I’m in the sort of physical shape I wanted to be in for the race tomorrow morning.

Save for a couple of weeks lost to injury back in January, I’ve done all the training I hoped to do, run all the kilometers I had hoped to run, and hit the sort of goals that I set for myself since I took to the course in Ploeren back in early December in my first ultramarathon.

I’ve run more than a thousand kilometers since that race and I have hit a few strong personal bests along the way, too. A quick scan of my about page reveals that every personal best on my list has been set either at the ultra in Ploeren or in the four months since I ran there. Whether it’s a short sprint over 5km, a longer effort over 10km, a half marathon or full marathon, or even a 50km run, I’ve managed to build on the base I had constructed to run the best times of my life.

I’m at the point physically where running for anything less than an hour feels easy and sometimes even a waste of time. Though it only takes a few minutes to pull on my running clothes, I somehow get it in my head that I’ll spend more time getting dressed and then getting undressed if I run for only 30 minutes or so. When I remember that a year ago I was trying to fit in five or six kilometers in the morning and thinking it was hard, this is a long way to come.

Hell, when I was in the Czech Republic a bit more than a year ago I remember feeling a bit nervous about setting out for a half marathon distance run with a local. It wasn’t going to be my first run at that distance but it was still significant enough that I was planning especially for it. Now, however, I’ve run 20km or more thirty times and what used to be something to build up to on a weekend or a couple of times a month is now just called ‘Wednesday’ as I fit some running before and after the Lyon Running Club jog.

In short, I think I am where I need to be physically for the race tomorrow.

Which only leaves the mental side of things.

Make no mistake, this is a significant part of the race for me. Unlike a 5K or a 10K where I can just go out as hard as I can for as long as I can, the six-hour distance doesn’t work as an all out effort.

In a 5K I can take a look at my watch after each kilometer and push harder knowing there are only a handful of minutes to go. In a 10K I can assure myself of a negative split, or almost always. Hell, even in the most recent half marathon race I ran back in October saw me spending the largest part of the race passing people in a race for the line. I picked a pace I could hold for an hour and a half and I held it, barely slowing at the water stations and pushing as hard as I could to try and come in under 1:35:00.

But when a race is longer, when it gets out past marathon distance, the mental side of things starts to play a big part. You note your pace on the Garmin, do the math, wonder if you’re too fast or too slow, and try and guess how long you’ll be able to keep this up. Feeling good is great, but feeling bad is common. You pass other people, get lapped by people you aren’t racing against but who, technically, you really are. You repeat mantras to yourself, hum songs that you recall out of nowhere, and silently judge every runner around you…but mainly spend your time judging yourself.

I have an advantage of sorts in that I am happy keeping to myself and not talking. That my French suffers significantly when I run a long way will probably go a long way to encouraging people to leave me to myself, too. Frankly, trying to understand someone when they are huffing and puffing on a run is hard enough, but to try and do that, translate what they said in your head, come up with the appropriate response, and spit it out between your own heavy breaths is hard stuff, too. So I’ll probably keep to myself, run my own race, and spend the six-hours just making the loops.

There are going to be times when I feel like I should be going faster but can’t. There are going to be times I am walking to eat or drink when my head will be screaming at me to hurry up. And I know that no matter how many times I tell myself to run my own race, there are going to be questions popping into my head every time I get lapped by someone.

But I’ll keep telling myself that:

  1. You’ve been here before
  2. Keep your head in the game
  3. Run your own race
  4. Concentrate on your own goals

I wrote yesterday about the ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ goals I have for the race. Quite frankly, only the ‘A’ goal really counts for me. If I can finish at 4pm tomorrow with more than 60km banked then the race will be a success. The ‘B’ and ‘C’ goals only come into play if I am somehow beating that target and have time left to run.

And so, with less than thirty hours to go until the gun goes off, all the preparation I need to have done is done, and the only thing left is to get my head into a place where I’m ready for the race. I think I’m almost there. I’ll know for sure at 10am tomorrow.

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