The Ultra Boucle de la Sarra is a few days away and I am back in taper mode ahead of what is going to be a difficult race. While the time on my feet won’t be anything I haven’t already done a couple of times this year, the climbing and stairs are going to be killers – and the descent each lap is going to hurt, too.

The last two times I have run six hour races I haven’t had a problem getting past the 60km mark. In this race, though, I won’t be on the pancake flat loops of Saint-Fons or CIEC but rather a 2km loop with a variety of surfaces and only the shortest section of flat hard-packed pathway. There is essentially no chance I’ll be hitting the sort of pace that will allow me to get close to 60km and even 50km would take an amazing effort that I am not sure I can produce. In setting goals for this race, then, I am shooting far lower than I have in my last two ultra races.


Before outlining the goals I have decided to chase, there are a couple of things that are worth noting about the course.

To begin with, I have run training loops at something of a steady pace – not pushing too hard on the flat, not pushing the rolling lower section, steady on the stairs, nothing crazy on the descent – and timed out at about 13:00 per lap. I think this is indicative of early laps and that later in the race I’ll be running quite a bit slower. Hence, I’m aiming for something approaching a 15:00 minute lap over the course of the race.

Second, the race starts with an ascent of the hill after which we turn and descend again. I won’t be flying up the hill so I will probably lose a couple of minutes at the start which may or may not be important later. Over the course of six hours I think it’s probably trending towards “not important” but it may be difference between getting to the final ‘bonus lap’ or not.

Third, the ‘bonus lap’. Like CIEC, the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra allows you to complete and count for the overall distance any lap begun before the end of the six hour time limit. Hence, if you cross the line with a few seconds to spare before the six hours ticks over, you can run, walk, or crawl another lap to bring up another two kilometers for the race total. This won’t be important until the final hour when I have an idea of how I am going overall, but it could help me add an important couple of kilometers to the race if I happen to luck out on timing.

So, with these things in mind, what are good goals to have?

The minimum I’ll be happy with will be a marathon. This would be 21 laps in 6 hours, 3.5 laps an hour and 17 minute laps on average. I should be able to knock this over without many problems but it’s hard to say just how hard the stairs are going to be. Based on the results of the 2015 race this would put me in the top half of the field.

The best case goal for me would be a 50K. This would be 25 laps in 6 hours, a touch over 4 laps an hour and about 14.5 minute laps on average. This would be best case for me, I think, and may well rely on me finishing lap 24 at 5:59:59 and grinding out the last two kilometers after the six hour mark has passed. Based on the results of the 2015 race this would put me in the top 15 of the field.

Anything between 42km and 50km would be fine with me and obviously the further I go the better. A lot will depend on the weather, the impact of the stairs on my knees and the descent on my quads, and keeping moving the whole race. I’m hopeful of hitting at least the marathon goal and you can be sure that, if I have a chance of starting that 25th lap, I’ll be sprinting to take it.

Image by Elektroplate.

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