My first ultramarathon of 2016 is just about a week away now.

Next Saturday morning I’ll be pulling on my shoes and toeing the start line at the Saint-Fons 6 Hour race and attempting to run 60km before the finishing gun sounds. I think I can do it, I have prepared as best I can, and I am hopeful that this ultra will be a little more successful than the last one.

That’s not to say that the last ultra was anything entirely terrible but more that I emerged from the experience with a few lessons to learn.

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Among them:

  • Travel. Last time around I travelled 1500km across France on the day of the race and then travelled the same distance home a few hours after the race. The time, the stress, the changing of trains, and the unfamiliar surroundings didn’t make for a good environment for racing and although I knew it would be hard, I underestimated how hard it would be.
  • Rest. The previous ultra started at midnight. Coupled with the travel this meant I was awake for about 18 hours before starting a 12 hour ultra. I wasn’t rested and I didn’t sleep on the voyage to the race. Essentially, I was already very tired on the start line and this didn’t help my performance.
  • Pacing. I did not pace myself well in the race. I ran a very fast opening two or three hours and was lapping the one kilometer course at half-marathon pace. Suckered in to running with the fastest athletes, I even led the race for a couple of hours before the fatigue that comes from going out too hard and not managing the pace kicked in.
  • Shoes. I ran in the shoes I liked and that had got me through the training but, while they were great for a marathon distance race, they didn’t have the cushioning that I really needed for a race that went further than that.
  • Distance. I chose the 12 hour distance last time because I thought that would be my best bet and it fit best with the travel plans from Lyon. It was too far, too long, and I did not run the entire time. While I got 66km in it was all completed in just 7 of the 12 hours.

This time around I am addressing these things directly and I hope that having a little more experience will help me have a better performance and hit my goal at Saint-Fons. Specifically:

  • Travel. No more 1500km journey and hours of travel on race day. It’s a half hour trip across town on mass transit and, heck, I ran there and back a couple of weeks ago. I’ll be very close to home this time.
  • Rest. I’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep the night before in my own bed, and the start time is 10am and not midnight. I’ll be arriving at the start line early enough to set up my gear but I won’t be feeling like I should be back in bed.
  • Pacing. Having experienced the pain of going out too fast and then exploding I’ll be keeping a much closer eye on pacing this time. I’m more aware of the sort of pace I can keep up for the ultra distance and I’ll try and avoid running someone else’s race.
  • Shoes. I have the Nike Air Terra Kiger’s which are built on the same last and in the same shape as my previous ultra shoes but are more comfortable over the longer distances. I don’t think I’ll have any problems here.
  • Distance. I have dropped down from the 12 hour distance to the 6 hour distance. I know I can run for six hours, I have done it before, and the goal is now to pace myself well enough to feel good doing it.

I’ve taken a look over the start list for the Saint-Fons 6 Hour and there aren’t all that many people running the race. Indeed, as of the 12th of March, I was one of fifteen people registered for the race. Entries close on the 20th of March so there’s still a chance that number will increases but it seems most people are taking advantage of the Easter weekend to run the 24 Hour race instead.  That said, there are some serious runners among the twelve including:

I’m nowhere near the same class, of course, but it will be great fun to run a few laps with them in Saint-Fons and learn from people who are among the best at what they do – if I can keep up, of course.

So: am I ready? I think so.

I have had a couple of injuries since the last ultra but  I have managed them well and kept training. By the time the weekend is done I will have run more than 900km since my last ultra and I think this training will hold me in good stead. I’ve become comfortable running reasonably fast but I have also found that a nice 5:00 pace is something I can keep up for a long time. The last long run of my pre-Saint-Fons training block over the weekend proved that and I didn’t even feel significantly fatigued knocking over 36km in 3 hours, right on my goal race pace. If I can do the same sort of thing at Saint-Fons then I’ll be a very happy camper.

In the next week there’ll be little training done in terms of running – there’s nothing I’ll be able to achieve in the next week that will be of much use in the race, anyway – and instead I’ll turn my focus to prepping for the race day, getting the logistics right, hashing out a race day strategy, and making sure that the nutrition and hydration is all set to go.

A week out and I think I am in the right place.

6 hours. 60 kilometers.

Here I come.

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