Thursday, January 3, 2013

"12hr closed loop"- Mental challenge or Physical challenge?

Do I really know what I'm getting myself into?  I doubt it...... 

A couple of weeks ago I decided to enter the "Caboolture Historical Dusk till Dawn" 12hr Ultra Marathon.  A few points made this event appealling to me;  Firstly because it is 5 minutes from family making it a chance to see them again; secondly because it is in the middle of summer here in Australia so it's the unofficial 'off-season' for Ultra's and this gives me an opportunity to run one during February; and thirdly I intend on entering the Adelaide 24hr in July this year so I see this as a chance to test a few thnigs out in preparation.  Best try out my fuelling and pacing strategy on a 12hr before a 24............

I've run point to point Ultra's through picturesque trails, and these have been testing to say the least; but I found these both difficult but enjoyable simultaniously.  The constant variables along the trails, the twists and turns, the thought of "don't miss the next marker", the climbing over of fences, the dodging of cows all adds up to a rewarding adventure.  Such an adventure that it helps keep the aches and pains at bay from what consciousness you have left in the later stages of the race.

My current thoughts that plague my mind are "how will a 500m closed loop, flat crushed gravel circuit be different?";  "How will I stay mentally stimulated for 12hours on my feet?"

Thankfully I've been able to coerce both my younger sister (for the 6hr making it her largest running challenge to date), and a long term friend and colleague to join me on the gruelling task.  Although said friend will leave me for dead on laps; but at least he can only be a couple of hundred meters away at any time.  In addition to this, my Mother, older Brother and possibly my Father have offered to provide support trackside the whole way through.  Maybe this will be enough to break up the onerous task into 'bite sized' pieces.

Whatever happens, I know I'm in for a challenge.  100km is the goal.  My naively created pacing strategy has been set to 116km allowing for what I believe will be a managable pattern of running, walking and resting.  I know I'll be facing a few lessons along the way that will no doubt put this so called strategy to the test.  What I don't know is what these lessons will be and when they will show up.  Will it be a sensitive tummy like after 10hours of the last 100 I did?  Will it be leg and glute fatigue due to a slightly faster and constant run pace than I'm used to?  Will it be that I've never run through a whole night before so the body clock will shut me down.  Or will it be the tropical humidity?

Fuelling?  What to eat. What not to eat.  What to drink. How much. When.  So many variables to consider.  I've got a few staples that get me by on my long runs.  I now know to avoid high sugars after 6-7 hours as the tummy becomes a little sensitive.  So where will my energy come from?  My weekly long runs don't get me to the point of 6-7 hours to test this out.  What works for 2-3 hours doesn't mean it works after 6.  I learned this the hard way in the Heysen 105.  With no other option but trial and error (which is what this event is ultimately for I guess), I've decided on an 80/20 split then swap half way.  By this I mean I will aim to consume 80% simple carbohydrates & 20% complex carbohydrates for the first 4-6 hours, and then swap the %'s from there.  I know I'll need the fuel early as to not empty out too soon, but I also know I can't keep that pattern up for the whole 12 hours.

31st Jan 2013:
Well there's just over a week to go.  Nothing I can do in regards to training that will benefit me for the event except for REST and stay LOOSE.  In fact, any attempt to throw in any extra training now will have an adverse effect, rather than a positive.  Must rest.

There's been quite a substantial amount of heavy flooding in the local region to where the race is; mixed with the location being tropical, means to expect humidity figures of 85-90% plus for the race. Yuck!  When you consider I come from a very dry region, humidity is rarely heard of here, so that's going to be a challenge to reckon with.

Unfortunately my wife has been ill with the flu this past week, and while I seem to have fended it off, I can feel it's affect on me regarding energy and general wellbeing.  No actual 'sick' symptoms luckily but the body is clearly fighting it off.  I suspect this to be OK come race day........... hopefully!

