Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Once a Year Efforts!

Maybe it's because I am injured and likely not to race again until the Spring or perhaps I am pulling for the older guys lately but two race performances over the past five weeks have suggested to me that perhaps focusing on one key, intense, all-out performance per year is the best way to extend an ultrarunning career.

Certainly, as the sport has grown, so has the prevalence of multiple fine perfomances in a given year. However, it seems that to truly "over-acheive" focusing on one race seems to work. Take Matt Carpenter and Mike Morton. Matt has raced one ultra race a year for the last three years (Pikes Peak Marathon, I say it counts as an ultra because it's 26.3 miles and climbs over 7000 feet up a 14'er) and won it each time. The rest of his races and efforts have been good, of course, but nothing compared to his Pikes' results. He, quite simply, owns that race even in his late-forties.

Then there's Mike Morton who set the Course Record at the 1997 WS100 in 15:40 and, along the way, ran a 2:18 split to the River. It was a truly badass run and there are some who say it is still the single best performance at WS (or at least right up there with King, Howard, Trason, Jurek and Roes). Shortly following that extraordinary race, he promptly fell off the map and years later, after grappling with injuries, etc..., he re-emerged at the 2010 Hinson Lake 24 Hour to run 153 miles. Then, he disappeared again until this past Saturday when he went back to Hinson Lake and ran, I believe, over 160 miles. Along the way, he hit the 100 mile split in 13 hours. This, mind you, on a hilly course in 90+ degrees and high humidity.

I don't know about the rest of you but once I shake this pf I'll be focusing all my energy on the last Saturday in June, 2012. If it's good enough for Matt and Mike it's good enough for me.

17 comments:

Brett said...

Hi Andy, on my blog I have a picture trail of the leaderboard. At 23 hours Mike was at 156.6. I left to head home (kid duties), but I estimate Mike was doing 8+ minute miles still, and comments on Facebook from folks are that he hit ~163 miles by the finish. On dirt. In the heat. Not flat. Having to deal with 250+ other runners.

And one of the nicest guyst you'll ever meet as best I can tell from his interactions while he passed me at lightspeed 437 times.

Sarah said...

There is definitely something to be said for putting all your eggs in one basket as far as racing goes. You are free to get in good consistent training without any breaks for races. You don't feel the need to hold back at all at your chosen race because that's it, that is what you're there for, no need to save some for another race 3-4 weeks away.
Also, racing so often puts a huge stress on your central nervous system. I know a lot of elite runner do 5,6,7 or so big races a year and they seem to be fine, but exactly how long is that going to last. Umm, look at Ann Trason. She had a fantastic racing career but a short one.

Nick said...

Andy - if we're talking MC, ultras and focused efforts, then forget Pikes Peak. You should be talking Leadville.

Nobody has come even remotely close to his 15:42. Tony is the only guy who has come within an hour and he was still over 30 minutes off.

Makes me wish that the new corporate owners would put up some cash to chase it down. It's such a stout time, and would require such a focused effort, that the PR opportunities of having people chase it would be huge. Or at least, I think so, but what the hell do I know.

Wyatt Hornsby said...

Andy:

This was a great post. I think in 2004 Matt Carpenter saw the value of focusing on one race. That year he ran San Juan Solstice and set the record there (skipping Pikes Peak). He did it as a "time trial," of sorts, for the Leadville 100. Then he went to Leadville, blew up, and had to walk in the last 30something miles, ending the day with a time of 22something. That, of course, was an awful result for him. He used it as fuel for next year's assault on the Leadville CR.

The next year Matt skipped San Juan Solstice, because he knew it had tired him out, and instead focused on Leadville. The rest, as they say, is history. We all know about the record (15:42) he set--a record that will probably stand for ages unless Anton and/or Kilian (and maybe Geoff) have a really good day on the course. To put what Matt did in perspective, Scott Jurek's only LT100 time is a little over 18 hours. That was back when he was on top (2004).

I was shocked when I heard about Morton's result at Hinson this past weekend. His WS100 record was in 1997. A full 14 years later he runs 163 at Hinson. To me, this was the performance of the year with apologies to Ian.

Wyatt

Brett said...

Nick, thats a good point ($ @ LT), and of all the races, they certainly have enough resources (with 800 registrants) to put up some good money.

solarweasel said...

Heck, look at the commenter 3 before me...

Nick's accomplishments this year seem to suggest that one can still take on several big races and do very well at them.

Then again, had Nick focused entirely on one of those races, how would it have changed his performance? Who's to say

GZ said...

This seems to be a topic that IM folks deal with in their pro ranks all the time: get a bunch of money from several smaller efforts throughout the year or go for the win in Kona?

Brad Mitchell said...

I thought I would never see this post emerge. Why is it that Ultra runners seem to want to stack races? I did it. It was fun, addicting (hmm). That quickly ended after a couple seasons. Some of the Ultra teams still put race appearance requirements on their runners (Montrail 2007 - 6 Ultras in a season)For me living in central Idaho, that meant 6 in a summer! In hindsight that was stupid and a crazy requirement set by nonrunners! Elite / Pro marathoners are racing how many marathons a year? Two, maybe?
While racing a lot is fun, it has to be balanced with suffecient rest and recovery and allowable time to train and adapt. If all one is doing is stacking races and constantly breaking oneself down, the end result is a short running career. We must be smarter in our racing and training. Happy racing!

Jacob Rydman said...

AJW - do you think Jim King would be considered the pioneer and/or first to perfect the once-a-year focused effort? from conversations with him, his WS prep (all year) was laser-focused to a T.

Olga said...

Brad, it's called FOMO:) It can go for some time, then it wears off. My first 2 years I ran 10, then 24 ultras each year. It was good while lasted, and performance dropped afterwards. Not that it is to expect for everyone. But I remember Jurek raced more in his first few years, although even then he could apply the A-B-C goals. I think it's a stage you are in. Nothing is wrong with either. Wardian defies all odds for any stage:)

Brett said...

In 2 different places now I have read that Mike Morton's final tally was 163.9 miles.

I believe only once has an American (Scott Jurek) run further than that in 24 hours before.

John P said...

This is a good thread. My observation after almost 30 years in endurance sports is that the athletes who endure are the ones who enjoy the process as much as the result. Generally (with a few rare exceptions) those who race a lot either burn out and disappear or slow way down because they get hormonally depleted. Particularly as one gets north of 40 recovery becomes a lot more important, particularly if you're working full time and/or raising a family. If you've got a lot of demands on your time, focusing on one or two races makes a lot of sense, and may keep you enjoying the sport a lot longer.

Wyatt Hornsby said...

In 2006 Karl Meltzer won six 100-mile races and also finished 2nd at Massanutten (and did a few other races, too). He kind of turns the thinking of one race a year on its head, but I think he's the exception, not the rule. Most of us over-race and pay for it by the end of the summer.

Wyatt

sharmanian said...

AJW, unrelated to your posting, I just saw the UPOY poll and couldn't help but notice you missed out an amazing performance - Leor Pantilat's first 50 miler at the Quicksilver 50 in San Jose, CA. 6h01m for a course with 8,500ft +/- is ridiculous. http://www.quicksilver-running.com/Quicksilver_2011_Results50M.pdf

Brett said...

Its official, Mike Morton did 163.9 miles in 24 hours at Hinson Lake: http://www.hinsonlake24hour.com/resultstemplate.html

GZ said...

Incredibly close to the 165.7 set by Scooter J back in May 10.

Burt said...

How could you not nominate Mike Wardian's silver medal at the WC 100km?

C'mon Man!