Mar 2014

Speed: the final frontier

After the Spine the obvious question was: What next? In the few days immediately after the race I was seriously considering trying to get a Tor de Geants entry. But as the week went on and it became clear quite how badly I’d broken my head, I binned that idea. I definitely want to do it at some point, but two week long single stage races (and the resulting lack of sleep) in a year is too much for me.

Some of the people who were asking the question, were suggesting a seemingly obvious answer:
the Dragon’s Back. However, having seen the quality of runners who got timed out on day one last year, that’s way out of my league. And even if it wasn’t, stage races don’t really appeal; I’d much rather just keep going. In terms of pushing my limits distance/duration wise, one of the long Arctic races (the Iditarod Trail Invitation, the 6633 or the Yukon Arctic Ultra) really appeals. But that’s going to take some time to prepare for, and I’m not sure how/if/when I’m going to be able to take time off work during term-time. For now I’ve got one eye on the Rovaniemi 150 in 2015 or 2016 and have started slowly accumulating cold winter kit when it’s on special offer.

That still leaves the what next question. Over the last couple of years I’ve chopped a significant amount of time off my 100 mile PB. Going from
so embarrassingly slow that I got overtaken by elderly long-distance walkers to almost respectable. So an obvious question is ‘how low can I go?’ Could I even go sub 20 hours? At the moment, given my 4.18 marathon PB, that seems unlikely. But then even two years ago sub 23 seemed a million miles (or more accurately, 10 hours) away. Maybe it’s time to drop the ‘I’ve only got one speed, slow’ schtick and apply the same focus I put into preparing for the Spine into trying to get less slow.

And I’ve got another half-goal, which is so far beyond where I currently am that I’m almost embarrassed to write it down. I’ve told the OH, but as a non-runner he doesn’t realise it’s not too dissimilar to me expressing a desire to walk on the moon.
Spartathlon. 152 miles from Athens to Sparta including a mountain, and sweltering weather and a 36 hour cut-off. To qualify you have to have run 112 miles in 24 hours or completed a race of 125 or more miles within 37 hours. I’m tantalising close to the later having finished GUCR in 37:17 last year (and if I’d realised that’s what the new rules were going to be I might have tried to move a bit faster towards the end). But the qualifiers are a bit like needing a C at GCSE to do A-level Maths. You can start, but you won’t finish, not unless you seriously up your game. For one-speeded me the main issue is the tight early cut-offs. The cut-off at ~50 miles is 9:30. My 50 mile PB is currently 9:59...

So the plan is weekly speed work and hill repeats sessions, and, as a first step, trying to up my ‘run all day’ pace from 5 to 5.5 miles per hour (which would get me to 50 miles in ~9 hours). I’ve entered the
Gloucester 24 hour track race in June. Last year at the British Ultra Fest, despite a day which included a dodgy knee, blisters, puking and a lot of walking, I managed 103.3 miles. So 110 miles seems like an ambitious, but not insane, goal for this year.