Having to run/walk/crawl 38 miles longer than I have ever gone before, i'm just a tad nervous about not having followed a structured 100 mile training programme or in the absence of such a thing not having followed the general training advice of those that have gone before. My longest training run has been 26.2 miles and I'm putting everything on the fact that I have run a few of them over the last few months (6 since 1st June). No back to back 4/5 hour runs that I did for the Portumna 100k in 2011, no training with my planned nutrition for the day, indeed no clear nutrition plan other than to load up with every conceivable food that I may need/want on the day.
The only thought I have given to my race plan is the fact that i'll need to incorporate some form of walking into the day, following the general advice of "walk well before you have to". While those at the pointy end of things might get away without having to walk during a 100 miler I don't want to test whether or not I am one of those as it will prove very painful and counter productive if I find out at mile 60,70 or 80 that I am not. With this in mind I have done some walk specific training over the last month, but not nearly enough to build up the walking base that I would like. Training the body to walk efficiently at a reasonable pace is very similar to training the body to run efficiently and just because I can run at a certain level does not mean that I can walk at the same level, the aerobic base may be there, but the muscular base is lagging slightly. Don't get me wrong, most people can walk for a very long time, but to do so at anything resembling a reasonably consistent and steady pace requires specific training. I initially introduced walking into my warmup/cooldown for a few of my runs and then did a few walk only sessions, resisting the urge to break into a trot, which doubled as "patience" training (also required for Saturday). At the back of my mind was a walking pace of 12 minute miles (5 miles per hour), which I initially struggled to achieve for 1 mile, requiring constant vigilance as my mind tended to wander.
While my walking pace improved over the month, culminating in a 10 mile walk at 11:33 pace last Saturday, it is highly unlikely that I will achieve anything near this pace during the race as the effort in terms of heart rate was similar to running at about 9:00 pace ( the whole point of walking is to give the body a bit of a rest) and most of my walking will be on the uphill sections. A 14 mile run/walk the previous weekend, included 3 x 1.85 miles, walking the uphills @ 12:30 pace and running the downhills @ 6:03 pace giving the double training benefit of uphill walking and strengthening the quads on the downhill sections (the quads appear to be the first muscle group to suffer during long ultras - all things being equal at the start). In terms of adaptation, I found that my glutes/hamstrings in particular felt achy after the walking sessions so I am hopeful that I have managed to mobilise/awaken a few additional muscle fibres that I can rely on at the weekend. After all it is likely that my musclular/skeletal system will be the weakest link in my endurance chain - it certainly was the case during the Portumna 100k 2 years ago, where after about 65k (40 miles) my natural pace slowed, matched by a similar reduction in heart rate, suggesting that it was a reduction in the number of muscle fibres that I could recruit that led to my drop in pace. Lets hope that I have mobilised/drafted more recruits into my army of muscle fibres for this weekend's battle and that my battle plan is effective and followed through. Time will tell.