A marathon is a long way, and deserves respect. An ultra marathon – 50km, 50 miles, 100 km, 100 miles or longer deserves more, fear perhaps. Many such ultras are difficult, not only in distance, but also in terms of terrain, and may involve traversing trails, steep ascent and descent, mountain paths, mud, field, track and through streams. But, for the ultra marathoner, this is the point, a challenge of both mind and body, a battle against exhaustion, weather, landscape, other competitors, and most importantly, oneself. The race is often more like a journey, through a host of mental emotions, and physical states. Moments of utter exhaustion can be allied with perfection of mind, and could find the runner in a state of absolute peace, and ‘in flow’. Other times, whether an effect of blood sugars or physical and mental exhaustion, can leave the athlete feeling full of despair. The good and the bad times must be understood, and accepted, knowing that this is part of an ultra, and will pass. Just keep moving, one foot after another, aiming at the next water station, or simply a tree ahead, or a turn on the trail. There is a peace in this discomfort.
The Wicklow Ultra race begins in a few days, and I look forward to seeing what this run shall bring.
Its the Wicklow Ultra in less than a week, 32 miles and 1740m of climbing, in the Irish mountains to the south of Dublin. As usual I go in to the event with limited training, averaging only 25 miles a week, and longest single run 15 miles – but a number of double runs i.e running morning and evening in the same day. So, at this point its always good to get your head in the right place, as that will carry you through when your legs start to fail. The Leadville 100, is one of the toughest US ultra’s, created in the early 1980’s as the nearby town of Leadville was dying, following the local mine having shut and nothing much else left in the town. The best quote in the following video is from the guys who set it up “If we do kill someone then will be on the map”
Check out also the Western States 100. Originally a race for horses, but when one of the competitors, shown below, didn’t have a horse it grew from there into one of the largest US ultras
The weather was truly insane last Saturday. Beautiful sunshine, followed by strong icy wind, and hail that felt like an assault from a nail gun. But that is the beauty of running an ultra in the Irish Wicklow mountains – the terrain is tough, the climbs relentless, but fairly predictable. The weather on the other hand can make the journey easy or painful. The picture to the left is me wearing a hat, a hood and two buffs to provide some protection from the worst of the elements. Thankfully, as shown by the next picture this wintry blast was limited, and despite the cold wind, the weather was mostly wild and beautiful.
32 miles is hard going, and here is no hiding, lack of training made the last 6 miles feel relentless, but such a well organised, friendly race, and the most beautiful of landscapes provides limitless rewards. During the event I was grateful for the changing and passing moments, of peace, perfection and exhaustion during the race. Afterwards I was left with the lasting mellow existence that is the parting gift from such run that takes you to physical and mental limits. This is without a doubt a race to return to, IMRA put on a great show, and thanks to all concerned.
Recovering from an injury is a pain, literally, however it does allow you to miss the activity and remind yourself why its so important. I’m back running again, mostly with my dog, and enjoying running for running’s sake – I’m ignoring times, distance and pace, and mixing walking, running and sprinting as we feel like it. Running doesn’t always have to be structured, after all we have enough enforced timings, and expectations in our lives. There are times when just the play is important, and that truly is what this is about, it is more an approach to life than an end in itself. While surprised by a heavy downpour the other evening, I pulled up a hood, and sped up to get home. Noticing my dog unphased by the weather, and a double rainbow in the distance, I slowed, took down the hood, and just enjoyed the moment, the movement, and stayed in the present. Sometimes its so hard to be here in the now, and it is then that perhaps running provides the answer.
It’s now over a week since an easy run with my dog Loco, turned into one broken, and a set of bruised ribs. Despite having a week off, I’ve had to except that running just isn’t an option, even with strong painkillers the level of discomfort is high. Why my dog decided to stop right in front of my whilst I was sprinting, remains a mystery, but the subsequent heavy landing on my left had side, searing pain and being winded were no surprise. After I regained the ability to breathe again, I was confident that I hadn’t punctured a lung but the initial, and ongoing pain, and the visit to the doctors a few days later, confirmed at least one broken rib. Only rest, regular deep breaths to avoid a chest infection, or pneumonia, plenty of pain killers, and time would fix it. I was hoping to use the last week for some big runs to see if I was truly able to take part in the Titanic Ultra following limited training since the 4 peaks, and the Mourne Way Ultra. So, instead I’m taking this time to review run-walk strategies, and see if its still possible to take part. Let’s see how the next few weeks ago. Check out the attached handy resource for any similar injuries
When you watch Kilian running you see poetry in motion. There is a beauty in the flow he achieves, and it is reflected in his book. Its well worth a read, to get an insite into not only a top ultra running competitor, but someone who simply loves being out in the mountains.