Going sub-24 at Wasatch Front 100
Next week, I'm headed to Salt Lake City, UT to run the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run. Although I've had this classic race on my to-do list for a number of years, this will be my first time at the starting line. I'm pumped.
Building on our previous blogpost - "Planning a 'silver buckle' (sub-24) 100-mile finish" - I thought I'd scope out a sub-24 finish at Wasatch. (Full disclosure: I have no intention of finishing inside of a day at Wasatch. I'm not that fast nor that foolish.)
Still, you can't punish a fellow for dreaming. To start, I pulled the 2016 splits from the Wasatch website and found five runners who finished under 24 hours, with 15-45 minutes to spare. Averaging these five runners' finishing times, I created a plan for a 23:33 finish. Here's a detailed look:
Hit these numbers and you'll go sub-24, with 20 minutes to screw things up.
Before going further, I should take a moment to offer an alternative perspective. It's important.
When you decide to script your race down to aid station-specific splits, you're effectively "de-risking" the whole affair. You're removing some of the beauty that resides in the unknown of a 100-miler. I'm not saying your race will be less fun, but you run the risk of not surprising yourself - of not running two hours faster than you ever would have imagined. Too many times, I've said to myself, "I need to slow down, I'm starting off too fast," only to have plenty of gas left in the tank at the finish. It's a balancing act.
Okay, back to the splits.
I should emphasize the obvious: This is not a fool-proof plan. Some people are great at running during the day, others at night. Some runners are incredibly efficient at aid stations, while others run better when they've taken a ten-minute break. You should, in other words, tailor your race plan to your strengths and weaknesses - not simply rely on averages.
To highlight this point, consider the difference in arrival times at aid stations among the five sample runners. At the first aid station, they arrived within a 26-minute window. By mile 50, they were spread out by 57 minutes! This means you could be behind your splits by 45 minutes at the halfway mark and still sneak in under 24. Conversely, you could be 45 minutes ahead of your splits at the halfway mark and run terrible night miles - resulting in a soul-crushing 24:04 finish.
No matter what, be prepared to adjust, or even abandon, your race plan. As was the case with my second running of Western States, sub-24 aspirations can quickly morph into sub-cutoff aspirations. You have to keep it fun.