On Saturday the 17th March 2012, I completed my first official Ultramarathon. The D33 went really well for me, almost exactly to plan and I think I ran the race of my life.
Below is an update of (how well) the D33 went for me based one the goals I’d set myself. 🙂 And I’ve also included a tip for you and a few learnings from the experience.
Race results here: D33 2012 Race Results
Photo: from Lee Maclean’s Facebook (The guy stretching his foot in the black on the left won it: Gareth Mayze: he flew past us on his way back when we were 2 hours / 13.5 miles in: estimated avg pace: 6:09, finish time: 3:32:32! :-O – Impressive!)
Set goals, find out the best ways to achieve them, and do great things.
My goals for the D33 2012
(I didn’t realise there were so many!):
1. Run at 80-85% of my maximum heart rate (150 – 160) for the majority of the distance and aim for a sprint finish at the end (perhaps in the last 0.5-1.5 miles, up to 95% of my max HR: 179).
2. Run a negative split (where you run the second half slower than the first and hopefully be able to finish strongly).
3. Run the race in 6 chunks: 5 x 6 miles and then a wee 3 miles at the end. 🙂
4. Speak to as many fellow runners as possible.
5. Take on enough energy and water before, during and after to ensure I had a good race and good recovery.
6. Stop my Garmin from running out by trying the battery pack idea for the first time.
7. Become an ultra runner.
8. Make myself and others proud of me.
9. Hopefully inspire others to believe in themselves and achieve great things too (it doesn’t have to be 33 miles, a wee 5k even! : something which is a challenge for them.)
10. Aim to finish around the 5 hour mark.
(This was a loose goal: I didn’t mind if it was above this as long as I achieved the majority of the goals above.)
Before the start (8am, bloody freezing, 4’C!)
You can do whatever you want to do, and be whoever you want to be, you just have to decide to do it and be it.
So, did I achieve my goals?
Yes. I’m pleased to say I achieved all of my goals! :-)
1. Up until the last 2 miles I kept my HR within the 150-160 range. It was a little struggle to get into doing in the first 4 miles of the race but once I settled into a rhythm it felt brilliant.
At the end, with a bit of a sprint finish, I pushed my heart rate up to 179, which was 95% of my max HR. Textbook running to your HR (see below for details on how to run to your heart rate) 🙂
I was finding it a great way to regulate how hard I was pushing it, and prevented me from getting carried away at any point.
It gave me total confidence that I’d be able to finish strongly and towards the end help me to realise I might be running best planned the race of my life!
3. Breaking the race down worked really well for me.
At times I split it down to the next time I’d take an energy gel, but either way it worked well for me.
Here are the split results (min mile pace, Ave HR):
Miles 1-6 with Carol Martin, good chat
1. 8:39, 165
2. 8:41, 169 (past where I used to live in Garthdee 14 years ago which was nice)
3. 8:40, 169
4. 8:41, 160
5. 8:48, 159
6. 10:12, 155 (school girl error, didn’t pee before the start and had to stop and squat, plus gel)
Miles 7-9 on my own / behind Rob
7. 8:21, 164
8. 9:08, 163
9. 8:35, 161
10. 8:24, 159
Miles 11-16.5 with Carolyne Rae, more good chat up to half way, taking it a bit easier
11. 9:13, 161
12. 8:53, 155 (gel)
13. 9:00, 155
14. 9:11, 157
15. 9:13, 159
16. 9:24, 157
17. 11:36, 151 (turn around plus gel)
Miles 18-24 pushing it a little now I was on my way back, on my own and concentrating on getting HR between 150-160 and no higher.
18. 8:23, 160
19. 8:44, 162
20. 8:43, 160
21. 9:09, 159 (feeling a bit warm!)
22. 9:01, 159 (gel)
23. 8:55, 160
24. 8:58, 161
25. 9:16, 162 (cold water in my cap at a check point, brilliant!)
26. 8:28, 160 (gel)
27. 9:09, 157
28. 8:50, 160
29. 8:39, 159
30. 8:45, 160 (gel)
31. 8:33, 159
32. 8:01, 163
33. 8:02, 166 (max 179 or 95%)
Overall, bang on plan over almost 5 hours of running!
Pace: 8:55, Ave HR: 160 (85%), Max HR (at the end): 179 (95%)
3. I achieved a negative split, and because I was running to my HR many of my mile splits were very steady. 9:09 for the first half (including 2 stops), 8:41 for the second half: 8:55 overall. 🙂
I didn’t tend to look at my pace much and had turned off the mile split alert I usually have on (to conserve my Garmin’s battery life).
I even managed to increase the pace over the last 2 miles and get a sprint finish towards the end. 🙂 it was a little sore right before the line, but I knew it would all soon be over and could afford to push it over those final few seconds.
I was only competing with myself and trying not to overdo it at any point. But I have to say that by tensing strong right to the end, it usually means you overtake people who are tired or slowing down towards the end. That in itself is a real confidence booster.
Update: My official time was: 4:54:24. I was 68th out of 192 runners, I was the 16th female (out of 59, top 27%) to cross the line and was 6th in my category (out of 24, top 25%) 🙂
4. On the day, I spoke to lots of other runners. In fact I lost count after about 10 but probably spoke, introduced myself and got the names of about 20 other runners/support crew:
The ones that stand out for me (in no particular order) are:
Terry Addison (a very down to earth, friendly and entertaining).
Bill Heirs (a nice fun and happy guy, the one who just happened to have a heart attack at Rowardennan during the one of the WHW races last year!)
Gerry Craig (up to today we had met only through Facebook, so it was good to put a face and friendly happy guy to the name).
