Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon 2014 Splits, Cutoffs and Race goals

On Saturday 2th October 2014 will be the third Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon, so in this post I'll publish a way to estimating finishing time, splits for a range of finishing times between 5hrs (course record pace) through to 9hrs, discuss cut offs and finish up with my own race goals.

Pacing sensibly is the key to running fast and enjoying oneself

I ran this race last year using my heart rate monitor as a guide and paced the race pretty evenly, save for the last 8 miles when cramp started to slow me and finally a navigational error added a bit over two minutes to the last leg, finishing in 6:28:38 in 11th place out of 100 finishers.  I was second fastest over the second half as percentage of finishing time, only bettered by Edward Crockett who I ran with for a while before cramp hit, he then powered away to finish 6 minutes ahead of me.  Ed's last leg back from the Maxton checkpoint was only 6% slower than the first leg to Maxton - while the average for the 100 finishers last year was a 32% slow down.  
I believe that starting out at the intensity you can manage for the whole race is crucial for running your best race, judging this purely by feel is hard so I have used my heart rate monitor as a guide for pacing my own ultra's.  Splits are still helpful in judging how well one is progressing towards different time goals, and can serve as a early warning that one is probably going too fast, or to speed up if one behind a schedule that you feel is possible.  

The vast majority of the field start out too fast so normally one needs to take heed of going through the first check point faster than is sustainable and then slow down to make sure you don't burn out and end up slowing dramatically in second half.  Slowing isn't inevitable - it's a direct consequence of going out too fast, so don't go out fast because you expect to slow down as it's the initial quick pace that is cause of the bulk of the later slow down.

While my own pacing last year wasn't quite perfect, with a little tweaking I believe it's should be a pretty good basis for running to the best of your abilities so have used it as basis for the splits below - the slow down I have accounted for is 5% which is close to what Ed achieved last year.  Back in 2012 I wrote a post on Jedburgh Ultra Splits but these were based on guesses for a race that hadn't been run yet, so this year's splits should be much better guide. 

Estimating finishing time

Selecting splits requires us to know roughly what time we might be able to expect.  Last year I ran a 10k in 39:36 and the Jedburgh Ultra in 6:26:28 (factoring out the navigational error) which is a ratio of 9.76.  So as a rough guide would be to take your current 10k time and multiple it by 10.  

Someone who is excels at ultra's relative to shorter distances you could use a lower ratio than 10, while one who struggles more with longer races may want to choose a higher ratio.  I'd guess a range of 9 to 12 times 10k time would probably be good enough for most runners.

Estimating Jedburgh Three Peaks Time from 10k times  
The rules for the Jedburgh Three Peaks have the final finishing time at 10hrs, and the last finisher at last years race squeezed in at 9:53.  The above table includes time estimates over 10hrs, so if you have a slow 10k time then you'll need to be very mindful of running a well paced race to make sure that you can finish under the cut off time.

Splits - 5hrs to 6hrs

Splits - 6hrs to 7hrs

Splits - 7hrs to 8hrs


Splits - 8hrs to 9hrs


Splits - 9hrs to 10hrs


Official Cut off times:

From the Three Peaks web page:
  • Maxton 10 miles – three hours (11.00am)
  • Rhymer’s Stone 18 miles – five hours (1.00pm)
  • Maxton 28 miles – eight hours (4.00pm)
  • Finish Line – ten hours (6.00pm)
If you have a look at my splits for a 10hr finishing time, you'll see it has 10:26am at Maxton (CP1), 12:14pm for Rhymer's Stone (CP2), and 3:26pm for Maxton (CP3) giving you 2:33 to make it to finish in time.  All of these times are well ahead of the official cut offs, and are based on only a 5% slow down so assume you'll be finishing strong. 

The official cut off times for the second half effectively require a negative split, so if you are struggling to beat them then you will almost certainly not make the 10hr cut off.  

Realistically I think one should base your cut offs from my splits if one wants to have a chance of making it back before the 10hr cut off.  If you look at the average pace required it's ranges from 14:37 min/mile pace for the first leg through to 17:39min/mile pace for the slowest leg between Rhymer's Stone and Maxton.  This means for all legs you'll need to do a substantial amount of running on the flatter and downhill sections to balance the uphill walking sections.

If you expect to be close to the 10hr time limit then I'd recommend making sure you pace efficiently and start easy with run/walking strategy right from the first section.  For reference running for 10 minutes, walking 10 minutes at 10min/mile and 20 min/mile respectively, will give you an average of 13:20 min/miles which is under the pace required for all the legs for a 10hr finishing time.

My own race goals and pacing strategy

Looking at my training logs I look to be in a similar shape to what I was for last years Three Peaks race so will expect a time in the 6:15 to 6:45 range is possible so will be printing off the 6 to 7hr splits and use this for reference as I progress through the race. 

I will pace myself minute by minute using my heart rate monitor.  At last year's race I average a heart rate of 158 beats per min (bpm), but slowing down in the last 8 miles due cramp brought the average down.  For this years River Ayr Way (RAW) Challenge I finished in 6:15 with an average heart rate of 160 bpm so expect if I can avoid cramp this year I should be able to achieve a similar heart rate.

When racing one can't precisely run to a specific heart rate so one just tries to stay within a small range around the target heart rate, with the range starting slightly lower in the first miles and moving higher in later stages as heart rate drift takes affect.  Practically this will mean aiming for a 155 to 160 HR in the first few miles, then 158 to 163 for the bulk of the race and 160+ in the final miles.

As I'm racing I'll try and finish as strongly as I can and leave everything out on the trail. This means if I have the energy and legs for it will happily ignore the HR monitor range once I know I'm going to make it safely back.  In the RAW I got my heart rate up to 180 in the finishing sprint and all going well will do something similar this Saturday!

My goals for the day are:
  • Platinum : sub 6:10
  • Gold        : sub 6:20
  • Silver      : sub 6:30
  • Bronze    : sub 6:45
For all those racing, good luck and see you on the start line :-)

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