by Peter Holleran
On a grueling uphill section on the last leg of the 2002 Quad a fellow runner said to me, “man, this is the most fun ever!” Somewhat in jest I pointed out to him that according to the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association using such words would probably certify him as clinically insane. Yet I had to admit that in the bizarre sort of way known only to runners this race was “fun”. If you didn’t feel that way, perhaps it is related to your approach. There are two primary strategies for running the Quad (not including “going with the flow”). The way generally accepted as optimal is to maintain even pacing. More popular, apparently, seems to be to try and get the first two Dipseas under your belt as fast as you can on the assumption you will inevitably get tired anyway! The latter method tempts me every time I lay out my game plan, but does it work in accomplishing the desired goal? I don’t think so. Kind of reminds me of a discussion I had with my friend Ron years ago who drove 640 miles from New York to Quebec in 8 hours at 80 miles an hour. I said he would run out of gas faster at that speed than at 50, but he insisted, “yes, but I’ll be going that much farther!” The problem with that idea in a race is that when our tank is empty it can’t easily be filled up again. Yet race day excitement makes both novice and elite runners fall for this temptation again and again. It’s alot more dramatic and sexy than having the patience to hold back in order to look good in the second half of the race - when it counts. A few minutes too fast on the first leg of the Quad can very easily add ten or twenty minutes - or more - at the end, with extra-added pain and discomfort for the bulk of the race - less “fun”, in other words. The following are a few guidelines to consider in running a successful Quad.
1. DON’T USE THE FIRST LEG AS A PACING GUIDE. The problem here is that it will almost always feel too easy. Well, it SHOULD feel too easy. It is the second leg that should simply feel RELATIVELY easy. Therefore, guage yourself on your return to Old Mill Park whether your first Double was comfortable. If so, you will increase your effort on the third leg. You will actually only be maintaining the same pace, but it will FEEL harder. Then, on the fourth leg you will (inevitably) have to dig deep and increase your effort substantially, but even so you should be able to maintain the pace. It will FEEL ALOT HARDER now, but you ought to be able to do it if you have budgeted your energy. We shouldn’t be seeing 59-63-66-75 or 71-80-85-94 or 71-83-97-103 minute splits like so many tend to achieve. Even if those times were PR’s, there is no way one can achieve his best that way. We grant Carl Anderson some slack for his 56-56-58-67 since if you plan on running a sub-four hour quad you may have to overextend yourself. The trouble is, he whizzed by so early on my first descent through Steep Ravine that I thought he had taken seriously my joke about breaking THREE hours, not four! Roy Rivers and Glenn Redpath raced neck and neck apparently thinking the race was “just a little more” than a Double Dipsea reaching the halfway point in 2:02 only to finish with a comparatively pedestrian 2:21 and 2:34. The rest of the better mortals quickly divided into two main packs and engaged in what for many must have been a somewhat questionable if not torrid pace. I’m talking about a group of a dozen or so who reached Stinson in 66-67 and a similar number in 71-72. You know who you are! The question to ask is, “how many were capable of holding that pace for the rest of the race, and if not, why not?” Better yet, “if not, why do it in the first place?” Among these groups kudos go to John Edgecomb and Karen Brown for their even-tempered 67-68-68-70 and 67-72-71-72 and to Liz Fagan for 71-72-71-75. Excellent times with rather entertaining splits, however, were posted by stalwarts R.K. (71-77-82-92), C.C. (70-72-79-96), J.H. (67-74-81-87) and B.R. (67-73-84-90)! This was the QUAD, guys, not the single or double! Good runners all but no doubt carried away in the thrill of the moment. Lesser experienced souls might have been carried away for real, perhaps on a stretcher! Seriously, even the slower runners couldn’t seem to escape this disease. The majority of those who finished in 7-8 hours still ran 85-90 minutes on their first leg only to log 2 or 2 1/2 hours for each of the last three. It’s a free country, folks, but that’s no way to run a race. For an interesting exercise, study the splits in the race results and ask yourself, “who had fun, and who most likely suffered?!”
