Monday, June 21, 2010

To Walk or Not to Walk

To walk or not to walk, no one piece of Ultra running has perplexed me more than this.  Ultra running has required learning or relearning many things.  I'd never tried to eat in the middle of a run before, but knew that I would need to, and I learned how.  With food, it was math ish.  Finite energy storage, calories expended over x period of time, required calories consumed before I was done.  People can make this very complicated, but the bottom line was I needed to eat, and so, I do.

Walking though?  Of course, the further the distance, the slower you go.  And of course, you learn to try and run slower early and save something for late.  It doesn't always work out that way, but that's a wise plan to follow.  So at some point, distance really, going slower becomes walking.  And, following this logic, if you know you're going to walk some of a given distance, it's wise to walk early, but it feels wrong.  What feels right is to run until you just can't anymore and then survive.  But I would never have a marathon plan that was, run 10k pace until you just can't anymore and then survive.  I told you this has perplexed me.

So, I'm going to share my recent experiences and experiments, and reveal a plan that will have buried in it, a prediction of sorts for the Lean Horse Hundred, my first 100 miler in August.  I can't reveal the plan without the prediction being obvious, but there is little to no boasting in the prediction.  The appeal of Ultras to me is the flirting with failure, and I'm very well aware of the potential for failure.

Eh, walking.  When I first started running, I learned the Galloway training method, which has you run a certain amount of time and then walk a certain amount, 5 minutes run, 1 minute walk.  I always felt stupid doing it in races.  Every body that I knew that ran, used this, and I was warned that if I didn't walk, bad things would happen to me, that might even involve my soul.  Like may religious warnings, I decided to take my chances, and stopped walking.  Nothing happened, except I got much faster.  But, even since that apostasy I have walked in races.  I've blown up in marathons and walked some of the last few miles in.  I walked in the Crater Lake Half Marathon when the hill was so steep that I thought it would be faster to walk, it wasn't. 

And I walked in my first Ultra, a 50 miler, last October.  In that, I walked with a plan, sort of.  The plan was 30 minutes run, 2 minutes walk, eat a little every hour.  I didn't come close to following that plan.  With the exception of slowing briefly at aid stations to get a full bottle, I didn't walk until I was 15 miles in, it just seemed silly to walk sooner than that, even though that was my plan. I walked quite a bit from mile 28 to 30, then recovered and ran/walked on a schedule until mile 36, then the schedule was driving me crazy, so I ran when I felt like it, even a pretty quick 42nd mile and walked when I needed to to the finish.  I was pleased with my finish and my time, but did feel like a little saved early would have served me well late. 

This brought me to the really perplexing part of walking, how slow is too slow? I do think there is speed, where to go any slower is not really saving any energy, you're just not as far down the trail as you would have been.  Maybe some people derive more psychological benefit from resting early, but I'm little high strung, and get antsy waaaay too easy.  I know that I can't trust myself and that I need a schedule.  I also know that any schedule works well on long run workouts.  So, I've decided to go with a run for an hour, walk 5 ish minutes ish.  I know that early in the race the walks won't be 5 minutes and that towards the end the run won't be an hour but the better I manage that transition the better I'll do.

I can't think this far and not start doing some arithmetic, and I can't do that with having some expectations.  Not really a prediction, but I have to believe in my training and need to have a goal.  And so the thinking goes this way, running slow and easy and walking 5 minutes once an hour is around 9:30 a mile.  I think my training will allow me to maintain that for the first 60 miles.  That gets me to 60 miles in 10 hours, then, I know, things will get interesting.  I'll be over the moon giddy to go under 20 hours, very happy with anything under 22 hours and completely satisfied with a sub 24.  Walking and eating P n J sammiches.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh! There is the first fifty and then there is the second fifty! Both need a plan and what I found works best is to run when you can and walk when you have to. The best laid plans don't ever seem to work in ultra running so have 2-3 plans so you always have something to look forward to. Keep the Pace! and Good luck...