A year ago today I ran my first 50km training run.
It wasn’t the first time I had run that distance as I had struggled to a little more than 66km in the Ploeren 12 Hour race a few weeks before. However, it was the first time I had topped the marathon distance in training and the fact that I did it in great time, too, had me feeling like this ultrarunning caper might be something I could get to enjoy a lot more than hours eight to twelve at Ploeren might have suggested.
A year later and I am a lot wiser and a lot less willing to go all out and try and break four hours for the 50K distance again. After only light running in the post-Saintelyon period and with the next ultra test still about six weeks away – and that’s a personal fat-ass run, not a race – I was just looking to get the time in on my feet and enjoy some time on the trail. With the goal of hitting 3000km for the year not quite so attainable as it was before I took a week off at Christmas (five days and 216km seems a very big ask) I’m hoping to put in a big week on my feet and kick the New Year off right when it arrives.
One of the things I need to get right from the start of the year is my diet. This has proven difficult before but it’s not impossible to get this nailed down. I know that I run better when I am a little lighter and that getting a little lighter means cutting down on the easy, carb-heavy foods that I love. I managed to get my food shopping done yesterday afternoon after returning from Picardie and the fridge is full of the sorts of things I should be eating. Having it there and ready to cook is going to make things easier diet wise, and keeping it up is going to take the willpower that I know I have but that I also know I sometimes don’t click into gear.
This morning, then, I started the day as I should: some coffee to make sure I am awake, a full bladder in the hydration pack, and out the door in the direction of the Grand Parc de Miribel Jonage on a run that should see me clock 50K on my feet for the second 27th of December in a row.
But it didn’t turn out the way I had planned.
The first couple of hours went as I expected. I was holding a nice 5:00 to 5:30 pace as I headed out of Lyon towards the Grand Parc and enjoying watching the sun slowly light up the trail, the water, and the few lonely cyclists and runners out in the cool morning air. I crossed over a bridge not too far after Vaulx-en-Velin La Soie and headed back towards town for a little way, then took the dual-use path to the Grand Parc, entered the park, and clocked over the half marathon distance in under 1:50:00 which was about right for this sort of run.
I made my way out of the park on the Miribel side and it was here I ran into some problems. After a brief walking break to drink and take a little rest I recommenced running and soon found myself face-to-face with a barrier denying me entry to the trail heading back into Lyon. No problem, I thought, I’ll go around and find another way. This I did, and soon ran up against another dead end.
Things were not going well in a ‘keep moving forward’ sense.
I decided to play it safe and find the path back into the city that I knew would not be blocked. Unfortunately for me this meant climbing up some hills and then following the plateau at the top back towards Lyon. The next 15 kilometers were a mix of some very steep (up to 11%) uphills and some intermittent downhills, the last of which included some steps that couldn’t be run as they were covered in leaves. That’s my luck today, I guess.
In any case, leaves aside, I don’t think I would have been capable of running the downhill, nor any of the flat that followed it. Though I had left home with hopes of hitting a 50K distance, I cut things short as I had completely bonked at the 40K mark and I clicked stop on the Garmin a couple of kilometers later just after the marathon distance had rolled over on my watch.
So what went wrong?
I don’t count the blocked trail as something that went wrong – these things happen. And the hills that I chose to climb to get around the blocked trail? That was my choice and the views were quite pretty.
No, what went wrong was my nutrition. I didn’t eat a lot yesterday and I didn’t eat at all this morning. I didn’t take anything to eat on the run and I got by on a cup of coffee I drank half an hour before leaving the house and the water I carried on my back. Not dangerous but not smart, either, though on the bright side I know I can run a pretty keen 25K on nothing but the occasional mouthful of water and this is good to know.
Ultrarunners: we’re always learning!