Even though I think I got a lot right at the Saintelyon and while I was right on my targeted time, there were still things I could have done better and places where I can improve. Among them…

Technical Trail Running

Unlike in the US where ultrarunning largely means running on trails, I’ve mostly run road ultras. Where there were sections of trail such as at the CIEC 6 Hour or the 100km de la Somme they were non-technical and easy to run. At the Saintelyon, on the other hand, I spent a lot of mental energy concentrating on where I was placing my feet, avoiding falls, looking for puddles and muddy ground, avoiding ice on the trail and on the road sections – basically I never had a chance to get into a position where I could run without thinking about every footfall until the final couple of hours.

If I do an event like this again I’ll need to spend more time running on technical trails. Sure, I had prepared for the hills and for the distance, but the technical nature of the trail was something I didn’t really anticipate ahead of the race. If there’s a next time, I’ll be more prepared.

Pre-Race

A point-to-point ultra means getting to ‘Point A’ so as you can run back to ‘Point B’. Unfortunately, both the options that the organisers put on (buses from Lyon to Saint Etienne) and the other mass transit options (train, as I traveled) meant arriving some hours before the race…and then waiting around in a warm (but not hot) concrete-floored hall. It wasn’t easy to get comfortable and there wasn’t anything in the way of distraction to keep me amused for 3.5 hours and so I could only browse the web on my phone, try and stay comfortable and rested, and concentrate on the race ahead.

An hour or 90 minutes of this? OK. But 3.5 hours is too long and though I knew I would have to wait, I didn’t prepare for it well. Maybe I could have taken something comfortable to sit on, or maybe I could have taken a book to keep me busy. But whatever, I didn’t manage it well. Next time I will do better.

Rest Before the Race

I asked the ultra list for some advice on resting before the race because – with a midnight start – it was going to be a very long time staying awake. I got good advice and tried to put it into practice but I think I need to work more on this if I make another midnight start. Can I learn to be a napper? Can I find a way to wake up later on the morning before the start of the race when there is a cheerful kid running around the house? Maybe – we’ll see. But it is something to consider for the next time I start late.

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These aside, though, I don’t think I made any major errors.

My legs ache but I’m not injured, I ate and drank enough, I didn’t get lost, and I hit my time goal. All in all, it was a good race for me and a nice ultra to finish off the year, if one that was very different to the others that I have run in the last 12 months.

Now it’s on to recovery, some planning for the next season, and then gearing up for a big start to the next year where I’ll take on my first 100 mile race – bring it on!

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