UTHC prerace

There are less than 36 hours before the start of the 65 km at the Ultra Trail Harricana du Canada, but things are calm overall. It’s a familiar and somewhat eerie calmness, half peaceful, half resigned and with a whirlwind of various thoughts making up some sort of white noise in the background. I guess that probably doesn’t sound very calm and perhaps it isn’t, but knowing what lies ahead makes it easier to deal with.

I began my season knowing that I wanted to do the Skymarathon at the UTMB and that I had to run at the Bromont Ultra. I wasn’t sure what distance I wanted to run in Bromont, but I was toying with the idea of making it my first 50 miler. The UTHC had been on my radar for a while, being the most well-established ultra in Québec. However, travelling all the way to La Malbaie for a 28 km race didn’t seem worthwhile and the next shortest distance was 65 km, about 10 km more than my lifetime high.

I began following a 50 mile training program as soon as I was rested from the UTMB, just in case. A month in, things were going well and I was getting more and more serious about wanting to try running 50M in Bromont. The idea of running 65 km a month before Bromont therefore became more and more reasonable/tempting. I eventually pulled the trigger and signed up for the UTHC.

Still being unsure about the Bromont Ultra, this race will serve as both a training run and a deciding factor. If things go well, I don’t see why I shouldn’t attempt 50 miles in Bromont. If they don’t, then I’ll have done an overkill of a training run for my third go at the 55 km.

This race will also serve as a reset after my somewhat disappointing performance at the UTMB. Even though I know that most of my trouble that day came from the technical terrain and that Bromont and UTHC will be much easier in that regard, it’s still somewhat annoying to have that race still be my latest one. Whenever a team plays badly, the best thing is always to go back out on the field/ice as soon as possible to shake off the bad performance. Even when you think you know what went wrong and think that it probably won’t happen again, nothing beats going out there again and proving it. I’ve been feeling positive about this race for quite a while, but the fact remains that my latest good race was almost a year ago and that I’ve had a sluggish day on the trails to think of for the past two months. Logging a (hopefully) good perfomance before Bromont will be very useful.

Although this will be my longest run ever, I’m still trying to view it as training for the Bromont Ultra. “Just don’t screw up” resumes my mindset going into it. My pacing and nutrition will need to be on point if I want to finish a 50 miler, so I need to know if those aspects of my strategy can at least hold up 65 km to start with. If I’m sloppy with my plan and end up crashing and burning early, I won’t have a clue if the strategy would have held up until the end and won’t know if any adjustments need to be made to last 50 miles.

Pace-wise, my goals are:

  1. Sub 9 hour finish (8:38 average pace or faster)
  2. Sub 9.5 hour finish (9:07 or faster)
  3. Sub 10 hour finish (9:36 or faster)
  4. Finish

My average pace for the 55 km in Bromont last year was 8:17. This race is 5 to 10 km longer (depending and what measurements you take for each course), but has about 500 fewer meters of positive vertical. Technically, a sub 9 finish should be doable, but these are new trails and everything past the 55th kilometer or so will be unknown ground for me so I won’t take anything for granted.

As usual, my intention is to walk all but the easiest climbs in order to make sure that I’m able to run the flats and downhills at a decent pace. I usually have trouble sticking to this early on in a race. This particular race starts off with 8 km of slight downhill, so not overdoing it at the start and accepting to slow down when the climbing starts might be rather challenging. I aim to place myself about halfway down the pack at the beginning to have other runners help me not screw up.

Nutrition-wise, I’ll still be trying to ingest between 250 and 300 calories per hour. This time, however, I’ll be using Hammer Perpetuem which I’ve been testing out for the past month or so. That’ll give me about 135 cal per hour just from fluids, decreasing the amount of solid food I need to take in by half.  I used to eat between 125 and 150 cal of solid food every half hour, but I usually picked up a few minutes of delay at every snack so that the entire system was snafu within a couple of hours. Furthermore, by that time I was usually getting quite tired of having to chew solids while moving and the portions I could stomach were already getting smaller than they should be. By the end of races I was probably taking in 100 cal every 45 minutes or so at most, probably causing some of the problems I experienced.

As long as I manage to remember to periodically sip Perpetuem, I should be able to get away with eating once every hour. This will hopefully delay me getting tired of solid food and it should be easier to keep track of and respect that timing (versus more frequent snacks).

These are the main aspects of race strategy I’ll try to follow for the day. Simple enough to type, but respecting them for 9 hours or so might be a challenge. Keeping in mind that this should be a training run will hopefully help me stick to the basics.

Other than that, there is little on my mind. From what I’ve seen and read, the course is not very technical. Although I expect a few surprises here and there, I think it’s safe to assume it’s mostly runnable. The elevation profile seems very reasonable. Only two major climbs stand out, one being near the very beginning. The rest seems to be a balanced and well distributed mix of uphill and downhill. Perhaps I’ve grown too fond of graphs, but the more I look at the elevation profile the more fun the course seems. Time will tell the truth of it I guess.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.