Tuesday 22 February 2022

Geeking out on Oscars 100 2-days pacing

This post is about stepping it up and doing Oscars 100 in 2 days. 

As an engineer I comprehend the world around me in numbers and equations. I try to find patterns in things when I want to understand them or explore options. For Ultra Runners this is very familiar terrain: Cut-offs, pacing, vert, distance and gradients 👉 you heard that one before. And these are just the KPIs around a race; when you go into training metrics, there's no limit to the numbers you can crunch. 

Every Run is a Beer Run
Now how do these race KPIs look for Oscars100? Well first of all Hut 2 Hut is a bit different because it basically has four races with the same distance and the same vert on the same course starting at the same time.


The Four Races of Oscars 100

Yes. That's actually true and as a little bonus you can upgrade or downgrade yourself while being in the race although that has an impact on the cut-off time. Here are the four race options which the RDs conveniently colour-coded:

  • Solo
    You're doing it in one hit without overnight stops. All one day cut-off times apply. You are insane.

  • 2-Days - Layover at King Hut
    BIG and dicey first day. Easy second day however the success rate of this option isn't very high. If you're contemplating this, suck it up, train harder and go straight for the solo.

  • 2-Days - Layover at Lovicks Hut
    Easy first day and then a bit of a stretch for the second day. This is a serious step-up from three days.

  • 3-Days - Layover at Lovicks & King Hut
    A good and doable hiking adventure. The third day has some challenging cut-offs.
All of these races start at the same time on Friday morning 5:00 am, go for 100km and have about 5700m of elevation in them. That's why you can upgrade or downgrade yourself. In theory a team which signed up for the 3-Days can just finish the whole thing in one day if they make the cut-offs. It also works the other way around where you can do a layover although that creates a bit of a logistical challenge for the vollies if you don't have overnight gear. 

The Cut-Off Times

The fours sets of cut-off times. The cut-offs of day one for the 3-Day event apply to all options:

Before I dive deeper into the cut-off times, I have to clarify that not all cut-offs are equal. In a normal race - e.g. the Surf Coast Century - cut-off times mean if you don't make them, you DNF. It's pretty straight forward. On a side note this year's 1/2 SCC ( =50km) had very generous times because they were starting on the 2nd half of the 100km course in the early morning which meant a leisurely 22 min/km pace on a flat course was sufficient. H2H also has hard cut-off times and those are definitely the ones between the layover locations. 

The next thing you have to understand is that making a cut-off doesn't mean there's a realistic chance you'll finish the race or even make the next cut-off on the Oscars course. Here's an example: Take the 2pm cut-off at Lovicks on the first day. If you just make this, you need to speed up to make subsequent CPs. Another one: The Solo runners (green) and 2-Days - Layover at Lovicks Hut runners (yellow) have 30 min between GGS Hut / Mt Stirling and Howqua Gap Hut. That converts to a 6:15 min/km pace which you won't do 90km into a race. Either you get there well before that time or you'll DNF.

The third thing is that there are soft cut-offs at the layover points. If you don't make your cut-off but other runners have a later cut-off, you can drop down to the other race option without DNFing. Again Lovicks is a good example: Anyone coming in between 2 pm and 7 pm is allowed to continue the next day. 
Bottom-Line 👉 You can't use the cut-off times as guidance for pacing and a race-plan.

Solo Pacing Sheet

Fortunately there are smart people who analyse past races and give you a good idea what you need to do:

Jonathan created this great spreadsheet for solo runners which gives you a clear picture, if your aim is  finishing the solo. Coming back to the dreadful 2pm Lovicks cut-off it means you can forget about finishing in one day when you sail through the CP past 12:20 noon. Andrew Zhang was the only runner this year who came through Lovicks past that time and still finished the solo - his CP time was 12:22. Everyone after that dropped to a 2-day event or DNFed.

If you're in a position where you can contemplate doing the solo, you weren't born yesterday and know how to use the spreadsheet. 

2-Days Pacing Tactics

I already mentioned that there are two options for the 2-Days events: 2-Days - Layover at King Hut and 2-Days - Layover at Lovicks Hut. And as mentioned previously the first option isn't really worth it and judging by the numbers it's also going a bit out of fashion. As one of the race directors puts it:
"Don't aim for King on day one as you have to be up to one-day pace in order to make cut offs" 

I think the King Hut Layover is more of a fall-back position for solo runners so they don't have to DNF. 

