Yesterday’s run was enormously satisfying. A lot of things went right, nothing went catastrophically wrong, and I learnt more lessons that I’ll be able to apply in the next race I enter. While the memory is fresh in my mind, I wanted to get down the things that went right, that went wrong, and that I can build on for next time.

Things I Got Right

  • Pacing. I was aiming for 5:00 pace at the start  and an average of 6:00 for the entire race to bring up my 60km goal. I ended up running a little faster than that at the outset (5:00 or sub-5:00  for the first 30km) and that probably helped me average 5:43 pace for the entire race. I avoided the temptation to run with the leaders at the start of the race and assured myself that they were either going to leave me well behind or crack for having gone out too fast. At the end of the first lap I was running seventh or eighth and I finished the first hour running fourth. Running my own race worked perfectly.
  • Nutrition. I didn’t eat as much as I thought I would (I only got through about half of the calories that I had brought along) what I ate didn’t disturb my stomach and I didn’t feel out of energy for more than a few minutes in the fourth hour. I think the regular handfuls of gummies worked wonders, and I felt like I was dialed in the whole time.
  • Clothing. I went prepared for a cooler day but it turned out to be warm – very warm – and I was ready for that, too. Everything worked, nothing chafed, I didn’t need to change shoes, socks, shirt or anything else. I took off my compression sleeves at the 45km mark but otherwise ran in the same clothes the whole time. Tried and tested worked well.
  • Music.  I ran the first 10km without headphones but then took my iPod Shuffle for the rest of the race. I had the Ultrafinishers Poop Stories podcast for an hour which was amusing, and followed that up with Dan Carlin’s latest Hardcore History episode, King of Kings II. This was a four hour monster that I figured would get me through most of the race and keep my head focused on something other than doing ultra math. I ended up turning Hardcore History off with about an hour to go and switched to music: The Hood Internet’s Mixtape 9. I think this mix of podcast talking and motivational music worked well for me.

Things I Could Have Done Better

  • Hydration. It was the hottest day in Lyon in quite a while. Indeed, it hit 22°C during the afternoon and was hot right from the start. I hadn’t planned on drinking as often as I did but I quickly adapted and tried to take on more water as well as using sponges to keep my head cool. Though I didn’t feel dehydrated I did notice that I didn’t take a bathroom break during the race unlike many others did. I didn’t use the bathroom until about three hours after the race had finished despite drinking another liter after the race had ended. I’m taking this as evidence I wasn’t drinking enough during the race even if I didn’t feel it and a warning for next time to make sure I am ready for higher temperatures. This will be especially important at the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra which is taking place in May – it’s almost certain that the temperature will be higher then than it was yesterday.
  • Nutrition and Heat. I don’t mean that I should have eaten something different in the heat but rather that I should have paid a little more attention to how my candy performed in the heat. As the temperature rose, my gummies started to melt! This could have been avoided by making sure they were in the shade of my sportsbag and, while it is a little thing, it’s something I’ll keep in mind for the next time I am running in higher temperatures. Melted gummies have their place, but it’s not in my hand during an ultramarathon.

Goals Going Forward

The next scheduled race for me is the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra. It is a very different race to Saint-Fons with a two kilometer loop, 90 meters of climbing every loop, and run in the afternoon. The only thing the races have in common is the time: six hours.

I have no expectations of running more than 60km in this race. The climbing will not only slow me down significantly but the race is also run in the late afternoon – start time of 5pm – meaning I will have to manage my energy and nutrition throughout a whole day before the race gets underway. This is a different challenge to the Saint-Fons race where I could have half a baguette with cream cheese a couple of hours before the race and run on a mainly empty stomach.

It’s probably too early to put a final figure of what I’ll be aiming for but I would think that a marathon distance (21 loops) should be more than possible. I have run a sub-4:00:00 marathon with more than 1600 meters of ascent and this would be about 1890 meters of climbing in the same distance.

I think I will probably settle on about a 50 kilometer goal which would be 20 laps and 2250 meters of ascent. This is a pretty decent amount of climbing in six hours and, as nice coincidence, would mean climbing the equivalent of Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko. The rules of the race allow runners to complete any lap begun before the six hour time limit is up so – assuming I can keep to a touch less than 15 minutes a lap – I should be able to get the 50km in by the time things get finished.

This does mean I’ll have to start running more stairs to get ready. The loop of the race is very close to home – literally just minutes away – so I’ll be familiar with the course by the time the race comes around. Training on the course should be a bonus come race day and hopefully my race day will go off as planned.

But first? A couple of days off from running to let the soreness go away and then back into things lightly. I think I’ll run the Lyon Running Club group run this Wednesday, maybe again on Thursday or Friday, and then at least once on the weekend. Once April rolls around I’ll be back into it with all eyes on the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra.

Bring it on!

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