Time to do a final check on race plan, fuelling, hydration, clothing, race bib, plane ticket, and especially focus on this coming week of diet/nutrition/hydration levels.  Must ensure good level of essential vitamins minerals & electrolytes.  That's this weeks focus.

Referring back to my original post on whether this event will be a physical challenge or a mental challenge.  I'd like to make an early call, and say BOTH.  However, each at different stages.  I personally believe an event doesn't begin when the 'gun' goes off at the starting line, but on the day you decide to enter!  That's when it all begins.  All the training you go through in preparation is what makes or breaks how you perform on the day.  So in respect to the given topic, I'd say the physical challenge is in the training leading up, with the mental challenge being the event and staying focused and on track through 12 gruelling hours.  Yes, it will be physically draining; I'm not denying that, but the training has prepared you for that so just keep pushing.  Now it's up to your emotional strength to trudge on through..........  Let's see if I'm right.  I guess I'll know soon.

100km, 12 hours................ one lap at a time.

24th Jan 2013:
OK, so just over 2 weeks left.  I've recently started my taper programme which has begun to show signs of recovery immediately.  Awesome!  I really needed it............  Mentally though, it frustrates me.  It makes me feel almost useless and that I should be doing something.  But at least it gives me a chance to focus more towards core strength training which is an area I sometimes neglect during peak distance times.
To throw a spanner in the works here though, I've had to make a late call on buying some new shoes....  I'm not convinced this is completely a good thing with only 2 weeks to go, but my old ones were just not suitable to push through another 100km.  With approxiamte 800km on them, the support was just trashed and I'm sure this would've radiated through to my legs at aroiund the 6hr mark of the race.
I trialled my original pacing plan last weekend to be faced with the fact it was not suitable.  So glad I tested it.  I've decided to reduce each leg of running and subsequently also the rest/walk breaks.  Overall target will still be circa 110km with ultimate target of 100km.
At this stage I'm more than confident of the first half, hitting circa 58-60km at the 6hr mark, but the following 40km will come down to the night, how my tapering went, and my mental fitness at the end of an allnighter.
200 laps............... 200 laps............. one at a time........... I've got this!

14th Jan 2013:
Just under 4 weeks to go. Recovering well from last weeks 93km Ultra, with a gentle 16km hills session. Could still feel fatigue on the inclines but no tightness or soreness at all. Looks as though the immediate protein/carbs consumption mixed with spending 2-3 hours in a cold pool really helped that day. Time to get back to specific race day training. This weekend will be spent doing final long run before taper starts. Here comes 6hrs on the Uni Loop (2.2km crushed gravel flat circuit) which best matched race circuit conditions. I'll be taking my race pacing and fuelling strategy with me to put it to the test. I'm not yet convinced I'll be 100% ready by race day to hit the target but we shall see.

5 weeks to go............. let's get this weeks 100km point to point done (which will be my first all-nighter), recover for a week, build back up gently for 2 weeks; then it's taper time..........

Should I not provide any update to this post within a few days after the 9th Feb, please tell my wife and kids I love them.........


  1. Very thoughtful, Matt!! I'm liking your style of writing, too.

    I guess it's time to put a bit more thought into my strategies for the race. I'm thinking it will be very interesting with the unknown variables.

    Can't wait!!!

    I've done a couple of all night rogaines. Starting at 12 midday going non-stop until dawn. Mental fatigue only set in at about 5 in the morning. A very brief doze got me back to sufficient alertness to keep running and navigating for another 5 hours. At least we won't have to worry bout the nav!!!

    1. Thanks mate. Just had my first all-nighter this weekend as you might've known. WHOA, what a challenge. Not the overnight bit, but the heat the next day.

      That said, it has given me more confidence for the 12hour. We were out there for 15 hours and had over 2200m of incline so I'm thinking 12hours at ZERO incline might be slightly refreshing. Just the constant pacing will be the test.

      Also can't wait.