Tuesday, 14 June 2011


As my good friend and experienced ultra-runner said to me at mile 59, “training, it’s a good idea to do some”

That pretty much sums up the weekend – you can’t fake being fit enough to run 100 miles so Saturday exposed that fact that I was 50 mile or 60 mile fit but not 100 mile fit.

How was that? A combination of factors – the Lake Sonoma 50 mile got cancelled, I had a chest infection that affected my training in the 3 weeks up to Fellsman, withdrew from that race after 12 miles with a torn hamstring and thus did no more than about 25 miles per week over the past 4 weeks. So more rested than trained then!!

On the day there were some schoolboy errors too – I dimly registered that the race would be up at 6000ft but dismissed it. In truth the altitude was not significant although you do just about fee it uphill. More significant is that a semi desert environment at altitude has some important characteristics the runner needs to prepare for – very low humidity, high day-time temperatures, low night-time temperatures and a stronger exposure to the sun. These were the main factors that caused the “drop” as I only covered 65 of the 100 miles.

In essence, I got a little dehydrated early on although I did pull this back and was good by the early evening, I got fried by the sun during the day and should have worn a hat or visor and, once the sun set, I simply could not keep warm. As others powered into the night in vest and shorts I was wearing long sleeved top, windproof, hat, gloves and buff and still shivering whilst climbing uphill. These are the circumstances when it makes sense to avoid becoming a liability and so, around 1 mile after leaving the mile 64 aid station I turned around and headed back down the hill.

You may think that I would be really down about yet another DNF but strangely not. I need to reflect a little longer on the reasons it bugs me less and on what actions I will take as a result but the experience of the weekend was overwhelmingly positive for a number of reasons:

  • The course and scenery were amazing and well exceeded my mental picture of what it would be like. Nearly all singletrack, sometimes technical, trail through mature open forest with shallow lakes giving way to rocky sometimes barren open ridges with expansive views down several thousand feet to the Anza Borrego desert
  • Wonderful support and crewing from Lynn who kept me going, persuasively countered my whinging and was all set to get up at 3am to pace me the final 13 miles
  • The community of Ultra and catching up with some great people who I haven’t seen for a while
  • Sustained effort and concentration with a single purpose. Our lives are so fractured, dissected and distracted that its almost a luxury to thing “today I will be mostly running” and nothing else.

The aftermath has been exquisite stiffness but no injuries and, on the journey back from San Diego, the purchase of my US wheels – a VW Passat Estate/Wagon – the 4wheel drive version all ready for the mountains and the ski season.

Enough for now – gotta run!!

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