By Jason Koop,
Head Coach of CTS Ultrarunning
Earlier this year CTS Athlete Coree Woltering set the Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail. He decided to take up the endeavor with relatively little specific preparation, allowing himself just several weeks to pull all the logistics together, as well as get in some last-minute training. FKTs of this length are a different beast. They require meticulous planning, a good team, high levels of fitness and an unrelenting commitment to finish. Coree is a great athlete, but with relatively compressed training and planning time leading up the event, he only had a few of these necessities to rely upon. We both knew he’d be operating at a handicap compared to his potential and at times would have to fly by the seat of his pants. None of this was concerning in the least, because Coree had an ace up his sleeve, something he had honed through thousands of hours of being an endurance athlete, and long before I started coaching him. Coree possessed the ability to compartmentalize his effort into very small chunks, 10 seconds to be exact, and merely repeat these 10 second efforts over and over and over until the finish line was in sight.
We’ve heard of this compartmentalization strategy before in ultramarathon running. So much so that it almost seems trite by now. Pacers and coaches have told their runners to ‘stay in the moment’, ‘run the mile you are in’, ‘run to the next aid station’, ‘just make it to the next tree’ or, in Coree’s case ‘I can do anything for 10 seconds’, all in an attempt to keep their runner tuned into the present moment.
Few think about why this strategy is actually effective. They’ve just regurgitated it based off of an experience, anecdote or tall tale. But it turns out there’s a scientific rationale to the practice. Additionally, this practice is well suited for ultrarunning because of the sport’s complexity and uncertainty.