Finishing Stats on the Original Course

So here we go! You've done the Archies in a good time or the 3-days Oscars or another Ultra or whatever and now you're eye-balling the Oscars 100 in two days. You're in the right place and this is what you're facing: 

  • Day One - Start to Lovicks - 37 km - 2300m vert
  • Day Two - Lovicks to Finish - 63 km - 3400m vert

Day One doesn't really need much explanation because you've either done it or you should be perfectly capable of figuring this one out. Don't go too fast but also don't go too slow because too much time on the trail is also exhausting. It's not rocket surgery 🚀

Day Two is the important day ... 🥁 ... Surprise! Let's go through it in order. The first 13 km to Gantner Hut are super enjoyable especially since you should be fairly fresh. Don't mind the cut-off times because they are there for what I suspect logistical reasons. Realistically you should leave Gantner before 8 am. I suspect the generous cut-off at 11 am only exists so it's unlikely runners need to be carted out of Gantner and can simply be picked up from the Mount Speculation carpark. Accessing Gantner Hut from Mt Buller is fun ... but a VERY long 4WD trip. 

The next cab off the rank is the decision point at King Hut. Should you stay or should you go? If you're leaving the CP at 6 pm on the dot, you have 1:30 h to get to Craigs Hut. When I did this uphill slog during the three days event in 2019, I scooped it up on well rested legs in 1:26 h and I was the first through the checkpoint on that morning. You are not going to make the same time that late in the day. Therefore: 

Leave King Hut at 4 pm at the latest 

This puts you in a far better position to make it. Anything after 4 pm, I'd downgrade myself to three days and grab the buckle the next morning. Don't fall into the trap of using your 3-days times from King Hut to the Finish as the time for your 2-days race plan. Back in 2019 it took me 5:12h (on fresh legs, remember?) and this year it was 7:03h (on not so fresh legs).

How fast Do I need to be?

That's the million dollar question. Are you fit enough to make it and what is a realistic finishing time? The classic way to answer that is to stalk some runners who finished and find their finishing times of other races you've done as well. Here's the link to the Oscars 100 2022 Race Results. Positions 46 to including 83 did the 2-Days Lovicks and obviously finished. The Tomato Timing website allows you to search all results by name. 
The pitfall is that there is always a story to a race. Looking at one runner is barely enough. For example if you punch in my name, you'll find this list (I added the finishing times here):

What does this tell you? The Sharpy times seem to be consistent so if you've done that in 2:30ish, you might be fine. The Hut2Hut Saturday in 2021 was basically the Archies however there's a huge difference  to the Friday. And the seven hours for the 1/2 SCC look doable.
Now here are the stories: Sharpy runs are good - there's no fluke. I ran the Hut2Hut Friday with a mate and we took our time. Saturday I went solo and could go way faster on not so tired legs.  When I did the 1/2 SCC I just came out from a big slump and got way fitter after that. That could give you a false sense of security
  • Sharpy times, you got a good indication however it is a short race.
  • Hut2Hut Saturday time you might think this is too fast for you although you could do it.
  • SCC 50km time you could be overly confident and run into trouble.
We need more DATA!

That's not a problem. Not at all. I took the finishers from 2019 and 2022 who did the 2 Day Lovicks and cross-checked their times with various other races and then you get this table:

I marked four suspected outliers. These could be an injury or simply a case of the guys couldn't be bothered that day. Who knows ... Anyway. Once you take them out it becomes a clear picture. 

Your Archie time needs to be sub 12h - better sub 11h
your SCC100 time shouldn't be much more than 15h. 

There you have it. That was a lengthy explanation but it shows you that this works for pretty much every race. It's a great way to give you the confidence to finish in your target time once you got a couple of races under your belt you can use to compare. It also helps keeping your records straight so you can put your finishing times in context. Was I coming out of recovery or was it a prime condition race for you?

👉 You'll find all the tables and graphs in this spreadsheet
👉 If you found this helpful, donations for our fundraiser are still open 

Always remember: Every Run is a Beer Run 
Cheers 🍻 

Breakfast Beer at Speculation CP

P.S.: The Old Report

Back in 2019 I wrote a "race report" which is still surprisingly accurate. Remember I wasn't a runner back then. This was aimed at those who wanted to do their first Oscars and I covered a couple of topics. However let me add some remarks here:

  • Course
    That's still accurate ... unless bushfires or a pandemic divert you onto another course. In 2020 the bushfires dropped everyone on the Archies loop for two times and lightning strike created a messy pile of poles. The Rona hit in 2021 and once again it was the Archies two times although this time there was no overnight camping in the valley. Fortunately 2022 didn't plague us with locusts or a flood and we were back on the original course.

  • Training
    Consistency beats Motivation. 

  • Gear
    I wrote you can have your dry pack weight at sub 6kg. Looking back that should be your absolute maximum. If you throw some money and smarts at it, you can easily push that down to about 3kg. 

  • Tactics
    Yep. Also still valid although I'd emphasise the point of utilising your GPS watch as well as a race plan as per above.

  • Support Crew
    Forget the part about UHF. We had Garmin inReach devices which are almost a must if you have a support crew.