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Setting my pace strategy for Ommerland

Yes, I’m out on the trails again. New trails, as I just discovered a new, little path in the forest close to my house. It’s a beautiful one, so I’m having fun, and at the same time, I’m creating my pace strategy for Run Forest Run Ommerland in my head.

Normally I don’t set a pace. I run based on my heart rate. Mostly I try to keep my heart rate under 160 beats per minute (bpm). As long as I do that, my body can get rid of the lactate acid that’s building up in my legs. Well, as long as I stay under 168 bpm, but I like to keep a margin.

Trail marathon

However, coming Saturday, when I run the Run Forest Run Ommerland, I have to keep an eye on my pace. Simply, because we have five and a half hours maximum to run the 43 kilometes. That should be enough, but it’s still a trail marathon. We will be running uphill and through the sand. Luckily, we will also be running downhill.

For a road race I think a pace strategy works perfectly. My friend Matteo is preparing for the Marathon of Florence. He wants to run it in 4 hours, which means 5 minutes and 41 seconds per kilometer. I am designing his training schedule. We’re going for a race pace of 5.25 minutes/kilometer to 5.30 per kilometer. That way he has a little bit of a margin.

The start of a big race is always slow. It takes a couple of kilometers before you have enough space to run at your own pace. On top of that you often lose time at refreshment posts. So 5.25 would be great for him.

Different story

Trail runs are a different story. The terrain is always different. Not just from trail to trail, but also within a trail; sand, mud, rocks, you name it. Besides that you’re running uphill and downhill a lot. Or better you’re walking uphill a lot. That messes up any pace strategy you have in mind.

And that’s not all. Most trails are in the forest. Trees disrupt the GPS signal. They are beautiful, but not always great if you want to rely on your GPS for kilometer times. Take today, although my pace stays the same, and I’m running on a flat trail, one moment my watch is telling me I’m running 6.50 minutes per kilometer, the other I am doing 5.30.

Minute to minute

Luckily, I don’t need to know my pace minute to minute. I mean, Saturday I will have 43 kilometers and 340 meters to go. Knowing my average pace and kilometer times will be good enough. As this trail run is mainly a training run for my first ultra run in Sussex next month, I am going for an easy pace strategy. Which means I am giving myself 5 hours to run it. That comes down to 6 minutes and 55 seconds per kilometer. That doesn’t sound too hard.

Positive pace strategy

To make it even easier for myself – as this is my longest trail run ever – I am going for a positive pace strategy and will start with kilometers around 6.45, so I can finish with kilometers of 7.05.

Based on this morning’s run, that should be fine. My legs are feeling good, my right Achilles tendon feels good, and every kilometer I have run so far, has been more or less in 6.30. Okay, today is only 12 kilometers. This weekend it will be 31 kilometers more, but I think this is a pace I can do for a couple of hours. Saturday I will know.

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