My second ultra start of the year and another disappointing performance. Once again, my right leg had me in pain and I stopped after about seven-and-a-half hours. It’s a shame, really, as compared to the previous weekend in Saint Fons I got a whole lot more right. For example:
- I didn’t start out too fast – in fact, my pacing was basically perfect through the first three hours and I was moving nicely throughout almost all of the time I was running
- I ate and drank perfectly – I was never bonking, I kept hydrated, I went to toilet and didn’t notice anything that was, shall we say, the wrong color, and even if it was hot, I didn’t dehydrate
- I took good care of my form and my equipment – I didn’t get cramps, I didn’t pull muscles, and I didn’t over exert myself to keep up with anyone, and I regularly cleared small stones out of my shoes instead of grinning and bearing it
So what happened?
About seven hours in I started to feel that tightening pain in the front of my right leg that suggested that my tendon was about to start hurting a bit more than is usual for an ultra. 10 minutes later it was worsening, and 15 minutes after that I was back to feeling the pain that had stopped me running in training after about three kilometers, and after about 22 kilometers last weekend. I take a little solace in the fact that I managed to get more than 60 kilometers into the run before I felt the pain really kicking in, but when I was going in with a goal of 150K I can only count this as a disappointment.
I had seen this race online last year and kept an eye on it as it seemed really well put together. Arriving there this year and my positive impressions were confirmed – this is a good event. The organization was efficient and friendly, there were lots of people working the aid station and it was always well stocked, and the personal aid tables were well positioned in the start/finish straight.
What’s more, when it comes to running loops of a circuit, this was a really pretty place to be running. The mountains nearby were imposing and, during the course of the day, seemed to change color from pinks to grey, to blues, and then black in the shadows of the early evening. It’s a beautiful place to run and I only wish I could have been there to watch the sun rise on the second morning as I am sure it would have been spectacular.
The course was a loop of about 1100 meters with about half on an athletics track and the other half on dusty, hard-packed ground around a rugby pitch. There were three 180 degree turns to negotiate each loop which turned out to be a little hard on the ankles, but they were manageable if you walked them before starting up again. Thought there were a bunch of people (maybe 70?) running the 24 hour race alone and a couple of teams swapping out each lap and running an incredible pace compared to we slow coaches, it never got all that crowded.
Food and Drink
The aid station came at about the 900 meter mark, followed by the toilets, showers, and sleeping areas, and then the personal aid stations. It was very well managed, and easy to grab whatever you needed. I mainly stuck to water, with a few cups of Coca Cola, and fruit, gingerbread, and salted biscuits to keep me moving. Twice I had a cup of mashed potatoes to which I added a large portion of salt, and this went down wonderfully well.
After last week’s too-fast start I was going to keep things nice and steady this week. I aimed for 6:00 splits and keeping my heart rate down under 140. And, for the most part, that’s what I did for the first few hours. The first nine kilometers were all between 5:48 and 6:04, and then the 10th kilometer was a little slower at 7:14 when I had a quick toilet break. The next ten were about the same – nothing faster than 5:33 and nothing slower than about 6:00 – and the third hour was the same. I took a break at about the 30K point, had something solid to eat, and walked a little, and then pushed on with a run/walk strategy for the next couple of hours.
And then came hour seven.
Out of nowhere really – Cécile was watching me on the YouTube stream and she said I was looking good – my leg started to hurt. Just a little at first, and then more. After ten minutes I was sure that this wasn’t just an ache from running all day, and then 15 minutes later I knew it was time to call it a day. A shame, a disappointment, but I knew I made the right call, even if I was disappointed at the call i had to make.