This year the pressure is one to set another PB as I've PB'd in all the repeat races I've done since the RAW last year. Training had been going really well until I strained my left calf on a 21 mile long run at race pace last Saturday. This week I've been resting up to let the injury heal, and today (Thursday) I ran a 4 mile at very gentle pace (9:50 min/mile) to test everything out. My left calf didn't complain, and only experienced a little discomfort right calf above my Achilles. While not perfect, it's not something that will prevent me from being on the line at 9am on Saturday.
The graph below of my training illustrates the mix of training paces and distances, and how my 10k training morphs into ultra training with tempo runs being swapped for longer runs. Also note the green bars on the right which are the times went I went out for walks as form of active recovery.
As usual I've been tracking my heart rate, calories burned per mile on my training runs and putting it through a spreadsheet that aims to estimate my current fitness level and what race times I might be able to achieve by extrapolating each training run to the target race distance, adjusting pace for heart rate drift, typical average HR and the length and elevation profile of the course. Lots of data but given how many variable there on race day that you can't take account of these estimates ]aren't ever going to be perfect, but they should give me a rough idea of where I'm at.
All my runs this month suggest a sub 6hr time is possible, however, this assumes an average HR of 160, just a tad higher than I achieved last where I averaged 159. As I'm expecting to not need to run for so long running at higher intensity should be possible.
However, this last month my heart rate for given pace was been unusually low - a good sign of fitness, but it could well be that my idea race pace heart rate is also lower, if it were as low as 156, then my race time predictions all slow down by 13 minutes. If this is the case then a time around 6:10 might be more likely. If a lower HR is optimal on the day and I tried to exceed it what will happen is that in the later half of the race I would fatigue far more and invite the possibility of cramp and end up slowing dramatically. In such a situation overall pace would be slower and final average HR would also likely be lower the original overly optimistic goal HR that one started out with.
Another factor are conditions on the day - if the route is more muddy the pace for given heart rate is low, and on a hotter day again the pace is lower. It's been unusually dry this September so mud shouldn't be a big concern, but with 17 degrees forecast it could get quite warm for running, especially if the sun makes an appearance.
One also has issues like cramp or injury that affect the result too. Last year I struggled with cramp for the last ten miles, but then raced off my lower training mileage. If I can avoid cramp then running strongly in the last ten miles should be possible as long as I don't go out too fast.
However, having been injured in running 21 miles last weekend, running 41 miles might raise the possibility that I might have nurse injuries along. This week I've done everything I can to heal my calf injury and make sure I'm fully recovered and rested.
For pacing I'll adopt the same approach as I've used in all my races since last years Devil O'the Highlands - pacing by heart rate. Given a bit of uncertainty about just what heart rate is appropriate I will run the first hour keeping my heart rate below in the 150 to 155 range and see how I feel, and also see how I'm progressing relative to 6hr splits. If I'm well ahead of the splits, feel like my pace is quite hard but my heart rate is remaining low I'll stick to a 155 to 160 range till the last 10 miles, then see if I am still fresh enough to up the intensity to put away a sub 6hr time.
If my heart rate does rise quickly like it normally does in races then I'll assume that 160 average is reasonable target and aim for a range around 158 to 162. Again in the last 10 miles I'll review how things are progressing, if all is well I'll stick to this or push on harder and allow my heart rate to go up into the 160 to 165 range.
I will need to be cautious though, last year I let my heart rate drift up into the 160 to 165 range from mile 8 to mile 31, but then got hit my cramp and had to nurse my legs to the finish, unable to keep up the intensity. Last year I would have better off keeping the heart rate range lower as this would have likely held off cramp from longer.
If you are wondering about using heart rate for pacing yourself then you'll need to recalibrate the ranges for your own body. My max heart rate is over 190, and my lactate threshold is usually up around 175bpm. My average heart rate in the Killin 10k back in August was 174bpm. The 160 average is roughly 92% of my 10k heart rate.
As it'll be good weather on Saturday I'll wear compression shorts, t-shirt and as it should be relatively dry underfoot for most of the route I'll put my F-Lite 252's on my feet. The F-Lite shallow lugs work really well on road and dry trails, but don't grip well in mud so any mud I encounter I'll just take it a little slower to avoid slipping. I'll also wear Dirty-Girl Gaiters to avoid getting debri in my shoes, it's as much peace of mind though - once they are on you don't have to worry about stuff getting in your shoes and you can just run.
So two more sleeps now, then race day. Been itching to find out just what shape I'm in for a couple weeks now. Good looking spreadsheet results mean nothing compared to a real race, and that's where all the fun is too.
My goals for the RAW will be:
- Gold : Sub 6 hrs - if I am able to run the perfect race
- Silver: Sub 6:20 hrs, should be possible if nothing bad happens
- Bronze : Sub 6:47 hrs given how well this year has gone so far not getting a PB will be disappointment
Another loose goal I have is to get in the top 10 again. I came 7th last year, my first top ten finish in Scottish Ultra Marathon Series race, the field looks a similar size this year, it's be great improve upon this, but it's as much down to how many good runners turn up on the day as it is my own ability. My primarily goal will be racing myself against the clock though, exploring just how fast I can push myself over the course on the day.