Kingsburg 12 Hour

Going as fast as possible in a controlled environment has intrigued me since I competed at Desert Solstice back in 2013. I willingly admit that it can be incredibly mind-numbing, and debatably down right torture, to chase a long distance on the track. I will also confess, that I have spent way too much time on the road and track in 2014 and look forward to balancing out my road, track and trail time more evenly in the coming months. Anyway, the Kingsburg 12 Hour began to emerge about seven weeks ago while I was speaking with Peter Defty about future races. I mentioned that I would like to do a 12-hour track race where remaining in lane one the entire time was a reality. Peter suggested just renting out a track. It sounded simple enough. We didn't know what we were getting into: Peter ended up doing three weeks' worth of work in the two days leading up to the attempt. Getting all the pieces in place for track certifications, USATF sanctioning, doping control, etc. It adds up quick. Regardless, we got to the starting line Saturday morning feeling we had our bases covered.

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My plan going into the event was to start at around 6:40 per mile. With the World Record for 100 miles being 11:28:04, I needed to average approximately 6:52 per mile in order to break it. In the past, I have been able to remain relatively metronomic on track races. I felt pretty comfortable that a 6:40 pace would not overly tax me, and yet keep me in position to absorb any depreciation in the latter stages.

This biggest hurdle pre-race was the weather forecast. It seemed we were a day early: The weather on Sunday would be 10 degrees cooler. With Saturday's temperatures forecast to reach into the 80s, it was definitely not an ideal situation for a record attempt, but it was conceivably manageable with the right cooling strategy.

The start got off without a hitch, and I felt very comfortable in the cool early morning air. I was clipping off laps at under 100 seconds (100 seconds/lap is approxiately 6:40/mi). There wasn't a lot of excitement to describe, as things were pretty consistent through the first 30 miles. I was taking in about 100 calories per hour, which consisted of Vespa Junior, hard candies and very small shots of Mountain Dew. The idea is that I would trickle in small amounts of sugar and caffeine. I wanted to keep the levels low to avoid giving my digestive system a workout. It is from my experience that the easier time you give your gut, the more energy can be used to take care of things like cooling and muscle functioning.

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I had immediate access to paces and times as we had a great setup and group of volunteers from Sole to Soul Running digitally tracking the race. From miles 35 to 50 I got a bit too relaxed on checking in on pace. It is a huge balancing act in track ultras, because on one hand you do not want to over-analyze things and stress out about things that will mentally destroy you; on the other had you don't want to "zone out" too long and find yourself falling off pace. Although my pace did not plummet by any means, I did find myself a bit slower than I had wanted to be through 50 miles. I came through 50 miles at just around 5 hours and 41 minutes (on pace for 11:22). This was fine, as I felt good metabolically, and despite the warming temps I had built a solid routine of cooling myself with ice water on a regular basis. I did some mental math and realized a 6:58 per mile pace would be sufficient to finish under World Record pace.

I picked up the pace a bit and around mile 55 I was fairly consistently hitting 103 seconds per lap (approx. 6:52/mi). I had started to notice my left quad muscle was getting a bit tight, but I wasn't overly concerned, because muscles generally begin to tighten up a bit by this stage in the race. All part of the game. Unfortunately, as I continued further my left quad continued to worsen at a much faster pace than the rest of my body.

At approximately mile 57 it got to a point where I was struggling to push off hard enough to maintain 108-110 seconds per lap, a pace that, if continued, would have me fall well short of the World Record. We tried switching direction on the track, but to no avail. Rather than risk long-term injury, I decided to pull the plug.

I always learn lessons during ultra events, regardless of how satisfied or dissatisfied I am with the outcome. My biggest takeaway from this effort was within the realm of specificity. I am quite aware of the necessity to train specific to your race environment. I am fairly convinced that in this case I didn't take the specificity far enough. I trained fast and on hard, flat surfaces, but did not train on a track. This was mainly due to the time of year, as training on an outdoor track in Wisconsin through the winter is typically not an option. My assumption is that when you reach a certain speed on a track, the wear and tear increases tremendously. If you don't have your body ready for this difference in muscle breakdown, you stand a much greater chance of having something break down. My biggest move forward for future attempts will be to include both long runs and speed sessions on an outdoor track.

I really cannot say enough about the people involved that made this attempt, albeit unsuccesful, a possibility. Peter Defty of Vespa Power Products was able to organize some great individuals, including: Randy Vander Tuig; Andy North; Spencer Brandt of Spencer Brandt Media; the crew from Soul to Sole; the School District, Fire Department, and City of Kingsburg to legitimze the attempt; Eric Schranze of Ultrarunner Podcast, who helped us advertise the event despite it being very last-minute; and Andy North again for providing some in-action updates. Thank you for all the hard work everyone! I look forward to making a future attempt.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZtV8vr6Hek&w=560&h=315]

Video courtesy of Andy North