Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dirty Dozen 12 Hour Endurance Run Strategy

So my first 12 hour event is just under two weeks away –the DirtyDozen Endurance Run; however, I am having a difficult time coming up with a good strategy.  The course is a somewhat flat loop in Point Pinole Regional Park ( maybe 100 feet elevation gain each time) for a little over three miles. It is along the San Francisco Bay and through a eucalyptus grove.

This is a race that my wife has wanted to do for some time; however, it never matched up with our family summer schedule.  It did this year though, so we skipped the SF Marathon so that we could be fresh for this event.

My challenge with this type of race is that the goal is to last for 12 hours instead of a stated distance.  I know, after running my first 50K in 10 hours that mentally I can last the full time, psychologically, I am a little concerned with the monotony of covering 3.1 mile loop a given number of times.

No race, though is good without a good strategy, so I went online to have answered the following questions and gleen from more experienced runners.  The questions were:

  • What are some good strategies? 
  • What is a good refuel strategy since there is an aid station every 1.5 miles for this one? Go triathlete and drink coca cola and GU? 
  • What are good goals to set?
My sources being from Trail Running forum on Redit and the Ultramarathon forum on theRunner’s World Site.  Below are some of the responses I received.


“Fuel is the most important drink early and often, eat light but frequently whatever you can stomach, know what sits well before race day and plan accordingly. My preferences are pretzels/chips, nuts, snickers, fruit pastries, soups, rice, burritos, typically I try to go vegetarian during the race find my stomach handles digesting on the run better. I usually pop in the music when it starts to get really monotonous. Don't look at the whole thing just take it aid station to aid station/5 miles at a time/hour by hour, don't look at it as having 4-5-6-7 hours left just break it into chunks and concentrate on section at hand.”


"A few suggestions from experience:

  • Start slow and introduce walking breaks from the start. I like to walk for a few minutes every 15 minutes. On a loop track you can walk at same point each loop - eg. through the aid station and directly afterwards.
  • Stay off caffeine until later in the race. At the start you don’t need it and it gives a real boost in the later stages. I find no-doze helps every 3 hours in the "second half"
  • Keep eating consistently - but not too much. I can only stomach 200 calories or so an hour. But have a routine to eat (and drink) every 20-30 minutes from the very start.
  • Have a variety of non-sweet foods. Sweet foods only work for the first 3-4 hours. Try salty and (some) fatty/protein foods. I really like boiled potatoes, but whatever takes your fancy.
  •  Have some strategies for "low" periods. Find friends you can run & talk with, have some music ready (run without until then), have some interesting pod-casts.
  • Fix foot problems early. If you have a "hot" spot, sort it out immediately rather than waiting. It will only get worse.
  • Beware the chair. You will have down periods, but keep moving forward. If you cant go forward, try a 20 minute nap (but get somebody to wake you and get you going again). Alternatively get somebody to give you a massage. Anything is better than just "sitting". Naps probably won’t be needed for a 12 hour race, but it's surprising how much it can help."

John M.-rw

"Don't know about the Coca Cola and Gu idea -- not as a standalone thing.  Just about anything that will put 300ish calories per hour in you would seem to be adequate.  I would tend to eat plain old aid station food--what do they say will be there?  The electrolyte replacement riddle--water with some sort of electrolyte replacement...Endurolyte, SUCCEED!,  Heed, plain old Thermtabs... as needed.

If it is only twelve hours, you won't have time to get bored--meet folks, have conversations, pass them, get passed, meet more folks... stop to eat and drink... 12 hours is gone and you are done."


"Start slow and don't overeat. Also drinking water is better than Coca Cola. I try to wait with Coco Cola as long as possible but surprisingly that is a good race drink for me.

Did I mention starting slow, which is the key to a 12 or 24h race, a slow and steady pace. Don't waste time on the aid stations.

You actually should have 4 goals:

1. A very high almost impossible goal

2. A realistic goal

3. A minimum goal

4. Most important, keep going until the 12hours are over, no excuses.

1-3 means distance goals.

Keep moving is the most important part. Walking is good, to get a break or while eating after an aid station. As said before, aid stations are the biggest time waster. And you shouldn't change shoes at all in a 12 or 24 race unless something weird happens."

