Friday, December 31, 2010

Long Ultras - What will you need, Where?

Clothing and equipment rules change your race is a 100K and up.  If the race is mountainous, the change is drastic.  Because you will be running into the night, or all night, you will have to plan ahead.  I will first explain my technique for "guessing" what my finish time will be.  Then, tell you how I actually figure out about how long it will take me to cover the distance from one aid station to the next.  I will use The Wasatch Front 100 which I ran in September as and example of how I developed my plan of attack.

1.  Figure out how long it will take to run the race.  Most people build to a 100 miler in a logical manor by running several 50ks then a 50 miler or two.  It would also be a good idea to throw in a 100K if you can find one.  I didn't exactly follow this plan.  I ran two 50Ks and headed out to Utah to run the Katcina Mosa 100K with 14,000+ feet of climbing.  I did not finish the race but I learned enough to successfully run the Pinhoti 100 here in Alabama three months later. 

If this is your first 100 miler, figuring out you finish time is pretty tough.  You will have run several 50Ks and a 50 miler or two before trying a 100 mile race.  Talk to people at these races, especially runners finishing about the same time as you.  Ask what 100 mile races they have done and what their finish time was.  If you plan to enter a 100 mile race in your area, (This is a good idea. Most race directors will organize runs over the race course, especially the most difficult sections.  Being able to run sections of the course in advance is a huge benefit on any 100 mile race.) you can probably find other runners that have run the race you intend to run.  If you can't you have to guess at a time.  GUESS SLOW!

2. Estimate how long it will take to reach each aid station.  When I was trying to plan for Wasatch I had no idea how long it would take me  to reach each seven AS that took drop bags.  Below is a chart of the distances to each.  
Aid Stations With Drop Bags MILE
Francis Peak – 18.76 mi 18.76
Big Mountain – 39.4 mi. 39.4
Lamb's Canyon – 53.13 mi – DB 53.13
Millcreek (Upper Big Water) – 61.68 61.68
Brighton – 75.61 mi. 75.61
Pole Line – 83.39 mi 83.39
Pot Bottom – 93.13 mi 93.13
The Homestead 100

The cutoff is 36 hours so I estimated I could finish in 34 hours.  Next, I went to the Wasatch 100 results page and picked out 6 runners that finished in about 34 hours.  I then copied their times at each aid station on a spread sheet and averaged the splits at the bottom.  I now had a way to estimate how long it would take me to get from one aid station to the next through the entire race.  Then I posted the times to the course profile to see how the times fit in with elevation.  At high elevation in Utah in early September and you may encounter temperatures as hot as 95 deg.  At night high elevation temperatures will likely be below freezing.  Using this information you can accurately figure what clothing you will need in drop bags at each aid station.  Most important, you will know where to put put the headlamps and flashlights.  (Note: It is a good idea to place a small flashlight at the aid station before you think you will need it.  Getting stuck an a trail in the dark without a flashlight could be a disaster.)  If your pace in the race is faster than you estimated, great.  You will just pick up a jacket a little earlier than needed which is much better then the alternative.  I actually did three time estimates for the course, 33 hours, 34 hours and 36 hours.  I will show the spread sheets I created later.

3. Now you can figure out what to put in each drop bag.  Below is the third section of the Wasatch profile showing how I calculated my estimated time.

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