I am sitting at my desk and the nerves have kicked in.
I’ve about 5 days until I line up in the main square in Florence and start my 100km race at 3.00pm on Saturday the 25th May.
I you could see me now I would, like a swan, look serene. But look a bit harder and you’ll see about 3 long range weather forecasting websites opened on my computer; google maps is open with various sets of directions to and from the airport; there’s a vertical profile of the race (a natural laxative) on the desk in front of me; I have the race website opened in Italian and English and I have started re-writing my checklist for the race again.
If you meet me and ask me how things are make sure you have a lot of time to spare; I’m not known for Clint Eastwood style answers.
On the race front I’ve narrowed the worries down to four key things: heat, food, legs and distance.
The distance doesn’t worry me as much as some of the others and I have the advantage of having run the last 25km many times before so when I get to that point in the race where the mind is the only thing still driving you forward I will be in a better position than I have been for other races.
The long range forecast is showing 27 degrees C and clouds with a chance of some rain. That spells muggy weather with a chance of thunder showers. It could be worse and it could be better. I’ll try and allow the heat to control my pace and I plan to bring a handful of S! Caps with me for the heat.
On the food front I’m in the best/worst position in that I am able to run a long way with no food but not the length of the race. 30 miles on water is now possible but that is about as much use as tits on a bull when it’s a 62 mile race. I think I’ll adopt an “eat a bit, often” approach to the race until at least km 65 and then I’ll see how the stomach feels. There are two hills (500m & 900m) at 5k and 40km that should allow me to control my effort in the afternoon heat (5km hill) and eat a bit (40km hill).
I plan to hide some personal drop bags of food between 65km and the finish as it gives you a mental goal as the race drags on and you start to question your own existence. These might include some caffeine based products (I have some chocolate covered espresso beans that might be a good goal) and maybe something that has worked in other races.
The real current worry is the legs. Last Wednesday I went for my last medium long run (18 miles) in Brussels and my good leg was bad at mile 4 (serious muscle pain in the right calf) and I stopped for about 10 minutes to do major stretching and then, like a fool, kept going. I was so worried about this pain that I sought advice from Grellan and Thomas and am now €40 poorer and about to become the owner of those calf compression guards you see on many an ultra runner.
The odd thing was that I went out yesterday for a 12 miler and took some S! Caps to see if they were any good (yes is the answer) and I had no leg pains whatsoever. Still, 12 miles is a long way from 62.
I think I’ll just suck it and see (dynamic problem solving is probably what that’s called now) on the day. I’ll start with a loose plan that can be adjusted as the day wears on so I never feel like I’m in the failure zone. What this means in reality is a set of goal times that are subject to adjustment as the day wears on: crippling heat – slow down; aching calves – walking break; rain – lash on.
In my head the race has several stages (like a large meal – from the sitting down to the last, wafer thin mint) and it’s in my head like this:
first 20 miles to Borgo San Lorenzo – the warm up: 5k out of Florence – calm the nerves and soak up the atmosphere, power walk the first hill (to 10k) and then jog to the top (15k at 500m), enjoy the downhill to 30k.
10 miles to climb to halfway at Colla di Casaglia (900m) – dinner. Run-walk this so that the top approaches and the cool evening air makes you feel refreshed. There’s a drop bag here so some sort of reward will be handy here (a change of running top as opposed to a pint and a fag).
Managing the downhill home. 10 miles to Marradi. When you tell a non-runner that the last 31 miles of the race are down hill they give you a sly smile and a wink like that makes it easy. For a runner they give you a look of real concern and empathy. These 10 miles will be as slow as I can make them so I have functioning legs for the last 20 miles.
The drag home Marradi to Faenza. I’ve driven and run most of these 35km at some stage in the past so I plan to break the run down into village-to-village chunks of about 3-5km each. this will get me to 88km at Brisghella (my base) and then I’ll just have to grit it out in a run-walk combo.
Time? On a dull wet day with low temps I think I could grind out a sub-11 hr. In my head I’ve got the following goals:
Nothing goes wrong: 10 – 12 hrs
One of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (heat, food, distance, legs) meets me on my travels – 12hrs – 14 hrs.
More than one of the horsemen meets me: Long picnic where some poor soul gets to hear my life story! Time becomes an abstract concept.
I’m working in Brussels on Thursday so the plan is to high tail it to the airport for a 7.00pm flight to Milan (the cheapest airport I could find) and then a 330km spin to my bed. I’ll register on Friday and fanny about worrying the toilet bowl and then I’ll catch the train to the start on Saturday morning and try and have a nap in Florence before the start.
After the race it’ll be back for a power nap and then speed back up the Autostrada for a flight from Milan to Dublin and then a drive home and out to walk the dog on Sunday night before work on Monday.