able to race pretty darn well at my current level of 50 - 60 mile per week. And that level allows me to keep up with core and strength training. There may be a few weeks I hit close to 70 miles, but those weeks will be rare.

The one area that I will continue to experiment and evolve is my nutrition plan. There are two things that stand out here distinctly. The first is that I would like to experiment with relying less on sugar. There seems to be an emerging thought that eating sugar during a race has sort of circular effect: eating sugar spikes your blood sugar and that increases your body's dependence on sugar sources. The net effect is that you don't burn as much fat and have to eat more, theoretically. The other problem with sugar -- particularly drinks -- is that they can amplify the effects of dehydration. I would assume that is why sugary drinks started tasting bad and I preferred water later in the race. There is no guarantee I will do anything here, I just want to test some stuff.

The other thing that has started to stand out is that you really need more than one nutrition plan. In races lasting half a day or more, the things that taste good early won't taste good late. During this race, I really enjoyed eating solid food like Hammer bars early in the race. When I switched to gels for the second half, they didn't taste horrible to me. In fact, I found them easy to consume and somewhat pleasant. The point really is that you need to achieve a certain number of calories per hour. Having more than one way to get to that number is just another tool in your arsenal come race day. That requires that you train for more than one plan and have several options available on race day. I don't like to rely on food at the aid station because I cannot know how much I am eating that way. Instead, I consider all that stuff as over-and-above my minimum plan.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff here, AJ. Regarding prayer, I do it often in races when things get tough. I pray not for a time but for courage and sometimes for healing if I'm hurting badly. I'll have to tell you sometime about Leadville in 2010.... You did well at OP50 and it's always hard to train for a race like that through the winter. Congrats and be proud!