In response to the last paragraph by Ultramarkus, RoxieRuns adds:

"Especially if you are racing with friends, or there are many friends crewing/spectating - avoid getting sucked into the festivities at the aid/crew station. If the loop is short enough, you can pass off your empty bottle and place a food order as you run/walk by, then pick it up the next time around.

I've only done two 12 hour events. It was a moderately technical/hilly 5k trail loop, and it was very easy to get sucked in when I saw friends (crew and racers) relaxing, hanging out, and drinking beer, especially later in the day."

My Goals

After the above responses, I am a little more comfortable with what I need to do race day.

Learning from my experience at my first 50K and taking the suggestions from Ultramarkus, my goals are:

  1. A very high almost impossible goal: 50 Miles!!!
  2. A realistic goal: 40 Miles !
  3. A minimum goal:  36 Miles 
  4. Most important, keep going until the 12hours are over, no excuses.

Also, I think the best recommendation to meet goal 4 is what John M stated: If it is only twelve hours, you won't have time to get bored--meet folks, have conversations, pass them, get passed, meet more folks... stop to eat and drink... 12 hours is gone and you are done.

That shouldn’t be a problem with so many good Brazen friends and family running this event!

P.S.  For a little while, unbeknownst to me, Google had switched my commenting to a Google+ format.  After a little research I was able to switch it back to the way it was.  So feel free to comment and you will not be subjected to Google's version of a Friends and Family Plan


  1. Strategy - make out with your wife every 3rd lap. This will keep you energized and/or reinvigorate you once every 1.5 hours. : )

    Have 12 baggies of your favorite different treats.

    Dedicate one race shirt to each hour, change 12 times. Remember what you loved about each race.

    Find (hire?) 12 friends to run an hour each with you.

    Pick your fav 12 temporary tats, get a new one each hour, on a different body part each time.

    Pick your top 12 beers, down one an hour.

    Find 12 dirty jokes....spend each hour telling everyone you pass that joke...change it every hour.

    12 friendly phrases you say to every runner you pass for an hour - "yo, wuz up?", "looking good", "don't trip", "hows it, brah?"...

    I could keep going, but you live with me, so I'll just tell you more when you get home....

  2. First - YAY for getting the commenting working again!

    Second - This was a great post! I've done this event twice now and really like it. It really is pretty social, and once the 6 hour runners are done, they can make it tempting to waste a bit of time coming through the start area, so you need to make your mind up to not stop or set a time limit - I'm most impressed by those that hardly pause and keep on going through. (It's funny how seeing others can work out - there will be some runners you will see a lot and others you will hardly ever see.)

    Third - your goals sound great! For me, I just shoot for milestones like a Half, then a Full, then a 50K (name in Ultrarunner!), then 40, then 50 (my big stretch goal).

    Also, I found that the short races they also put on at the same time can help add a bit of life and break up the boredom (although this course really isn't that boring).

    I can't wait to see you and Beth fly around this course!

  3. Thanks Allen, we are really looking running with you!

    As a second note, I am pretty excited/nervous about this weekend at WS100 at the aid station. Any tips?

  4. Foresthill is different than what I do since you may have to deal with pacers and crew trying to work with their runners - I'm not sure how that all works.

    I bring a water bottle to use during the day since it can get busy and there may not be any breaks for a bit. There should be aid station food you can graze on a bit.

    I'm sure there will be a LOT of veteran volunteers there that will explain everything, so I wouldn't be nervous at all. It will be a hard day at times, but a LOT of fun, especially with the middle and back of the pack runners, who will really need your help.

    You are going to have a lot of fun - I don't know if we will make it to Foresthill or not when we are done - it just depends on how quickly we can get out of Last Chance (I'm taking the drop bags to Auburn and need to get there before the runners finish). If you can, be sure to stop by the finish in Auburn at least for a bit. I'll be around there somewhere.

  5. Found your post via a google search as I am doing the same run and feel woefully unprepared when it comes to nutrition. I had hoped my order of Tailwind would be here I tried it once and it seemed to work out but that was a sample.

    Great blog, I am catching up by using some work con call time :)

    Look forward to seeing you out there - I am pretty easy to spot with my boonie cap on so please say hi if you see me.

  6. Hey Jeff, great to hear you will be running the event too! I have a feeling you are still better prepared than I. Definitely will see you there and have a great run!


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