Petestack Blog

19 May 2011

Pacing by feel

Filed under: Running — admin @ 5:34 pm

So you’re training for a big trail ultra like the West Highland Way Race, have discovered that even what you’d normally class as ‘easy’ pace is not only going to be unsustainable for the duration but disproportionately damaging later if indulged in early, need to find out what’s actually ‘safe’ to run and how to stick to it… but how? For WHW 2007 it took me ‘three months of work with a heart rate monitor to slow myself down and establish a pace I could truly maintain for the long haul’, followed by strict adherence to my self-imposed limit early in the race, then a similar strategy for last year’s WHW and Cateran Trail races. But, since I’ve hopefully taken all these lessons on board by now, am rarely using the HRM for anything else and more often than not running with no watch at all these days, I decided to try pacing this year’s Highland Fling with just the GPS watch (no HRM) in the intention of doing same for the WHW if I ‘got it right’. And here’s where things start to get interesting because not only did that work out OK, but my pacing for a return trip from Glencoe Ski Centre to Bridge of Orchy this Sunday with no HRM and barely a glance at the watch turned out to be absolutely identical (at 9:37 miling, which is 3 min/mile quicker than sub-20 WHW pace) to that from Blackrock Cottage to Inveroran (same course, but 4.6 miles shorter) achieved in March last year through religious adherence to a very narrow heart-rate band! Now, of course that’s way too fast for the whole WHW when I’m talking about pacing to slow myself down, but the point (with the key words being ‘absolutely identical’) is finding myself able to match HRM pacing by feel and a new confidence that I can do this just as effectively for 11-, 12- or 13-minute miles as 9:37.

Anyway, thought I’d try another ‘blind’ run on Tuesday evening, pushing the pace a bit more (but always comfortably) on an easier return trip from Bridge of Orchy to Tyndrum, looking at the watch just once at the turn (8:47 average out) and again at the end (8:30 overall, so 8:13 back in the easier direction?). Then to the Blackwater Dam and back last night with (as usual on my regular courses) no watch at all, but (from a glance at the clock on my return) bang on 9-minute miling. Might add that all three runs described here were undertaken in foul (wet and often windy) conditions, with Sunday’s producing a staggering 4kg weight loss in 3½ hours (even good breathable waterproofs still being unwanted layers in terms of overheating!) after consuming just two cereal bars and c.400ml of Accelerade while out and the other two done (as normal when I’m just out for a couple of hours) with nothing to eat or drink. Haven’t quite decided yet how this all affects my strategy for the all-important WHW (will probably still be deliberating through Mugdock Park!), but it’s always reassuring to know I can maintain a respectably consistent pace over fair distances without the sustenance you might assume that requires (but can’t always take on in the ‘ultra’ context). Also maybe leaning towards starting ‘slower’ rather than ‘faster’, but know I’ll be running my own race whatever anyone else does and it should (assuming no cat-among-the-pigeons, oppressive blue-sky heat!) be the right race at the right pace for me.


  1. Interesting post Peter. Sounds as though you are running well.

    We’ll be running through Kinlochleven on Sunday early afternoon. If you see us give us a wave!

    Comment by John Kynaston — 20 May 2011 @ 7:02 am

  2. […] further thoughts here to follow Thursday’s Pacing by feel post, with a potentially hugely significant conclusion about my optimum WHW pacing strategy. So, to […]

    Pingback by Slowing it all down « Petestack Blog — 21 May 2011 @ 10:28 pm

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