Given that my 3 finishes at Hardrock have all been really tough and each time I have come close to capitulating, I am definitely not taking anything for granted this time around. Add to that my dodgy back (still limits my downhill freedom), my nagging patello-femoral joint (I notice I had it taped back in 2010 as well), the fact that I am now well into my 50s compared to 40s for the last 3, and not the least my heart issues, and well, I am not overly confident of how this will go.
So, to realign the odds somewhat back in my favour, I have changed a few things this time.
Pacer: I don't normally use a pacer. I have had an impromptu pacer join me from Cunningham to the finish both times in this direction (2008 and 2010). The first was a great help. The second slowed me down until I dropped him on the climb. I have heard horror stories. But have also seen how much they can help a runner (no muling of course). So I bit the bullet and I have engaged the assistance of Russ Valdez, a total stranger who put his name on the Hardrock website dating service for pacers/runners to meet. Essential criteria: experience on the course (he has paced 6 times at HR). I have no idea how well we will get along and as Russ said, it is a bit like picking up a hitch-hiker, you never know what you are going to get. But I have a good feeling about him so I am sure it will work out great.
Training: I have done 2 things differently this time. While my weekly mileage is comparable to previous HRs, I have included far more long runs this time. I have aimed for a 40-50km weekly run. Preferably on hilly trail. These have generally been around 6-8hrs long. Plus a couple longer.
The other difference to my training is it has nearly all been done fully fasted. Yep, nothing to eat before or during the run. I now regularly get up and go out fasted and cover up to 9 hours without any calorie intake (since around 11pm the previous night). The reason for this is I always suffer from nausea for long, long periods at HR. Meaning I can't take on any calories. Meaning I bonk, and struggle with lack of energy. Now I have forced my body to seek out fat for fuel and it is working. The added bonus is I have shed around 6 kilos of body fat (aided by cutting intake of simple sugars and some refined carbs and increasing my fat intake). Less weight to carry up those big climbs. Hopefully, this means when the altitude turns my stomach sour I can maintain momentum until it comes good or I reach the next checkpoint. Hopefully both.
Counter to this, I am arriving a week later for acclimatisation but I couldn't avoid that. Here's hoping all the positive changes carry more weight. Did I mention I this one could be tough.