Race Tactic for Ultra Trail Australia 50k
In the distant past I did some marathons, but all on flat courses. My race tactic was pretty simple. Running with an even pace to get the results I wanted to achieve. This sounds quite easy, but reality looked always a little different. At some point there was always some struggle and the run got slower than expected. But not that much slower.
Now it looks totally different. There is nearly no flat section on the Ultra Trail course. There is 2400 m elevation gain with 8185 stairs (4362 up and 3823 down). I got this information from a post at UTA 50 facebook discussion group. So how to pace something like this? The elevation profile can be found here.
The 100$ Equation
I have an imaginary 100$ amount of money to spent on the whole 50 km course. 2$/km. It is not advisable to go into debt, because in the best case I have to walk to the finish line and in the worst case I will have a DNF (Did Not Finish) showing on the result page. All what I don’t want. So where to spend my 100$ on the course and where to spare some money.
It is easy to over pace at the start and spend more than what is available. Everybody is excited and I could be caught in an emotional wave of running the first couple of kilometers too fast. So I must stay calm and take it easy, even if I will end at the end of my start group. To achieve this I will be monitoring my heart rate and stay close the my MAF heart rate which is 180-50 (my age) = 130 bpm.
Trying to keep my pace as long as possible when going uphill is my normal race tactic, but there are so many uphills that this would lead to spend more than I have available. Monitoring the heart when going uphill is alright, but I have to keep in mind that at the beginning of the hill the heart rate will not immediately start to rise and I could spend more $ than I want. So slowing down at the bottom of the hill is the only thing I can do to save some bucks.
I love running downhill. I can use the gravity to drag me down without much energy usage or with other words to spend less $ than necessary. Just spinning the legs faster and off I go. Especially the long descent from Kedumba Pass down to Jamison Creek (~ 600 m in 5.5 km) will be interesting after 31 km. The question will be if my legs are not already quite tired and if can roll down easily this section. But breaking to much seams not a good option as well, because this will burn up my thighs even more. This will be very tricky to pace. I will see.
As mentioned early there are many stairs. Many and than some more. And when I think I’m done with stairs, then it really starts. Some are steep, some are normal, some are natural other are man made. From my training I know that if my heart rate goes over 150 bpm my legs will very soon build a lot of lactate and I have to walk not only the stairs, but even the flat part for some time afterwards. So taking it super easy on the up will keep my legs from blowing up. Hopefully. And a special treat is waiting at the end,
950 stairs of Furber Steps (~ 200 m elevation gain in 1 km). For this I will need a little bit more then 2$/km.
Downstairs is some time to shake out my legs, my arms and my whole body. I did this all the time while training on stairs and it was good to release some tension which always builds up during a run. Making up some time downstairs is not my plan. It is to easy to fall over and that is not an options.
Nutrition and Hydration
A long run like this will not work without some nutrition and hydration. I will take 2 liters of pure water and some muesli bars with me. From the beginning I will be taking a sip of water every kilometer when my watch vibrates and every 10 km I will eat a muesli bar. At 17.2 km, 28.2 km and 41.2 km will be aid stations to fill up water and it will be possible to eat something. I will enjoy mostly fruits (bananas, apples etc.). Why? Because I’m used to do this in my training. No experiments on race day. Same with the drinks, pure water, no energy drinks or the kind. Some salt tablets will help me to keep my body’s water balance. That’s it.
Summing it up
Taking it easy and trying to enjoy every minute of the race up until to the finish line, is my primary goal for my first ultra run. No experiments on the nutrition and hydration side and all will be good. So far I did 700 km with 11000 m elevation gain in 2019. This is not a lot lot, but together with my race tactic it will eventually bring me to the finish line. For sure I will write a post how it actually went. Stay tuned.