Sunday, January 22, 2017

Back on track. And struggling to get slower...

How dare I, what impudence with such a post title! But let me explain what I mean...

First, amidst so much frustration with the current politics and direction of our country, what a joy and pleasure it is to run bad-pain-free. I had so many interrogations in the Fall of 2016, every run was filled with some incidence of leg or foot pain, I was wondering where I was going. Of course I can feel my legs but I'm back to being able to forget about it so I can do some good work in my training sessions. Including getting back to speed!

Now, I have quite a few diverse goals in February, ranging from a flat 50K (Jed Smith), and hilly one (Fourmidable 50K Trail Nationals) and a 24-hour event on a track. Thankfully, no speedy 5K but, yet, running for 24 hours is very different from a short ultra. For the 24-hour I desperately need to get slower and I'm struggling with that, hence the title of this post.

It has been a while since I've gone to the track, actually more than 9 months, this is so embarrassing. It was with Bob and Jeremy and the rest of the year flew by between a crazy work, business travel and racing schedule for me, and a bike accident for Bob. Earlier shit week, I saw a post on Facebook from Rich Riopel, currently #9 on the Team USA qualification list for the upcoming World 24-hour championships, relating one of his track training run: 112 laps in 4 hours, that is 8:30 min/mile pace. That's even faster than what we can indulge during 24 hours, but I thought I'd give that a try.

It was supposed to rain all weekend but the rain somehow stopped around 9 and I started my laps at the nearby Cupertino High School track around 11 am. There was a bit of breeze but not offering too much resistance overall. Basically, the exercise consisted in running laps in about 2-2:15 minutes.

First, the good news: I was able to...

  1. run laps for 4 hours, more than I have ever done while training on a track;
  2. hold a super steady/regular pace for the whole 4 hours;
  3. get a standard deviation for all the laps of 2.3 seconds;
  4. and run three of the laps right on 2:00 minutes!
At this point, you must wonder what went wrong then, don't you? Here are the not so good news:
  1. well, the three laps at 2 minutes were actually the slowest, and they happened when I stopped for a few seconds to grab a Snicker bar or change GU2O bottles;
  2. all the other laps were faster then, averaging 1:53, that is, way too fast;
  3. I ended up squeezing 127 laps in 3 hours and 58 minutes, about 32 laps per hour (a total of 31.6 miles, or 50.8 kilometers);
  4. I need to get much slower than that...!
Not quite the 7:10 min/mile pace reported by this GPS watch (based on the length of the track, my average pace was 7:33), but still way too fast than a targeted 8:30 or 9:00 min/mile allure...

But the thing is that it was quite a comfortable pace for 50K in 4 hours. One strategy would be to stop once in a while. I know some competitors alternate running and walking; that would surely slow me down as I'm a slow walker, but I don't like walking for a start. And stopping has it drawback too as it's usually hard to get moving again. No, the solution seems to just run slower, which is of course not an issue once you bonked, but what a challenge it is for me at the beginning of a race...

At least, in the process, I was able to test my new Garmin Forerunner 230 on the track. I will write more about this new GPS watch in another post later, in the meantime, here are a few shots comparing the recording with my Garmin Forerunner 310XT. The big differences are:
  1. Garmin 230: distance: +0.9%, elevation gain: 806 feet instead of 0 (maybe I'm swinging my arm too much?), no lap recording (by distance only).
  2. Garmin 310XT: distance: +5.3% off, elevation gain: 10 feet (close enough), lap by position recording.
I was hoping to use my new watch (given at 14 hours of autonomy) for the 24-hour, but the lap-by-position recording is very convenient to avoid keeping count. I found that update, and tried it this Sunday, but couldn't get the number of laps to be displayed (only the current lap-by-position average pace). In any event, while I find strange that Garmin isn't stepping to the plate (this is a just a developer's contribution), this isn't going to display as much information as the lap-by-length feature. What a limitation, and I'm glad I didn't even go to the Fenix watch, which has the same limitation. And it's called progress...

By the way, I also found this amazing resource answering all the questions you may have related to mileage on track. It contains many online calculators, here are just two excerpts of that long web page:

I don't know who you are, but thank you Coach Dino!!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting additional guidance from 24-hour veterans, both on the training strategy to get slower (sic), and the use of GPS devices to keep track of progress while running in circles for 24 hours...! For the others, sorry for this boring story of running 127 laps on a track, alone and just for the sake of training. For my defense though, I'd say that I saw a few people coming in to the track and field, either to run, jog, walk, play soccer, folks who stayed for a few of my laps, and that was a sane distraction from checking my watch at every lap. Great training practice overall, let's work and play hard!

Garmin Connect - Garmin Forerunner 230
 Garmin Connect - Forerunner 310XT
 Strava - Garmin Forerunner 230
 Strava - Garmin Forerunner 310XT


Roy Pirrung said...

Jean, the more you do these, the slower you will get--I guarantee it! See you in a few miles...roy.

runstephane said...

For my first (of two) 24h I try to alternate running and walking (about 6'/1' I think) from the start...with very good result at the end, and it only goes for few hours: I found my pace (running only) ~6h in. For occasional 24h runners, I think it's a very good strategy. Amha it's foolish to start at 250K-pace if your target is "only" 220; with chance you'll improve your record but it will not be optimized at all.
Happy trails/track/road ;+)