It's important to plan. It's needed because without one, you might not get to the result you were hoping for. If you are on a journey, you need a plan to get from point A to point B. We take a look at the map and we plan out the route, going from one road to the next, until we make it. Without that planning part, we would be in big trouble. Whenever you have a goal, be it to get in shape, or to finish a project, having a plan pushes you towards completion. It helps you with the process.
Plans are what helps guide you through things. Plans help me get in shape for the races I run, and plans help me run the race. Going to a 50 mile race without a plan is crazy (and some people think that running 50 miles is crazy). When you run a long distance like that, you need to have some sort of plan to make sure you're more than able to keep on going. It's important to take things step by step. Fortunately for me, I have the distance between each aid station. Using that, I can time how I'm doing, how long I've run, what pace I'm running at, and keep myself in check using that data I gathered from my run. As running an ultramarathon at your best is like a ticking time bomb, in order to insure it doesn't go off is by constantly checking yourself to see if you've pushed too far.
My plan thus far includes heart rate, time and distance ratio, amount of time spent running vs walking, and how I feel. Using that, I am able to get a general idea of what I can handle, from beginning to end. The most important thing about the plan is that you should be able to change plans and adapt to what you're doing. Having that kind of plan utilizes the information you are receiving, and allows you to perform at your best.
Knowing that I need to get ready for this long race, I've been off my feet a little bit due to the tapering, but in order to make sure that I didn't grow softer, I ran for a little bit, running 5.64 miles in 46:34, an 8:15 min/mile pace. Although it was 11.28% of my 50 mile race, I was able to finish this small distance with ease, faster than what I would be running the 50 miler. This run gave me the confidence I needed to run the race. I'm still nervous, but I'm pretty confident with my abilities and my training to get me through the race. As my plan is to get top 5 (according to last year's times), this might be a little hard, but I'm planning on sticking to my plan and run my best race, not worried about beating other people (although I will plan on having my support crew tell me how far ahead 1st place is and 5th place at the 28 mile mark. This knowledge will be processed and used when finishing the last 22 miles of that race... whether to continue on with my plan or to change plans. I won't know exactly what's going to happen, but either way, I'll make plans depending on what my body tells me.
Plan the unexpected, plan all possibilities. In doing so, you've prepared as much as you can, and will be able to make it to your goal. Break that plan and you could suffer the consequences. Follow the plan and be safe.