A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thoughts - May 12 - Massanutten Baby! Final Strategy

Finally! My strategy for Massanutten is below. Hopefully I can rely on this strategy for the entire race. If I go into "survival mode" a bit early, well, I'm going to have to improvise on the spot. But at least this strategy looks good on paper!

Three Phases Of The Hundred Mile Course

To summarize, the 60/30/10 formula worked at the Vermont 100. I will be sticking to that formula again.

The "60" refers to the first 60 miles of the race. This is the race where I am at my strongest. It is daytime, at regular waking hours, and a good crowd is cheering runners on at each aid station.

Sixty miles is a good psychological number because I am more than halfway through the race when this phase ends.

The "30" refers to the next 30 miles of the race. This will be from 60 to 90 miles. This will be the "survival mode" and will probably be the toughest part of the race. These miles will be mostly done at night, at cool temperatures. Sleep deprivation is a major factor of this phase and, except for those willing volunteers at the aid stations, there is nobody on the course cheering people on. It is lonely, cold, and very exhausting to even move after a long day of running. 

It is also very difficult to navigate the rocky trails at night with only a small portion of the trail lit up from my headlamp.

The "10" refers to the last 10 miles of the race. This will be the "will to finish" portion, because if I manage to get to mile 90 of the race, I will drag myself to the finish, even if I have to use my teeth for propulsion.

The last 10 miles of this race will most likely be during the morning of the next day, so the sun will serve as a pick-me-up and should rouse myself from the stupor that I would probably be in for most of the night.

Drop Bags

Three drop bags in total, all placed in key sections of the course where one phase changes into another.

The first drop bag will be at Habron Gap (53 miles). The drop bag will be my Camelbak. Inside the Camelbak will be an older headlamp, a short sleeve singlet, a long sleeve running shirt, a pair of running sandals, some Bag Balm, socks, Band Aids, and some toilet paper. Although I'm hoping to reach the next aid station (camp Roosevelt) at 63 miles before dark, it would be good to have all that I need in case I arrive at this aid station slower than usual. Plus, the Camelbak will probably be needed for the tough 9.5 mile stretch between this aid station and the next.

The second drop bag will be at 63 miles (Camp Roosevelt). This drop bag will have a couple of pairs of shoes and socks should I decide to change to a different pair. My newer headlamp will also be here for the long night's run. If I needed to use the older headlamp at mile 53, I'll be switching to the newer one here. I will also pack a thicker long-sleeve running shirt in case the weather turns real cool.

The third drop bag will be at the Gap Creek Aid Station (at miles 68.7 and at mile 95.5). Since I have access to this bag twice, I will have stuff from both night running plus running for the next day. Bag Balm, Band Aids, and fresh socks will also be included in this bag. A thick running jacket will be packed here in case I do get cold (which is a strong possibility). I will also carry a short sleeve singlet for mile 95.5, most likely in daylight when the temperatures start to rise again. I will also have another pair of running sandals available, just in case.

I will also carry a 4th "drop bag" from the starting line. This bag will be deposited at Aid Station 2 when I drop off my first headlamp after dawn breaks.

There will be absolutely no food in the bags. My ultra training history shows that about 90% of food that I place in these bags go untouched. The aid stations will have what I need for nutrition and hydration.

Clothes for the Start

Basic singlet, running shorts, running shoes with some cushioning, a water bottle carrier that goes in my hand, and a fuel belt with Bag Balm, toilet paper, and some Band Aids will be worn for the start. I aim to travel lightly for the first 53 miles of the race. The extra gear will be needed during the night-time hours. But until then, I want to stay light.

Race Strategy

My first goal is to make Camp Roosevelt (Mile 63) by daylight. If I can do that, I eliminate traversing a tough 9.5 mile stretch of trail between Habron Gap and Camp Roosevelt at night. With that done, I would have a great shot at finishing this race, no matter how I might feel during the overnight run. This is the reason why I want to be a little aggressive during the first 60 miles.

Even then, if I don't make it to Camp Roosevelt by nightfall, I do have the equipment at Habron Gap (Mile 53) to traverse that section by night, including cooler weather clothes and an older headlamp.

For the next 30 mile section, the strategy, like in Vermont is to "keep moving". In Vermont, I knew that my legs were going to stiffen up if I stopped, so I prevented that from happening by spending only 3-4 minutes at an aid station, then walking away quickly. Even the act of walking will prevent my legs from stiffening up. In Vermont, the only time I had to stop for an extended period of time (treating the blisters on my feet and changing socks), it was a good 10 minutes of walking very gingerly before my legs started to stiffen up. If I can minimize those episodes, then I can get myself through this phase very quickly.

For the last 10 miles, it's just willpower baby! Grit my teeth, put one foot in front of the other, and think about crossing that finish line, because it would now be within reach!

Well, wish me luck! This will be my last post before the race, so expect a (hopefully good) race report on the race next week.

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