Same goes for the amazing Lee Maclean (I was pleased to finally meet Lee at the half way point, then I suddenly felt a bit stupid when I realised that 33 divided by 2 was not 17.5 like I’d worked out in my head before the race, but 16.5 when Lee told me we were at the half way point – lol)
Carol Martin (who I had a great opening run with for the first 6 miles, and who is doing the Fling and WHW race this year!).
Rob (from my work, I’ll always think of him running just ahead of me, sensibly lathering on tonnes of sun cream onto his bald napper!)
Carolyn Rae (who I ran with from about mile 10-the half way point, and we had a hell of a lot in common! Lovely girl).
Thanks to you all for making a good day and event, great for me!
The good thing about it too, is that I’ve now chatted to lots of other friendly ultra runners (experienced in ultra running, or not) who are more than likely doing the Fling and other ultras so I’ll be more comfortable going along and knowing that I won’t be on my own running it. 🙂
5. I drank enough water and had some left, which is always a good sign. And I took on 6 caffeine gels, one at: 6, 12, 16.5, 22, 26, 30 miles in. I maybe didn’t need the last one but thought, why not? 😉
I think I remembered getting hunger pangs around 3:30 so thats maybe a sign that I need to take on something of more sustenance (ie easy to eat food) at every 3-3:30 hours of a run. 🙂
I had a milkshake right after, water and lots of stretching. Then when I got home I had a muller rice, more water, a banana, a shower and a lie down.
Dinner at 7pm was fillet steak, chips and salad (thanks Dad for cooking it!) washed down with another mars bar milkshake, more water and (out of date! :-o) Christmas pud and ice cream (thanks Eileen!)
Now just under 24 hours later, I seem not to be sore, especially in my legs (they feel fine). And I’m only getting slight twinges of pain in my upper arms, shoulders and lower back. 🙂 It just goes to show that you use every part of your body when you run like that!
And that I think I’ve got my energy, hydration and recovery steps to be the best they can be to improve and reduce my recovery time. 🙂
6. I had my home made battery pack connected up to my Garmin 610, and stuck inside the forearms of my tight white under armour top. It turned out I didn’t need the battery pack as it seemed turning off all the alerts conserved the battery pack. But it was nice to know it would work i needed it to.
The only downsides about this method is that i probable wouldn’t be able to wear that kind of top if the weather was any warmer than it was (sunny 11-15’C), and when you charge it you can’t see your stats, unless you flick the battery charger of for a few seconds.
See more about how to make your Garmin 610 / 405 last for 30+ hours (for between £17-£35), see here:
7. I am now officially an Ultra runner. 😀 Woohoo! Mission for 2012 accomplished! 😀
8. My Dad and Step Mum were there for me at the end and they were clearly proud of me.
And I’ve had great feedback and support from family, Fit Girl, friends and my friends on Facebook. 😀
And even little Jasper is dead proud of me. 😉
Jasper wearing my medal and sitting on (my rather stinky) clothes 😉
9. In the last few weeks I’ve been told by a few people that I’ve inspired them.
I’ve inspired an avid reader of my blog, vikki, to start training for a 5k run. I’ve inspired people in my work to take up exercise (and in some cases aim to lose weight) and I’ve inspired people to have a more positive outlook in life. 🙂
All of that alone gives me reason to keep being who I am and doing what I do.
It’s a good feeling to know that I am perhaps making a difference in people’s lives just by being me. 🙂
10. I finished the D33, way ahead of my (loose and unpressured) time target at: 4:54.
I knew from about when I had 10 miles to go that I would probably get under 5 hours, and it helped me to keep pushing and finish the way I did.
I am interested to see where I was placed, to see how I compare to others, but the race was (and all races i compete in are) more about me believing in myself and doing the best I could (can). I’m now confident that I did that on the day. 🙂
I’m well chuffed with myself!
(I should have peed before the start though, and I might have been 1-2 minutes quicker, so that’s a good learning for me for any future races. 😉 )
So what is my best tip from the day?
Put simply, my strategy of running to my heart rate (80-85%, max 95%) worked wonders for me, and I’m pretty sure it could for others too.
It was a light bulb moment for me, and a strategy which will probably change and improve my running forever. 🙂
I would suggest that when running a race (and in training), you don’t set yourself (pressured) time and pace goals, just run as your heart rate shows you to be comfortable so that you don’t overdo it, start strong and finish even stronger.
You’ll probably achieve any secondary goal/time target you had, as an outcome of running to your heart rate goal.
Running to my heart rate goals, ensured I didn’t push it too soon and allowed me to run to the best of my ability, what is possibly the best planned, and best race of my life.
It also meant I didn’t push my body too hard and has hopefully led to a quicker recovery (less lactic acid build up along with, food, water, stretching and rest) and a great confident and happy run on a nice Spring day in my old haunt Aberdeen.
(I lived in Aberdeen as a student in 5 different areas/flats between 1997-2001, and it was nice when I recognised my old flat in Garthdee and Holburn St).
My recommendation from this experience
If I were to recommend anything to any budding (or experienced) runner, it would be to get a heart rate monitor and learn how to use it (based on the principles below) :-).
It works for all types of exercise too: Spinfit, bike, HIIT circuits, not just running.
(I’d always recommend a Garmin (£££), but you could easy get a cheaper Timex or Polar one).
How to learn how to run to your Heart Rate
There’s more info on running to your Heart Rate here (including how to work out your heart rate zones):
Or if you really want to learn more about how to use your heart rate to train and perform well, get the excellent book:
Slow Burn: by Stu Littleman