Well, I’m off to Scotland on Friday for another jaunt through the countryside. I think I’ve said it before but it’s worth reiterating: if you suffer from constipation either sit some state exams or enter an ultra marathon. The merest thought of either of these activities will send you off for a long sit down.
What’s the full cycle about?
When I first started running I was only hoping to take part. Just to experience it. Then, as time passed and I realised I wasn’t the worst out there I became very focused on moving from the top 25% to the top 24%. Focused is another way of saying a little bit obsessed.
Now, as I pack my flat coke and rice crispie squares into the boot of the car and head for the ferry (I’m going to see if I could drive to the land of Jock this time), I find myself, toilet habits aside, just going to experience it.
My waking hours are spent with people who think this sort of thing is both crazy and impossible. This gives me some sort of persepctive on the fact that by just entering the races and, if lucky, finishing them you are doing something 99.99% of people would think beyond the reach of ordinary humans. As Mo Farah would say Anything is possible.
My head (and bank balance) tell me that these sorts of ultra events would work very well in Ireland. I mean, we’re not short of the odd bog or two and every county in the country has some sort of old butter road over the mountains (Cork to Killarney Ultra?) that could be used for a long day out.
I think the real difficulty in getting these events to gain traction in Ireland is that we aren’t seeing enough people coming out the other side of the whole marathon experience. My observation on it is that 2:55 – 4:00 marathoners make up the vast majority of ultra runners I have seen in Scotland. Fast enough to achieve something in the marathon and used to pain and realistic enough to realise that they’ll never be lining out for their country at the olympics. A small drop in pace with these people can lead to great endurance and the times are good enough to make them feel like they’ve achieved something. Currently we have about 10,000 running the Dublin City Marathon and about 80 running the Wicklow Way Ultra. There has to be a bit more balance I feel.
In Ireland the ultra crew (all nice people BTW) are naturally gifted or strongly motivated which tends to alienate the normals. I think that should (and will) change.
What’s the plan for Saturday:
I’m going to nerd out on this ultra and bring the hydro pack – I’d better give it a wash first – it has that smell of unwashed running vests. I’ve bought the gels and some NUUN tablets for the hydro pack and I’m going to stick with foods that I know work – all common sense. The race has about 7 drop bag locations so I think I’ll go with a drop bag at mile 11, mile 17, mile 25 and then, for focus and goal setting more that the actual need for food, miles 31, 34 & 36. the promise of a bottle of flat coke can be a great motivator at mile 33 in an ultra.
This is only for people who are very bored at work or a bit obsessed with running:
It was better than it could have been and worse that it should have been. Does that make sense? I got in about 6 or 7 long runs between 2 hr and 4 hrs (16 – 24 miles). What I practiced more this summer was the idea of constant movement on hilly courses. I ran trails it Italy in early July and did my best to kill myself on some Irish mountains after that. My aerobic base is fine and I can now comfortably run at HR135 which is very low by my standards. I think my endurance could be better but with most off-road ultras you live in the moment so endurance isn’t as big a concern.
Race Strategy –
Start slow and stay slow. If I run this as slow as the Highland fling I’ll finish in about 8 hours. I did it last year in 7:14 but it’s longer this year. My general maxim is that the first half should feel easy. So, if I can reach Catrine and feel good I’ll be happy to suck up the pain after that.
My sore ankle now means my achilles is sore and my knee is sore and my pelvis is tightening at the back. When I get out of bed in the morning you can hear me before you see me – all cracking joints. They all loosen up after a few miles so they’re not life treatheneing. All can be managed with ignorance and neurofen on the day. The muscles are all grand.
I think I put on a few pounds after the Highland Fling (lots of people telling me I was looking better) but I think I’ve lost a bit of it over the last 6 – 8 weeks. It shouldn’t make a difference either way.
Shoes will be the latest pair of New Balance 1064s – the last of about 7 pairs I’ve got through. They have about 300 miles on them and they are well broken in. These have an off-the shelf orthotic in-sole in them. Something I picked up in the local chemist shop. None of the ones that cusion you – that’s what your shoes are for. No, this one just gives me a bit of ankle stability. I was going to wear the adidas kanadias but addidas have the smallest toe box in the know world. You’d need to have two toes on each foot taken off to fit into their shoes with comfort. They work fine for stuff up to 1 hour but after that it’s bye-bye toenails.
Socks – Sole twin skin ankle socks (must find a clean pair at home).
Shorts – a pair of Decatlon shorts with about 5 pockets in them – perfect for ultras except fro the fact that the French seem to like free-balling so you have to wear a pair of budgie smugglers with them.
Vest – I’ve stuck with the addidas dayglow yellow vest for the last few races but it seems to have ‘shrunk’ in the wash so I’ll be wearing a pearl izumi one (yellow as well).
Gay arm warmers – I’ll bring them.
Timing – Garmin 405 and a lidl €15.99 job. The Garmin will get you to mile 35 and then die. The lidl job will last all day.
Hydration (water) – the aqua pack – a dare2b cheapo job with some NUUN tablets to make it taste nicer. I’d better bring some physio tape as well as I get the feeling it may become the male equvalent of having an ill fitting bra on for the whole run.
No compression gear. It won’t make a blind bit of difference at the speed I’ll be going.