New territory. An ultra, RTTS (Race to the Stones) 100km non-stop. Fully recovered from the marathon I started planning my training program. I read articles and blogs from experienced female endurance athletes and felt inspired. As the training began, I soon realised I was mentally drained from marathon training. Having put so much into my training over the past 4 months I had no interest in following another structured program so soon after. I wasn’t running when I was ‘meant’ or covering the intended miles. It was getting me down; I threw away the plan and ran as and when I felt like it. I wouldn’t recommend this approach but for me it felt like liberating. I needed to be ‘free’ from my own pressure. I was fortunate to have the base miles banked from the marathon and could rely on my overall fitness to get me through. I knew I could do this. For me it was this ultra was about completion, not chasing a time or worrying about pacing.
The whole set up and race day morning was very relaxed in comparison to other races. It seems odd going off in waves barely breaking a sweat and hearing other runners casually chatting alongside you. I planned to cover 10k per hour, this included stopping at feed stations to refill water and scoff as much as I knew my stomach could digest. I must have eaten my weight in high carb chew bars and bananas that day. My peanut butter and jam bagels come for the outing and weren’t consumed. Lesson #1 you really don’t need to take additional food with you unless of course you have special dietary requirements.
The race was incredibly well sign posted at every km so there was no chance of getting lost. Perfect for a first timer. I pre-arranged for a few friends to run/ride alongside me for part of the course. What a great decision this turned out to be, nothing like a chat up on route and a grateful distraction from the discomfort that set-in post 80k. I passed base camp and didn’t stop for hot food in the marquee purely because I hadn’t done this in training so wasn’t about to tuck into a 3-course meal. My pace stated to slow past 80k due to stomach cramps and constant need for the loo (no need to go into too much detail here!). Lesson#2 eat more at the latter pit stops even though you just want to keep running. The final 10k were horrid, I was tired, my legs hurt every stride (now in the walk/run territory) and the 3k descent felt 100 times worse than the earlier ascents! My body shouting at me to STOP! The terrain wasn’t kind at this point either, mental strength was needed. As I came into Avebury, I saw the 99k markers only to be told you must run a further 2k down the road and run through the ‘stones’ before looping back and coming back to this very point. So cruel.
I was more than ready to see the finish line ahead of me and was greeted with hugs from my boys. One plodding around in a nappy, eating chips and covered in ketchup, the other like a limpet attached to my led legs. I saw the pushchair and literally fell into it, quickly consuming 2 x pints of milk to aid recovery. What an accomplishment, I had completed 100k in 11hours 07minutes, and was 8th female/458. I pretty much collapsed into a heap before dragging my aching body into the car and crawled over the front doorstep once home. My body was spent, I would have slept/passed out for a few hours anywhere that night!
I drank electrolytes that night as I had lost a lot of fluids and salts. In the 3 day lead up I intentionally gained 2kg in carbs for maximum glycogen storage. Post-race I had dropped 3.5kg so knew I had to rehydrate and eat once my tummy eventually settled the next day.
I felt smug, I finished without any blisters but within a week I lost a toenail! I’m just pleased I completed and now have my very first ultra under my belt. Two marathons and an ultra to my name hardly qualifies me as being an experienced distance runner but I do hope my A-Z list (next blog) helps other athletes wanting to give it their best shot.
‘Don’t limit yourself to someone else’s opinion of your capabilities. Be you. Dream, plan, execute!’
Dr Steve Maraboli