2. RUN THE QUAD LIKE THE MILE. This concept is easy to grasp as there are four laps in each race. Just substitute hours in the quad for minutes in the mile. Would you run a 5:20 mile (or quad) in 71-75-82-92? Actually, you might (I once ran 5:08 in high school with a :59 second first lap!), but wouldn’t 78-80-80-82 make more sense? Moreover, if you COULD run 5:20 with 71-75-82-92 might you not be able to pull off a 5:16 with 77-79-80-80? Similarly, if you were capable of 4:59 with 67-73-79-80, wouldn’t you have a good chance of 4:52 doing 72-73-73-74? This is pretty basic, yet we seem to keep forgetting it. To help us all, therefore, I suggest we design an Even Pace Grading System for Quad runners. A+ for those with laps within 2 minutes of each other, A for laps within 5 minutes, B+ within 10 minutes, B within 15, C within 20, D within 30, and over 30 = F! Top mark of “A+” goes to Greg Nacco who once again refused to join the lemmings, posting a metronomic 69-68-67-69 (In 1999 and 2000 he would have scored A++ for running even 63’s and 65’s!). John Edgecomb (67-68-68-70), Karen Brown (67-72-71-72), and Liz Fagan (71-72-71-75) get “A”; Tomas Pastalka (73 (!)-82-83-82) and Mike Soltesz (78-81-84-87) “B+”; Carl Anderson (56-56-58-67), Danny Dreyer (67-73-79-80), Dave Covey (67-71-73-79), and Alfred Bogenhuber (73-80-85-88), “B”. Some of the best runners with great times scored C or less! We now know they could have done even better. (For many it appears that the few moments of glory are worth the inevitable meltdown. At the finish line, dazed and confused, they are heard mumbling their own version of a Neil Young tune, “My, my, hey, hey, better to burnout AND to fade away!”).
3. REMEMBER THAT THE QUAD COURSE IS 3-5 MINUTES LONGER EACH WAY THAN THE DOUBLE DIPSEA COURSE DUE TO LACK OF RUNNER SHORTCUTS. Therefore, if you guage your Quad pace on your double dipsea race time don’t forget to add 6-10 minutes when you reach Old Mill Park to determine if your pace is reasonable. Let’s say your double dipsea time was 2:18, and you run the first half of the Quad in 2:30, thinking that is about right for you. 2:30 means approximately a 2:22 double dipsea time, however, which is too fast.
4. QUAD TIME SHOULD EQUAL 2 x DOUBLE DIPSEA RACE TIME + 15-20%. This is more than the usual double-your-distance-plus-5% flatland conversion factor due to the unusual strength component required in the Quad. (This information apparently wasn’t available to Andy Grant of Virginia who ran a painful-to-look-at 62-70-84-97!) Runners 65 and over might add up to 25%. This formula tells what you can realistically aim for ON A GOOD DAY, and is based on an average of experienced runners’ times. Thus a 2:00 double (assuming that you have put in sufficient mileage to prepare for the quad) would give 2 x 120 = 240 x 1.15 or 1.20 = 4:36-4:48. That’s 69-72 minute pace. Therefore, don’t be a hero and go out in 59-60!! Likewise a 2:20 double would give 2 x 140 = 280 x 1.15 or 1.20 = 5:22-5:36. That’s 80-84 minute pace, so don’t start with 69-70!! A 3:00 double gives 2 x 180 = 360 x 1.15 or 1.20 = 6:54-7:12. That ‘s 103-108 pace, so why run the first leg in 85-90?!! Such a decision will come back to haunt you, possibly as soon as your first trip up Steep Ravine, if not sooner.
In conclusion, the primary focus of attention for most runners in achieving peak performance in the Quad should be not so much on going faster but rather on SLOWING DOWN LESS. To achieve this end and enjoy doing so a steady, even pace is the recommended way to go. It will keep you strong, confident, and happy while others struggle in with their tails between their legs. Good luck next year!