Increasing the Long Run

As part of my build towards Kepler Challenge and Tarawera 62km I will need to get a handle on how to manage my body over 5 hours, quite a step up from my previous area of proficiency in races around 2 hours long. Nutrition, pacing and cramp are the 3 main areas of interest for me as I push up the duration of my long runs to learn more about how my body responds. Here is a recap of today’s romp and what I have learned. Maybe you have had similar challenges?

Today I chose the Waitaks for my beating in the hope of learning more about my body just in time for Kepler in 3 weeks and I now sit here recovering and much wiser. I took a risk extending today’s long run beyond what my weekly progression had planned, which is a bit naughty, but just a one off and next week I’ll resume the planned progression rate designed to reduce my chance of injury. I’ve been comfortable with 2.5 to 3 hour long runs without nutrition earlier in the year and saw 4 hours with nutrition as a reasonable target for today.

Selfie #1 from bottom of Destruction Gully which runs straight into the sea. Now I’ve run every single track in the Waitakere Ranges!

The run started a bit rough with my energy feeling a bit low, unsure why, but the starting climb up Karamatura out of Hunia was a bit slow. I wasn’t phased at the time but once I got hungry only 1 hour in I decided not to take risks here and chowed down on half an Awaken bar and kept trucking on. Maybe I didn’t eat enough yesterday, or breakfast was too long ago, hard to say. I was still feeling weaker on the stunning but aggressive Omanwanui Trail, which was now concerning so I finished the Awaken bar and soaked up the fresh air on this stunning day, reminding myself to keep a steady pace and not push. It was about 20 minutes after this moment that I began feel better and much stronger on the hills, so maybe the energy was slowing getting to my legs, though much slower than the gels I’m used to using which hit me hard in 5 to 10 minutes compared to 40 minutes in this case.

Selfie #2 on the rugged ridgeline of Omanawanui

In fact, from here I was going quite strong for 2 hours, bouncing steadily up the long climbs and striding out well on the flat sections. At 3 hours I added a banana to the system and continued to tackle the climbs well, suggesting that today’s pacing was pretty good for longevity, although I was aware that race day would demand an extra hour from me. Close on 4 hours, and still on technical trails, I was relieved to notice no cramp setting in. This suggests that all the cramp troubles I have had in races, mainly in my calves, are more a function of intensity and less about duration.

It was here that I suddenly hit the wall, after feeling stable – not bouncing off the walls, but at least stable – for hours. The final decent down Fletcher was very rough, with me stumbling around like a drunk and feeling just as light headed. Glycogen had left the system! And I was reduced to a shuffle, how embarrassing! Although not far from the car, the technical nature of Fletcher had me down to a snail’s pace through concerns of pushing into a more trance like state.

I basically inhaled all my post-session food as soon as I got to the car, but I still felt light headed, a feeling I’m not used to even in the context of hard races like The Hillary 34km. My stomach was also unhappy with my attempt to get as much down my throat as possible and I was pretty uncomfortable for a few hours. I hear a lot about ultra runners having stomach problems, and this has sparked some interest to dig into other’s experience around this issue.

Now I sleep.

2 thoughts on “Increasing the Long Run

  1. Some interesting resources:
    Quite interesting parts are the 2 different pathways for fructose and maltodextrin absorption and that there is a maximum amount you can digest – which decreases as you run faster as there in less blood flow to the stomach. A trickle in approach of eating small amounts more often might have prevented you from bonking at the end?

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