Sunday, November 16, 2014

100k World Championship Preview

Here we go! Finally after a few false starts and a cancelled 2013 event, I'm finally going to have another crack at racing at the IAU 100km World Championship event.

For someone that majored in Geography, you would think I'd know where Doha is. Wrong, but that's what Google is for and I soon discovered it's nestled nicely in the Persian Gulf in the State of Qatar. According to Wikipedia, 'Although tiny, Qatar wields significant clout due to its natural gas wealth and its sovereign wealth fund, which is one of the world's largest.' So no GFC here and no wonder they nailed the 2022 FIFA World Cup!

So while is may not be on the grand scale of the World Cup, this event is the only opportunity for ultra runners to test themselves and run for their country as much as themselves in a road 100k. The location is, well unique, the temperatures probably less than ideal but all that is what it is. At the start of the race every competitor will be running the same course in the same conditions.

At the end of 2013 when I was sitting down and timelining my year, I always start with two A races. I just don't think it's possible to peak properly for more than that. Sure you can run well in more, but you can never fully give over 100% commitment and dedication, tick off all the 1 percenters and mentally focus to the extent these races demand more than twice a year. Western States was a lay down misere as my number 1, but due to it's timing in late June, that left the first half of the year pretty much given over to that race and it's training build up.

So that left me with a race later in the year to target which would ideally allow me to have a break after WS (more mental than anything). When the IAU announced that the Worlds would be on in November, the decision was easy. I have donned an Aussie singlet every year since 2009 and only missed out last year after the IAU cancelled the World 100km Champs late in the piece. This was after I'd committed to this event and not the World Trail Champs and the World Long Course Mt Running Champs which I had also been selected for. I was pretty disappointed, that's for sure.

But this race now offered a new challenge and you know what, I'm really glad I made this decision to train up for a major road event again. After a huge year on the trails, the road has reenergised and refocused me; reconnected me with my love of rhythmical road running and made me appreciate even more every time I step on the trails ;-)

My training over the last 3 months has also had to change. I've tried to get back on the flat, black top as much as I can, which is pretty hard living up here in the Blue Mountains. I made it a mission to get as fast as I was on the road in 2012 when I ran 6:55 for Worlds in April that year. So long ago! Thankfully I managed to sneak under my 5km PB and get 'in the ballpark' of my 10k PB in my build up phase. This is all encouraging.

In amongst all this was a pretty solid mix of trail running for endurance purposes. I've always been a high volume trainer and to me the best way to prepare for 100km is to feel at ease with the distance and run it comfortably. So yes a few 100km trail ultras were also used for this purpose. The trail events I chose, the Surf Coast Century and the Heysen 105, were on the 'flatter' scale of trail ultras.

My last hit out was two weeks ago at the brilliant little 'throw back to yesteryear' event, the Carcoar Cup Marathon. I ran a very solid 2:51 on a course with close to 800m of vert. My legs ticked over really well up to the last big climb (where I was passed impressively by winner Matthew Carroll). It was very satisfying and a confidence building run nonetheless.

Since then it's been a little sharpening up on the track, doing a few more shorter rep sessions and trying to cross off the little extras. I've been riding my fixie bike a lot around the place, just trying to develop a few more of the muscle groups that cycling develops in order to bullet proof my legs for the pounding they will cop on the Doha course (a mix of pavers and bitumen surface). The rides have all been only around the 5-7km distance but these short and sharp sessions are anaerobically and from a fast twitch perspective, what I need at this point. I've also been working out a little more in the Altitude Chamber at Valley Fitness; I find that if I work out at an easy intensity in here it always feels like I get the benefits of a hard session.

Here is a video of the course

So what type of 100k road running form am I in? It's really hard to say. I think I'm definitely a stronger and more familiar runner over the 100km distance than I was in 2012 but the jury is out whether I have the leg speed and cruising pace I had on the road now compared to 2012.  But one thing I do know is that what I've dropped in pace, I've gained in experience; both strategically, pacing and adapting to conditions. I won't be trying to stay with leaders or run fast splits early on. The way to race these is to run in a gradual and sustained build up for the first 4 or 5 hours, and then stay strong at this pace to the finish. You have to be circumspect about your early pace and finish without dropping pace in the vital last 20km of the race. That's the recipe for a top finish. In these races it's not how much you speed up necessarily but more about how long you remain steady for. You have to fully trust your fitness and be brave too..., but the opposite of what you'd think. It's hard mentally and takes some courage to run 4:10-4:20 pace early on when you're used to 3:50s as your easy pace. You have to let the bunnies go off. You rarely see many of the guys who are pushing sub 4s in the first 50km of a 100km race still hanging strong at the business end of the 100. If they are, they fully deserve to be there!

It's an interesting field too. For a road 100k in a desert regions, it's attracted a fair share of trail runners; Max King, Zach Miller and the ever-present Michael Wardian from the US are a few that I recognised. The field also contains Steve Way, the Brit marathon runner who has one of the most interesting stories ever and a couple of Russians who have outrageously quick times! I don't think this is going to be a year for quick times though, and with the course and the heat, I'm feeling a certain 'levelling' affect may occur to bring the field a little closer together. Here's hoping anyway!

I look forwarding to captaining the team consisting of; Andy Hayden, Chris Truscott, Rick Cooke, Merita Eisler, Kerrie Otto De Grancy, Jodie Oborne and Nikki Wynd. If we all perform strongly on the day, we should as teams, also finish quite high up the teams category.

More (or less) information is here. If there is going to be live tracking of the race, it will be here somewhere or even maybe here.