Epicness, thy name is Macedon.
The moment had arrived. My first ultra-marathon. I felt like I had been carbo-loading for this day my entire life.
As Thomas and I set off with a field of approx 40 runners at 07:30 we had a plan to tackle the 50km course. When I arrived at the finish line (minus Thomas) some 9 hours later, almost nothing had gone according to plan. Plus, those things that did go to plan I wish hadn’t. It was NOT a good plan.
Still, I am now an ultra-marathoner.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed every moment of it…..except the last 5 hours.
What Went Wrong?
Our max distance covered in training prior to the event was 30km – 35km. It was important to move efficiently and conserve energy if we were to achieve our goal of arriving at the finish in reasonable condition (i.e. not empty). In October we will need to cover 250km in 6 days, carrying 10kg – 15kg in our packs. With that as the goal, we wanted to finish the 50km and (almost) feel like we could do it again the next day. This was not achieved.
Thomas fell on a rocky descent at 17km and wrenched his knee. We strapped it up and pressed on through the 19km aid station before he decided he wouldn’t be able to finish. We then went our separate ways. Thomas had to walk to about the 26km mark before getting a lift back to the start/finish line. A scan of the knee is pending…hopefully nothing long-term. (Only 146 days until the Atacama Crossing!)
A Bad Sign
At around the 25km mark I started experiencing cramps in my thighs. This was unexpected. We had routinely been completing trail runs of 5hrs duration, at a faster pace, without the faintest hint of a cramp. My fluid and energy intake was consistent with training. The course was familiar. Conditions were perfect. What was different?
Well…in order to conserve a little energy, we had decided to walk a number of the ascents. These are climbs that we would normally run up in training, just to get an increased workload into the body. You don’t actually gain that much time over walking and it is less efficient when considering the additional energy expended. This seemed like a smart, conservative approach, in-keeping with our overall goal of finishing less than totally spent.
WRONG! This was a really dumb move. In my case I’ve spent much of the past 2 years training my body to be calf-dominant when running (as opposed to relying on the quads). The calves are stronger, more durable and recover more quickly…better for covering long distances. Striding up the climbs engages the leg muscles very differently. Specifically, much more work needs to be done by the quads. Oooooops, hadn’t trained for that.
By 35km my quads were totally bombed, with the hardest part of the course still to come. I managed to struggle on to the finish, but miles outside my target time of 7hr 30min. On a positive note though, my calves felt as fresh as daisies.
It just goes to show that you’re never too old to make a rookie mistake.
A massive shout out and thank you to Brett from TrailsPlus and the team of volunteers that helped stage the event. Especially those hardy souls manning the remote aid stations (40km, 45km, 48km). They had to wait a loooooooong time for the likes of me to arrive.
Key GPS Data
Ascent: 2,429m (most in the back 20km)
Calories burned: 5,966
Recovery Time: 120 hours!
In case you’re wondering how to go about trying to replace 6,000-odd calories, my advice is – “Don’t think. EAT!”
Registration @ 06:30:
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. It’s the world’s tallest smurf:
TJ doing his thing pre-race:
There’s a trail there somewhere (just before Thomas had a fall):
Runners just ahead going up Zig Zag Track:
The Memorial Cross @ 31km:
Last aid station @ 48km:
I have been thinking recently about the importance of small things.
This coming weekend I am competing in a 50km trail run at Mt Macedon. Whether I achieve my desired result or not is dependent upon how well I can execute a series of small steps; literally! A single missed step can mean a rolled ankle and the end of my race. If I successfully avoid injury I will still need to concentrate on making every step as perfect and efficient as possible if I am to achieve my time goal. I will also need to apply continuous attention to my breathing; my fluid and salt levels; my energy intake.
In short, to succeed I will need to do all of these small things…really well…repeatedly. These small things are big things in the context of the weekend’s race.
Similarly, I am presently working on a couple of long range projects; one professional and one personal / physical. I realise that the success of these pursuits depends on my (and my partners’) ability to do small things really well.
In all the noise and bustle of life, it is often easy to have your attention drawn away from these small things. If you are employed in a corporate role, distractions abound. There are countless forces working to distract you from the importance of these small things. They can take the form of:
- unnecessary / lengthy internal meetings
- monthly sales forecasts
- office gossip and politics (boring!)
These things rarely contribute positively to the core function of your business.
You’re a business.
You have customers.
Keep your customers happy and you will (likely) keep their business.
However lofty a goal might be, it can be broken down into a series of individual constituent parts. It is the consistent application of attention and effort to these individual components (aka the small things) that leads to the achievement of the overarching goal (aka the big thing).
It is the small things that make all the difference in the end!
I enjoyed watching this brilliant TED Talk today.
If you are at all sports minded, I’m sure that you will enjoy it too.
Next weekend (Sunday 11th) my buddy Thomas and I are entered in the Mt Macedon 50km trail run organised by TrailsPlus: http://www.trailsplus.com.au/macedon/ . For both of us this will be our first official ultra-marathon.
With that in mind I headed up to Macedon this morning for one last recce of the course. I was intending to explore the bottom 20km on the southern side of the mountain, as this is the section of the course that I am least familiar with. It also represents the final 20km of the race (30km – 50km). The last 2.5km sees an elevation gain of approximately 500m. Nice! That’s bound to be a fun finish next weekend.
So, after 3+ hrs of exploring some new trails, with plenty of missed turns (the course is not yet marked) and a few kms of backtracking, what did I find?
A packed car park:
A downhill trail I could barely see:
What goes down, must go up:
Steps under the railway line:
Wrong way. Go back:
Another tunnel as I turn and head back towards the summit:
With weather conditions being what they were (cold, wet) there was hardly anybody on the trails…so plenty of alone time in which to explore.
It will be a much different scene next weekend, with competitors tackling 10km, 30km and 50km events. I’m looking forward to seeing how the body holds up.
I’ll leave you with a scary thought:
In 5 months time we’re going to need to average 40+km a day.
For 6 days. In the desert. At altitude.