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: