Petestack Blog

21 May 2011

Slowing it all down

Filed under: Running — admin @ 10:27 pm

Some 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 skip briefly over yesterday’s run (Fort to Kinloch by the Lairig Mor after work at an average 9:35 mile pace, and notable only for another soaking plus chance encounters with John O’Neill as I left the Fort and Ian and Sandra coming the other way just north of Blar a’ Chaorainn) to start explaining, here we go…

Two days ago I wrote that ‘the point […] 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’ (this last figure referring to the run under discussion there but having no precise significance of its own). But could I really? Well, there was only one way to found out, so I headed out for another run of similar length (to Glencoe Ski Centre and back at 21.2 miles) this afternoon with the goal of trying to maintain true ‘ultra-marathon’ pace by feel and setting myself just a few simple rules to follow:

  1. I was allowed to check the watch twice only (once at the turn and once on arriving home).
  2. I should be prepared to walk up parts of the steepest/longest hills (where I’ve been running literally everything over the past week), but could pick up the pace a bit downhill so long as there was no ‘romping’.
  3. I should be aiming for a negative split with this course being easier in the homeward direction, but not by too much because I’d have overcooked things if I didn’t get back feeling like I could keep going forever.

So what was it like, how did I do and what did I learn? Very, very wet (again, again, with parts of the ‘hill’ path between Altnafeadh and Kings House especially being under continuous running water) for starters, but I hit Glencoe Ski Centre bang on 12-minute miling, which is just about perfect (about which more shortly). Then back at 11:03 pace (faster than I thought, but it felt so comfortable!) for an 11:31 average, and feeling very, very good. At which point I just have to note my growing suspicion that it’s never been my aerobic capacity letting me down on big runs (with my heart and lungs still capable of sustaining far more pace than my legs) but aching knees and/or shot thighs (the slowing heart rates previously recorded more likely resulting from slowing pace than causing it), and the realisation that these are going to survive ever so much further by backing off even more at the start (especially with WHW quantities of early tarmac). Or, to put it another way, start at 12-minute miling and I’ll probably still be doing that 15 to 20 hours later on WHW terrain, but buy into the popular (mis?)conception that you should make use of the ‘easy’ start to get ahead and (even at 9- or 10-minute miling, which half the field maybe think ‘slow’ for that bit) I probably won’t after starting to hurt more 30 or 40 miles up the course.

While today’s outing was also satisfying for bringing up 90+ miles of trail running over the past seven days with the bonus (not lost on me when choosing the route) of covering the whole WHW from Tyndrum northwards (and all but the Lairig Mor in both directions) within that time, its true significance (most important run of the year?) is probably in confirming the magic number to be 12. Run 12-minute miles up the WHW (when that seems to be my ‘run forever’ pace on this terrain) and I’ve got an hour’s leeway (for the inevitable mistakes, mishaps and misjudgements) in chasing my goal. Can’t tell you till 18 June whether I’ll be brave enough to start that slowly (come on, Pete, you know it makes sense!) because I probably won’t even know myself till crunch time but, if I end up running sub-20 off c.3:45 to Balmaha (won’t actually be chucking away the watch, but nice to know I can interpret the important signals without it), just remember you heard it here first!


  1. Interesting posts.

    I’ve also been setting off on longer runs more slowly but my runs are more fell than trails.

    Going around Ennerdale (up to a six hour run) if I sent off just a bit slower so the effort feels easy by the end of the run I’m moving faster than my “race pace” yet the effort still feels easy!

    Comment by Bill — 22 May 2011 @ 7:53 am

  2. Had been hoping to pack in some more hill running myself (sits fine with the trails as WHW preparation), but not inspired to travel hours for new hills or keep repeating the regulars regardless when weather’s been absolutely minging for a fortnight!

    Comment by admin — 22 May 2011 @ 10:07 am

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