A few weeks ago Alix Shutello, editor of Endurance Racing Magazine asked a bunch of ultra runners for their perspective on preparing for a first ultra. The topic developed following an email she received from a young woman. I had to really give this a lot of thought.
I ended up in my first ultra, the seven-day, self-sufficient, staged, desert race Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon by chance - and I heard about it only a week before the race!
The 'problem' about a first ultra is that you don't know whether you can do it; or how well/fast you can do it. Once you've done one and made it out ok, the others are easier psychologically.
For me, the amount of training done only really affects average speed and how good you feel overall. Feet conditioning is also critical.
Going into this 12hr race tomorrow, I haven't got a doubt that I can do it; and do it reasonably comfortably. Whether I can beat my previous log (nine years ago!) of 98km remains to be seen but I don't doubt that I can keep going - and enjoy it - for 12 hours.
I am (and always have been) a really bad example of "how much should one train for an ultra". I ran the previous 98km in 12hrs on not much more than 25km/week of training. Considering that I've got another nine years of experience under my belt and my training for years had been more consistent on 25 to 50km/week, I think I'm A-ok. I am also older... but I hope this is in my favour!
I was a bit worried a few weeks ago because I was still feeling so yuckie and didn't feel in the same fabulous form I had in early May before I got sick (first of two consecutive bouts of winter nasties).
It's only over the past week and a half that I've had my bounce back. Many of my runs have been done with my young companion, Ruben. He rides his bike while I run. I can still beat him up hills but it probably won't be more than a few months until he starts to catch me.
Going into this circuit race tomorrow I have the following in my favour:
- Been there, done that. It helps psychologically to know I can do it.
- I'm in good health
- I'm uninjured
- I'm definitely not overtrained
For me, being undertrained certainly means that I'll log less laps than what I maybe could achieve with more work done. I haven't got any long runs in the bag, which is never an issue for me. Race day will be judge.
I'm in good company for this race with friends Staci and Ian, who are running as a pair relay. Asa comes in from Malawi tonight. This is the same guy I seconded at Washie 100 miler last year. That I'm running this race can be attributed to Asa. In JHB at this time, he found the race on the internet and asked me if I'd be keen to come play. Oh yes! I was in without hesitation nor needing to have my arm twisted.
I'm also spoilt rotten to have my wonderful mom, Liz, as well as Celliers and the kids (Ruben and Kyla) there for the day. They'll be taking good care of me, Asa, Staci and Ian.
We've got to leave JHB before 4am tomorrow morning to get to the far North of Pretoria for the race. Race start is 6am and cut-off is 12-hours later at 6pm.