My goals for Lakeland 50
All righty, all right, only two days until the biggie... You hear all those stories that part of the ultra-running charm are the communities that those folks create and I'm sure I haven't seen any yet but the Lakeland Facebook page and the massive amount of activity there gave me some idea; trust me, those guys are breathing running.
In fact it was there that I saw a fellow runner, John Kynaston, setting bronze, silver and gold goals for himself. I liked the idea so much that I decided to borrow it :). So here are my three goals for this Saturday.
Bronze: finish within the 24h limit
On the face of it, this may sound like a not very ambitious goal; I mean, how hard can it be to do just over 3K per hour? I don't want to be disrespectful for the course, but I suspect I could do that. Thing is: I won't be going for 24h hours; more likely half of that (I won't even mention that before the 24h time limit is over, I'll need to be well on my way to the Manchester airport to catch my flight ;). And there's a whole plenty lot of things that can happen that could make finishing hard, such as:
- Totally new setting. People say that specificity is the key in ultra-marathon training. If you're going to race on mountain trails, train as much as you can on mountain trails. I am going to race on mountain trails, but most of my training I did on flat roads of Amsterdam. Should be fun...
- Lack of ultra experience. This is essentially my first ultra. (Because let's be honest, 50K in Assen hardly counts). Moreover the longest continuous running I ever did was for 5 hours; now I'll have to do more than double that.
- Ascent. 3100m of ascent is not to be taken lightly. That's 39meters of ascent per every kilometer. And that's almost four times as much as during my typical Nescio bridge hill training (!!!). Scary. I sense serous suffering.
- Lousy training. I actually though I did pretty well in terms of preparations, apart from the last two weeks "wasted" on biking instead of running. Until a friend of mine set the record straight. Yes, May was good (311km), but June and July were lousy (175 and 150km, respectively). Not good. Not good at all.
- Weather. The forecast is pretty good with 11-15 degrees and little rain; but if there's rain: rainy trails on the fells + road running shoes = serious trouble for me.
- Navigation. I'll be the first one to admit this is not my strong suit. Add to that running at night and me getting lost is a very real possibility indeed.
That's a long list so, even putting aside possibility of injury, I'll consider myself lucky if I finish the race. So this is a very real goal and actually the most important one for me.
Given the lack of experience I mentioned above the big dilemma I was facing was: how do I actually set a reasonable goal for myself when I have no clue? I decided on what seemed like the only reasonable approach: I took results from the last year and decided to aim for a certain position in the pack. For silver I aimed for the top 25%, which roughly translates to 13:30.
Now, isn't 25% too conservative? After all, even in my slowest marathon ever (Copenhagen, 3:40, partly walked) I was in the top quarter of the pack. Well, again, look at all those reasons outlined above. Then look at the withdrawal rate of Lakeland and compare it to any marathon. Finally, with more than 10 marathons under my belt I consider myself relatively experienced marathon runner, whereas for ultras; well, look above one more time ;)
The same logic and the goal to be in the top 10% gave me a rough figure of 12 hours. Sure, I typically finish marathon in the top 10%, but I'm under no illusion that this is what I can expect from this race. Far from it. So I think that would be a really great achievement.
The famous Dutch runner, Jan Mens (also known as Speedy Jan), once said that for such races "It's all in your head". For once, I hope his right, because my preparations being sub-optimal at best, I hope to make up for it with strong will to finish.
The same Jan advised me to aim for a 10 hour finish time target, but when he did so he did not realize that last year such time would give me 9th overall place out of 404 finishers. So no 10h for me, but if I can finish before midnight on Saturday (start-time is noon) I'll be super happy!
I'm pretty obsessive about numbers. I count kilometers run every week, I calculate pace, I crunch numbers and check watch regularly during almost every run. But running is so much more than that. Especially in a nice setting, and that's one that Lakeland district will certainly provide, one should be looking around taking in surroundings, instead of focusing on one's watch. I'd like to learn to do that better and to enjoy my running more for the process itself and less for the fact that I can chalk up some extra kilometers in my log. My long Sunday runs went a long way towards that goal. But I truly believe that the secret to that lies in the trails. And I hope with this race I'll make a big step towards that goal.
So actually there's a platinum goal for me as well: to enjoy myself. Howgh.
Thanks for the support guys!
Thanks to everyone for support. To conserve battery I may not be using live mode of Endomondo in this race (except perhaps for the last few hours). But there'll be a live monitoring (updated at all checkpoints) at the official site of the event (I'm no. 522). Wish me good luck!
P.S. I just performed the ritual (as it seems) weighting of my backpack: 2.7kg (without liquids, but with gels properly in place).