After two years of preparing for the UTMB ( http://www.ultratrailmb.com) it’s finally a reality. My place is confirmed and I’m filled with mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness.
The question that most people ask me is how do you prepare for a 103mile race and what about sleep?! The most important thing is to stay calm and break the event up into smaller bite size chunks. During the winter I was working on a very intense strength training programme to ensue I can start the season stronger than last year. My first challenge came this year when I ran the South Downs Way 50(SDW50) on the Saturday followed by the Brighton Marathon on the Sunday, a total of 76 miles for the weekend. Now for most normal people the thought of doing this is insane but this is only the first of three mental running weekends. I knew that I was strong enough to do it but was fully aware the I haven’t done enough milage between January and March, but despite it all I worked out my race plan to do all three marathons in about five hours thirty minutes each. Without injury, strong legs and a good mental and nutritional plan this should be doable.
But there was something else on my mind. Last year the SDW50 was my first DNF(did not finish). I didn’t manage my clothing correctly and had to stop after 27 mile because I was too cold and wet to continue. So this year I planned my clothing and race strategy to perfection, or at least that’s what I thought. The night before the race when I was setting out all my stuff my heart STOPED and I said a sentence not the be repeated. I had everything and more except my shoes! How could I forget my shoes! Luckily I remembered that there was an old pair of running trainers in my car. On their way to retirement they had to work one more time, only 76 mile to go!
Racing was perfect! I felt great and was thrilled to completed the SDW50 in 10:57. Three minutes faster than planned which gave me a boost for the Brighton Marathon. Getting on the bus which transported us to the start line I could see a few people staring at my penguin walk, probably thinking how on earth is this women going to run a marathon, but I knew that I had a lot more to give and that within three miles I’ll be warmed up. I met my running friend Helen and lined up for the final marathon of the weekend. Our aim was to run together but my body only knew one speed and it didn’t like slowing down or speeding up so I set of on my own. My brain and body went into a auto pilot, the only goal to get to the finish line within five and a half hours.
The two races contradict each other so much. The green rolling hill with a single file of runners spread out into the distance vs. the the sea of people threading through sticky gel stations. On the long straight stretches I practice my ‘sleep running’. By following the white lines in the middle of the road I could almost close my eyes and switch off from everything around me. I practice this in some of my training runs and was brilliant to actually use it in a race. If you get this meditated sleep running right miles just seems to fly by.
Crossing the finish line in 5h25 was amazing. I manage to keep a steady pace over 76 miles preventing fatigue! Now on to the next long training weekend 115km over the Carpathian Mountains in Romania with two goals: one set up the route for my own ultra marathon (www.ultrabug.co.uk) and to test my treadmill mountain training in real mountains.