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Reverse-engineering the Ultramarathon

Monday, January 9, 2012

Now I've done it.

I dropped it in the mail this morning - my registration for Mind The Ducks 12 Hour this May.

This is the second step in my new 'Master Plan' for the next phase of my development as an ultrarunner (or maybe the third step - it's not that well-developed a plan).  As mentioned in this previous post, the big goal for this year is a 50M trail ultra this fall.  I plan to post more on that after registration opens, if I get in.

Mind The Ducks is pretty much the exact opposite of the goal race:

  • The goal race is a 25M, out-and-back course.  Mind The Ducks is a half-mile loop.
  • The goal race has 10,000' of elevation gain.  Mind The Ducks is flat.
  • The goal race is mostly single-track trail through state forests.  Mind The Ducks is a paved walking path around a duck pond in an urban park.
  • The goal race is either run 50M within the cut-off, or DNF.  Mind The Ducks is finish one loop and, hey, you're a finisher
So what does Mind The Ducks have to do with preparing for the goal race?  I see it as an early opportunity to get a feel for what going beyond 50K is like.  If I can run 12-minute miles for 10 hours that's 50 miles.  That leaves a two-hour slush fund for whatever it is that makes that performance not possible for me.  And then I'll maybe know something about what new problems I personally have trying to run more than 25-30 miles in a day.  I think that will be invaluable knowledge that will improve my chances of a successful race in the fall.

Besides, the history of ultrarunning is actually much more about running around in circles on a short loop - even a track - than running on trails, and many veterans who I really respect are a little put off by how much trail running has taken over the sport, and how little respect is sometimes paid to road and track events.  Even though I love trails and got into this because I started running on trails, I want to give this a try and maybe gain some personal appreciation for it.

So this coming May the 12th (Lord willing) I will be trying to run at least 103 circles around a duck pond in Rochester, in 12 hours or less.  If I pull it off I will have my first 50M finish (which some of those old-timers actually consider the first 'real' official ultra distance).

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