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Photo credit: Phil Coates Alpine Oasis.

The Goldilocks Protocol


Last updated: 22-Oct-18

By Andy Mouncey

Not too hot
Not too cold
Just about right

If the title has you scratching your head, then you either need to rummage through your grandparents’ book collection – old things with quaint paper pages, remember? – or worship at the altar of the search engine under ‘Nineteenth century fairy tales / Goldilocks and the Three Bears.’

And for those of you with Twitter-length attention span, here it is in twenty first century-speak:
Three bears, bowls of porridge, and a blind taste/temperature test as per a reality TV/ talent contest.


Now I have your attention, here’s the pertinent question: ‘Are you running too hot, too cold – or just about right?’

And more to the point:

  • Why is that important?
  • How do you know?
  • And how do you make the adjustments?

In 2008 US ultra runner, Kyle Skaggs, was the first to go under 24 hours for the outrageous Hardrock 100.  Reflecting on witnessing this incredible run some time later, Anton Krupika remarked along the lines of how he witnessed nothing phasing Skaggs throughout all that time: no dips, no high-fives, just calm, controlled, almost moderation.

That’s right: he’d got everything dialled in Just About Right.

While I have no idea of the model Kyle was using, I have had a stab at coming up with my own version, and because it is 2018 and I promised to keep everything simple for you I’ve limited my recipe to four ingredients:

1. Present

‘Be in the present’ is an oft-trotted out strategy for success in any long drawn out endeavour. But what exactly does that mean – more specifically, what exactly does that mean YOU need to do?

Well, that means you tune in to what is happening RIGHT NOW and specifically HOW MUCH NOISE you are generating.

‘Cos if you’re quiet you’re efficient – and if you’re efficient you are operating somewhere in the happy middle neither too hot or…

In my model, signs of inefficiency come from three sources:

  1. Your breathing
  2. Your footfall
  3. Your kit flapping about

So pay attention, check the three dials and note the noise. Then do something about it.

2. Posture

There are many reasons why a coach will coach tall and upright posture in their runners and here’s my big one:

Anything less means your chest volume is compromised, and that’s important ‘cos that’s where your lungs hang and they need space to work. Otherwise, it’ll be like blowing a balloon up in a bottle - the end result will not be something to be proud of compared to the effort and noise required.

So, I develop cues and strategies for the folks I work with so that they can get back to working within the design parameters they were born with which are:

  • We are designed to move
  • We are aligned vertically
  • We function better with movement

Staying as upright as possible while moving at pace over varied challenging terrain for an awfully long time while carrying load, is a goal made even more challenging for those who spend most of their professional lives folded up in a seated and hunched forwards position.

Thus, a simple mechanical requirement becomes a project on it’s own…

3. Positive

We generally get what we focus on. It feels good to think good thoughts and when we do we notice other good stuff, and positivity is a force multiplier. And in this ultra running lark where there are lots of variables to juggle we want to stay positive for as long as possible thank you very much.

So being able to page positivity, have a means to manufacture it and a capacity to find it in even the darkest places, is absolutely crucial.

Once again, there are some generally accepted tools and techniques – except these are meaningless unless they are made to be meaningful to their user. Which is where good coaching comes in…

4. Play

Ah yes – that four letter word. Scary isn’t it? God forbid you ever thought you could actually go play out there...!

The consistently successful top boys and girls do all, I suggest, have this nailed down. Some have it written all over their faces and bodies and will broadcast it in their words during interview, and with some you have to really look for it, but it’s there.

Just because you’re not seeing the obvious signs on the outside does not mean they are not experiencing their version on the inside.

Some will have it as the main fuel for their fires, and some will use it more selectively. Keeping the lid nailed down, while juggling many variables over an awfully long time while pushing the envelop, is a big ask even in the most accomplished performer.

So I think that part of holding a effective average is that Leakage Is Allowed periodically. Give yourself virtual permission to head off for a fag, be away with the fairies or do distraction on headphones with the politically incorrect podcast of your choice.

Then come back and screw the lid back down again.

Present-Posture-Positive-Play. Four settings to play with so you run with your very own Goldilocks Protocol:

Not too hot
Not too cold
Just about right

About the writer: Andy does the training stuff for us. He is author of three books including ‘So You Want To Run An Ultra’ He runs long for the challenge and fun of it and has been a professional coach since 2000 working across business-education-sport-lifestyle. He lives with his family in North Yorkshire, UK.

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