Thursday, 16 June 2016

West Highland Way Race : Even Effort Splits

At time of writing there is now just a day and half left till the start of 2016 West Highland Way Race.  I will be running this 95 mile, 14.000ft ascent/descent race for the 3rd time.  Looking at my training logs I looks like in a similar shape as I was last year, and believe that I might be able to get near 19hrs if my day goes well.

In this post I'll outline the approach I'll take for pacing and provide splits generated by a spreadsheet I have written than applies Even Effort Splits to a range of finishing times so we can judge whether we are going too fast or slow to meet out finishing target time, or to judge how well we are maintaining pace.  If the day goes well you'll be able to maintain effort and stick closer to the Even Effort Splits, if the day goes less well then you'll steadily fall behind the Even Effort Splits.

Pacing to HR and Splits

A big part of my plan to maximize the chance of me achieving this lofty goal is to get my pacing right, for this purpose I'll use a mix of running to pacing to HR and using splits.

From previous races I know that I should be able to maintain an average HR  of around 135 for 20hrs racing, so a HR range of 130 to 140 would keep me honest.  10bpm roughly equates to running 40 seconds/mile faster or slower, so my pace can vary +20 seconds/mile on the flat.  On the hills I stay within this HR range or make sure the effort stays the same, but as consequence my pace will vary significantly, going much slower uphill, typically walking, and faster downhill, typically running if my legs and feet can handle it.

If you want to see what HR range might be appropriate for you my 130 to 140 range equates to 75% to 81% of my Lactate Threshold HR, or 70 to 76% of my max HR.   So if your Lactate Threshold HR (say HR during a 10k) is 160 then a range of 120 to 130 might be suitable.

The way I'll use the splits to check my progress through the day against the splits to see how it looks the day is playing out and what my projected finishing time might be if I can maintain the effort right to the end.  I really hope the 19hrs will come naturally as pacing in my target HR zone, but if a little out of touch then I may take the risk and up the intensity a little such as my targeting a 135 to 145 HR range, such as change would mean upping my average pace on the flat by 20 seconds faster, over the whole 95 miles we might expect this to mean 30 minutes quicker.

However, upping the intensity range is a gamble, if I push on too hard then I might be faster to next check point but risk burning out more and being unable to maintain the pace.

Upping intensity isn't just a matter of higher HR, your whole system is taxed more, muscles are working at a higher rate and will burn muscle glycogen stores more quickly, you generate more heat so will sweat more, more sweating will mean quicker rates of dehydration.  Blood flow to the stomach is also reduced when working harder so the amount of food and drink you can digest goes down.  Finally working harder is more stressful on the muscles, ligaments an bones so their structural resilience will be tested more.

Listen to the body will be key to figuring how much I might be able to bend the HR zone rules to fit my ego of finishing faster.  Listen to your ego too much and you'll be sure to crash and burn.

Even Effort Splits

Follows are series of splits that can be printed out/copy and pasted in race plans to give runners and crew an ideal of progress.

 Splits for Elite runners:
Even Effort Splits for 14hr (Course Record :-) to 17hr finishing time

Even Effort Splits for Good Club Runners, note the introduction of green times at the lower right part of the table, green numbers means that you are allowed to have a support runner with you at this point.  For Even Effort splits tracking 20 and 20:30hrs the green times appear but then disappear so you'd loose your support runner at the next check point when the time goes back into the black!
Even Effort Splits for 17 to 21 hr finishing time

Even Effort Splits for Sub 24hr crowd, note the green times again, here you can have your support runner with you. It only turns permanently green for 21hrs and slower so it's probably worth just thinking about this time as one where you can consider getting a support runner
Even Effort Splits for 20 to 24hr finishing time

Even Effort Splits for Middle of Field runners
Even Effort Splits for 23 to 27hr finishing time

Even Effort Splits for Back of Field runners.  Here it's important to take note of the time out cut off times, I've used the colour red for points where you'd be timed out.  Essentially if you are using Even Effort Splits and tracking for a 27:30hr finishing time you'll get timed out.
Even Effort Splits for 26 to 30hr finishing time
Timing out a runner who is successfully running Even Effort Splits at Balmaha even though they are capable of finishing in 27:30 seems a bit harsh, but if you look at my previous WHWR 2015 splits analysis article there are no Back of Field runners that come even remotely close to Even Effort Splits, so this point is really more hypothetical than anything else.

Realistically this means that Back of Field Runners can't use Even Effort Splits or pace by HR. Instead they will need to pace to comfortably meet the early cut offs then settle into a lower intensity that keeps them ahead of the next cut offs points but without getting to hurried early on as you will end up slowing down more in the end.

Crew and online folk assessing progress using splits

I will get my crew to keep track of my splits and mark them on the printed out splits as I go through the race so they can access how I'm doing.  What will result is a wiggly line as each leg won't be perfectly paced.  If I have the perfect day then we'll see a straight line down to my target 19hrs, if the wheels fall off then we'll steadily drop of this and likely see a diagonal line shifting to the left and to slower finishing times.

For folks following progress at home via twitter, facebook or the Sports Ident live tracking Website you'll be able to use this splits to access progress as well. Please note that the majority of the field don't manage to stick with Even Effort Splits so it's perfectly normal to see a diagonal progress through the race rather than just tracking down vertically.

For those following online, there is no timings generated for Drymen, Inversnaid and Lundavra so if you can have a long wait sometimes, the splits should give you an idea of how long, but as the splits are for runners who take an easy start/strong finish early on you'll find the above splits slower than those estimated online/via twitter/facebook updates and later in the race the above splits will suggest earlier times.  This discrepancy is due to Sports Ident using average splits rather than Even Effort Splits.

Best of Luck!!!!

This will be my last post till I finish.  Best of luck to all runners, crew and the legions of volunteers that are giving them time freely to make some magic happen for a 200 hardy souls.

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