Way back in 2000, I was training for the Ridge Run with Mark Slater. During an excursion from Fairy Lake to Bridger Bowl, Mark asked me what my strategy was for the race. He lamented that he had trouble knowing how to pace himself. He had run around 4:20:00 but wanted to break 4 hours. Given his running abilities, he should have been able to break 4 hours easy.
I told him I did not worry about pacing. I summed up my strategy as running pretty much full tilt the whole way. There were two things that control pace. They both start with the letter F.
Fitness and Fearlessness
Fitness controls uphill speed. Fearlessness controls downhill speed
Uphill Speed – Fitness Limits and Avoiding Fatigue
I go uphill at a speed where my legs just start to burn and my breathing cannot keep up with my effort. Simply, it is as fast as I can go for any sustained duration without getting exhausted or sick.
The course starts off by climbing from Fairy Lake up to the summit to Sacajawea. It is uphill for about 2 miles and climbs 2,000 feet without break. Before I reach the summit, I’m beginning to experience tunnel vision and starting to see stars. Typical signs of going into oxygen debt. When this starts to happen, I have to back off my pace or I’ll get fatigued and sick. This illustrates the level of effort and uphill speed associated with fitness limit.
Downhill Speed – Don’t Let Fearlessness Become Foolishness
On downhills, I run as fast as I can without losing control and falling or exceeding my fear of doing so. Unfortunately, I have fallen and gotten quite banged up on many occasion. Obviously, it is easier to exceed ones safe pace on the downhill than the uphill. This is where fearlessness becomes foolishness.
Simple Strategy Leads to Success
It is a simple strategy. It works. That year, 2000, Mark Slater set a PR. He shaved over 30 minutes off his previous best and won overall.