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It took me 6.5 hours to run 34 miles through some red rocks in Moab.


The next race on my calendar is 6 miles longer, but took 30 minutes less than my jog around Moab when I ran it two years ago. Even with a few bonus miles.


When I go back to Sisters for the Peterson Ridge Rumble 40 Miler this Spring, I’d enjoy being able to run it even faster than last time. Because that’s usually what you look to do with races, right? Get better, not worse.

But that goal was a laughable thought when I crossed the finish line in Moab.


“You think 34 miles +6 miles=negative 30 minutes? LOL, girlfriend. No need to tell me your last math class was 15 years ago.”

But my rational self knows it IS possible. That’s the beauty of trail and ultra running, the courses are so markedly different, comparing times from different races is like comparing apples to…polar bears. Between terrain, elevation, weather, and altitude, a lot can change from race to race.


Then there’s the commonly understood practice that allows race directors to consider the advertised distance more of a suggestion than a precise measurement. Which I learned after my second 50k when the final miles took me about 20 minutes longer than expected because the course was 33 miles instead of 31.


When I marched over to the race director to fill him in, he laughed in my face:

“Sir, I want to do you a favor and let you know your course distance is wrong. It’s 33, not 31 miles. ”

“That’s correct.”

“But this is a 50K. 50 KILOMETERS is 31.0686 miles.”


Then he schooled this ultra running noob in the ultra running race director’s love for using the ish system to measure courses.

p2p finish 1

Pine to Palm “100”. When I reached mile 102 of the race, I knew the race director wasn’t a liar, but that doesn’t mean I liked it.

All of the aforementioned factors are reasons a few extra miles shouldn’t totally dissuade me from trying to run a 40 mile race faster than I finished a 34 miler. Case in point:

The Red Hot 55k was hilly, elevation-y, rocky, muddy, snowy, and slow-going.


The Peterson Ridge Rumble is on plush, flat, gentle trail at a modest elevation between 3-4000. It’s not nothing, but it’s also not flirting with 6k’ like that one in Utah.


Then there’s the hills. Or, lack thereof at Peterson.


Moab Course Profile



If you look at the scale on the y axis you’ll appreciate that the difference is even more pronounced. (See I DID retain some knowledge from that math class a decade and a half ago.)

Moral of the story: I can run 6 miles 30 minutes faster, damn it.


Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of time to get my rear in gear. Five weeks and three days, to be exact(er than your typical ultra.)

Here’s the game plan for what I’m going to do over the next 5+ weeks to attempt to run 40 miles faster than I ran 34:

Back-to-back long running.

This was something I never got around to doing in my build up to Moab. But I believe is a critical part of ultra training. I also love it. You get to run long twice in one weekend! What’s not to love about that?


Plenty. At mile 17 of your second long run in one weekend.

I did the first of these over the weekend and it was an absolute baby compared to some of these efforts (16/18 miles) and it still slayed me by the end of the second outing. But, it was the first of the season and you’ve gotta start somewhere.

Speed work.

I started to dabble in speed work a few weeks after Cascade Crest and then remembered couches, pint glasses, and long walks on the river are more effective recovery strategies than 800 repeats and tempo runs after a hard 100 miler.


Recovery at work.

But it’s been six months and I’m probably recovered, so it’s time to fake my way through some tough workouts and pretend they’ll make a big difference in a very short amount of time.

Hill maintenance.

Peterson and all of its flatness doesn’t require a ton of hill work, but there IS a modest 7 mile climb during the back half of the race.


Plus, there’s truth to the “hills are speedwork in disguise”. Double plus, everything else on my 2016 calendar comes with a healthy dose of inclines. Triple plus, I actually like running/hiking/crawling up things.


So that’s how I think I can make 34+6=negative 30. Check back in in 5 weeks and 4 days to see if my math adds up.

16 Responses to 34+6=-30

  1. the scenery you run in is ABSURDLY GORGEOUS

  2. Speed work is a horrible, but wonderful thing!

  3. I’ve tried to add the ish rule to all areas of my life but people don’t seem to go for it. I’m scheduled to work at 7:00(ish), Telling my customers I’ll get their food out in 15(ish) minutes.

  4. Your photos are making me want to move!

  5. I couldn’t agree more about the ultra ‘ish’ phenomenon. When I ran my first 50k, it was 34 miles. The race director wanted to make sure we got our money worth by adding in bonus mileage.

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