March update

It’s late March, on a Monday night, when I try to walk into the physiotherapists office. The conversation might seem strange to a non-ultra-athlete:

me: ‘I ran 76km yesterday, and now everything hurts…’

PT: ‘that’s perfectly normal… Let’s try and patch you up again…’

With The Oner coming up in April, March has been all about running long. Just like the previous months there has been some swimming (mostly in the pool, some out in the still pretty cold open water), bike-sessions are getting longer (6 hour recovery rides now feel like relaxed training-days), but most of the time has been spend running…

my first ultra race…

With all the long running it’s easy to forget that I’ve actually never ran an ultra-race before… Well, I did the Double Brutal, but there the run might not really have qualified as a ‘run’ more a ‘trying-to-move-as-fast-as-possible-without-completely-breaking-down’ (then again, that might be the definition of an ultra-run…). Anyway, just to avoid a routine in training I signed up for the ‘Gilze Ultrarun’, a small-scale 60km race… I didn’t expect the scale to be this small though… On the 10km course there are marathoners, 60km runners and relay-teams, and I knew that there would only be a few solo ultrarunners. But when I look around me at the start, I realise that there’s also just a few marathoners and relay-teams… So it could become a lonely run…

Luckily, my sister has come to the start of the race, and she brought my nephews, so there was a nice fanclub to cheer the runners on!

When I enter lap 3 I see that my dad has joined the ‘crowd’, and when my sister and the boys go home, dad gets on his bike and joins me on the course. It’s nice to have some bike-support, since it’s lonely on the course… The first 30km I’m running with a small group, but just before the marathon-mark I decide to slow down just a little. It’s better to be smart, since there’s still a hard few weeks of training to come… But after 45km it turns out I should have been smarter earlier in the race; I’ve been wearing too many layers, so I’m overheated, I started the run without proper rest (had a slightly too busy work-week before the race), so the battery went completely empty…

Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned the last few years; even with an empty tank, I can still get into a nice rhythm, as long as the course is flat, and there’s the promise of a short rest in the near future… So I break up the course into small parts, and run from break to break… A few km before the finish-line I want to stop and walk for the last time, but I accidentally glance at my watch and see the time. I can’t really think straight, and I don’t know exactly how far I have to go, but I do think that a sub 5hour30 finish is possible… So I find some energy to speed up, and I make it through the finish-line in 5’28… Happy, tired, and worried how to work my way through the following week of training…

a restday marathon…

A week later I run the local ‘Utrecht marathon’; a 2 lap course, with a big part covering my regular training routes. The plan is as simple as it is impossible: Coach told me to ‘run an easy race’… Well, I run easy from my house to the start, and run easy from the finish-line back home, but the bit in between is slightly too fast…

Running through your hometown is like going for a run with a lot of friends… There’s lots of friendly faces, both running on the course, and cheering from the sidelines. The first lap is gone before I know it, and whilst my watch tries to tell me I’m going too fast, I can still easily chat with the pacer of the group I’m running with… At the 30km mark I know it’s not a good plan to keep up this pace; I might make it to the finish at this speed, but it would cost me too much time to recover, so I slow down. Without a group to shield me from the wind the final hour is still hard work, so I’m happy to see the finish-line! A short run back home, and it’s been just another 50km training day…

a long day on the trails… 

The week after it’s time for my final long run before The Oner. It is a beautiful sunny day, and the plan is to run easy through the forest, with some ‘hills’ (well, what we call hills in the Netherlands is probably still called ‘flat’ in other countries…) on the course. The first 30km I have some company, but after that I’m on my own. And since it is one of the first sunny days of the season, I am going to take it easy… At a certain point I decide to take a break at the first bench I see, and when I sit down and stop my watch it stops at exactly 42.20km… That always brings a smile to my face! From this point on it becomes a sort of a running holiday; I run for about 10km, find a bench, get some food and drink in, and then lay down for 20 minutes or so, close my eyes, listen to the birds and doze of a bit… And then I get up, start running again, and repeat the process… Although the legs are tired during the final hours, and the energy has pretty much gone, I am having a great time!

But when I finally reach the car, half an hour short of my planned 8 hours, I just can’t motivate myself to go for an extra 30 minutes. Well, sometimes it’s best to be smart and listen to the body… 76km of running done, so at least I should be able to reach the halfway-point of The Oner…

preparing for The Oner…

And now it’s time to rest, recover from a long block of ultra-training, and do my final preparations for my nice little run in the UK… Finetuning the nutrition plan, final shopping, checking my equipment, and try and get enough sleep… The body is trying to tell me to slow down; I’m tired, there’s blisters on my feet, some nasty chafing from running long distances with a backpack, and my achilles is sore… Well, just trying to take it easy for a week, and then going for the longest run of my career… Should be fun!

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