Hi John, Firstly well done on a good run at the Hardmoors 55 last weekend, which setting a PB by nearly 35 minutes, quicker than your 2014 time, clearly demonstrates that you ran well. However, I’m sure you won’t be upset by my following comments as I know you that through your running and your analysis one of your aims is to gain a greater understanding of ultra trail running and performance and hence always keen to continue to learn.
Now, I know you made the clear statement in your post above “I would never say to others that they should run like I do ” and this is my approach as well. I have my opposite approach “Run as fast as you can, while you can”. But I don’t tell runners to adopt this approach. I simply put my thoughts, and my experiences ‘out there’ to help make runners aware that there are different approaches. The difficult thing is trying to interpret which approach is best. Or in fact is there a best?
So, let’s get to my point, which you asked within your post, but then didn’t answer: “I suppose the question is could I have gone faster by ‘racing’ like Dave did?” Now, although you didn’t answer this question, from some of your comments there is some indication that YES you could have gone faster if you raced. Your comment; “I definitely did not feel I was racing the Hardmoors 55. In fact there were times when I was deliberately holding myself back even after 30 or 40 miles. I felt in good shape and could easily have been 10-15mins faster to the half-way point.” clearly indicates that you could have run much faster to half-way. So why didn’t you? Perhaps explained by your comment; “Robert pointed out that by going over my target by a few beats per minute meant that I was going into debt which I would pay for.” But is this really the case?
As you know from my racing approach I clearly believe that this isn’t the case. But I don’t want to get into a ‘pub chat’ on who’s belief is right and who’s is wrong. Rather I would just like to provide some numerical data which might clarify things, and this is where you may get upset, in that I suspect that you ran at least 26 minutes slower than you could have. So to answer your question “Could I have gone faster by ‘racing’ like Dave did?” Yes, by at least 26 minutes! Now with that statement best I provide the data to justify it!
Now before people start criticising me that running a half marathon on the road is different to running a 55 mile trail ultra, yes I know that there is a difference, so performances aren’t going to exactly match. But there isn’t going to be that much difference between two similar aged runners, with similar training and racing backgrounds. It isn’t like we are trying to compare a 20 year old 5km racer moving up to the half marathon with a 55 year old 100 miler ultra runner moving down to the half marathon.
I believe that John you are 56 years old and Dave Troman is 47 years old. So he is nine years younger than you, but I don’t think this nine year age difference ‘ruins’ the data that follows. In fact one could conclude that perhaps with Dave being younger one would expect him to perform better than you at a half marathon and therefore the gap between the two of you should be less within a 55 mile race.
So finally the data. You recently ran the Inverness half marathon in 1:26:19 which is 86.3 minutes. You finished Hardmoors 55 in 9:35:40 which is 575.7 minutes. Dave finished Hardmoors 55 in 8:24:07 which is 504.1 minutes. He therefore ran 71.6 minutes faster than you, which when expressed as a percentage of your finish time, he ran 12.44% quicker than you.
Now if we assume that this percentage difference between the two of you EXACTLY translates to the same percentage difference in your finish times for a half marathon, then if Dave was to run a road half marathon and run it 12.44% quicker than you, his half marathon time would be 75:36. Now I don’t know what Dave would run for a road half marathon at the moment, but I would buy him a bottle of Scotch Whiskey if he is able to run 75:36. Taking a calculated guess at what I think he could achieve for a road half marathon, I would suggest a sub 80 minute time could be possible. To keep calculations simple, let’s say he can run four minute slower than the equivalent finish time, so assume that he could run 79:36.
John, perhaps you could ask Dave to provide details of his most recent half marathon finish time. Or if he doesn’t run half marathons, probably better to ask him for a ‘guess’ at what his absolute best finish time would be.
I am therefore suggesting that in fact there isn’t a 12.44% difference in performance level between the two of you. And the only reason your Hardmoors 55 finish times resulted in Dave running 12.44% faster than you was due to your even HR pacing strategy! Where does the “you ran at least 26 minutes slower than you could have” come from. This is based on your half marathon finish time of 86.3 minutes, so every minute equates to 1.159% of your finish time. Now as I am guessing that Dave can’t run the equivalent performance half marathon time of 75:36, I am suggesting that his performance level is four minutes slower, that equates to 4 x 1.159 = 4.64% So if my guess is right re Dave’s performance level, or you could interpret it as running ability, or physiological fitness, then Dave should have ran only 7.80% quicker than you (12.44 – 4.64). So have actually underperformed by 4.64% which equates to 26.7 minutes. Yes if you race to your true potential as demonstrated by your recent half marathon finish time, you should have broken nine hours ten minutes, over 26 minutes quicker. You would have been right on the heels of the Mens 50 category winner Neil Ridsdale who finished in a time of 9:09:08. Now wouldn’t that have been exciting, racing for a win in the Mens 50 category!
It would be good to get Dave’s comments on his half marathon guess, which may in fact be slower than 80 minutes. So this would indicate that you underperformed even more! Sorry about this John. I hope you aren’t too upset with my above logic. I hope my maths is correct. Because assuming the maths is correct, then how does one explain your under-performing. Maybe I have got it wrong, it wasn’t you under-performing, but Dave over-performing. Why did he over-perform? Perhaps he adopted a better pacing strategy and raced the Hardmoors. Simple really, racing is quicker than running!
Hopefully this lengthy comment will not exceed comment word limits and will submit okay, so best I stop this comment here. I welcome your response John and response from others, to help me understand why at first glance it appears your run was a good run, but yet you under-performed!
To conclude. John, you set out and achieved what you wanted to achieve at the Hardmoors 55 last weekend, as you state within your post “I definitely did achieve my objective of having a great day, running a time which far exceeded my expectations finishing strongly with a smile on my face”. I think the key word here is “EXPECTATIONS”. Were your expectations set far too low?
Keep up the thought provoking blog posts John. They are excellent in encouraging us to really think about many trail running aspects and how they relate to performance. Thanks, Stuart