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The Road to an Ultra

Marathon Madness Reading The Road to an Ultra 7 minutes Next Women's Night Running

In my head I have written this post a thousand times (generally on each long run), but this is actually the first time I have sat myself down and put words on the screen.

I remember that feeling last year of achieving my very first Marathon and the complete and utter exhilaration in getting it done. The weeks and months of training, the hundreds of thousands of steps that lead to that point, the heartache the voices in my head wanting me to quit. The sore feet, the muscles, tight, tender and stiff, the encouragement and commiseration from my run family. I remember it all. But it all pales in comparison to that amazing soaring feeling of turning that last corner seeing everyone waiting at the finish line and running across it. That is one serious buzz that is not easily replicable.

I remember in the week before pestering my coach with what is next? (Sorry Chris) Why you might ask was this question even being formed let alone spoken out load… In my head I had run the marathon. I was going to cross that line by hook or by crook. I was calm and fully believed with my heart of hearts I was going to do it. I had done all the training. I had recovered well, and you know what I think I did the entire 42.2km’s with a freakin grin from ear to ear (except for a couple of little wobbles 😉).

So when I sat down with Super Coach in December 2018 and we started to plan they year of 2019 part of me was pleased (and an even bigger part of me was terrified) that the first goal event for the year was going to be the 50km Ultra Marathon at Canberra as part of the Australian Running Festival in April 2019 (the first of three big goals for 2019).

The excitement levels were high and the terror real – it’s a strange and heady combination. With so many weeks to train at that point I wasn’t too concerned about making the distance. I have always been concerned about making the time restraints.

You see the course has cut offs. This turtle runner’s nemesis. The official course cut off time is 7 hours for the 50km. But there are multiple checkpoints and it means you must average a pace of 8 mins 24 seconds per KM. Sitting here and listening to everyone’s average pace that sounds super doable. Here’s the kicker though. Most, in fact about 98% off my runs are at about a 9/9.5 min/km pace. I am no speedy, graceful gazelle. In fact, when I try to pick up any speed, I resemble more an epileptic octopus on ecstasy.

My comfort in all of this is that I know Super Coach Chris has got my back. He knows his shit and I know he will help my find the turbo my turtle is lacking.

The distance has not scared me ever. I know that given enough time I can make the distance. That is simply about pacing myself. Plus let’s face it when I need to be (and sometimes when I don’t) I am pretty freakin stubborn. I know that these factors will help me cover the distance.

I do know this though. That when this goal was set, sleep was being robbed by the thought of how the hell am I going to make those time cut offs! It is always the pace and speed needed and the pain and agony involved in maintaining these paces that terrifies me and quite literally keeps me awake at night.

Give me a long slow easy tempo run any day and I am a very happy turtle. Push me with Tempo’s, times, strides, builds and speed and I am a very stressed turtle.

Of all of these sessions I am learning to enjoy two of them. The first set is the strides session. This is a predetermined block of time of gentle nice easy perfect turtle running punctuated by the kick in the guts of builds to full out sprints and the ease back down over a short distance. These sessions are very much a love/hate – love the long slow cruisy bits and hate the strides lol. But I see the benefit and am learning to find the joy in them – the big joy is that the sprint/build section is super short 🤣.

The other sessions that I kind of almost enjoy are the build sessions. Generally, a longer slow-paced turtle friendly run followed by a determined time of pace building to a super strong finish. Essentially forcing a negative split (the further the time the faster the pace) finish. I have always enjoyed the challenge and the push of the negative split – even before I knew what it was called!!

The sessions that make me wake in a cold sweat of an evening or cower in the foetal position in the corner are the Tempo sessions. These guys just freakin hurt and on some level fill me with dread, terror and fear. Yes I am getting better at them, but it isn’t making me love them anymore.

Yet again I am left with trusting the process, and Super Coach. Some days I feel like I am getting faster, other days slower – but it is all about the bigger picture. I sit here now putting words on the page and “U” Day is just over 4 weeks away. One more training cycle left to accomplish the times and the pace needed to prevent me from being pulled of the course at multiple points. You know what it still scares me that I won’t.

I have the utmost faith in Chris, my pit crew and my squad to get me there. I firmly believe my legs will carry me the distance, it is if my “heart” will sustain the pace needed. Internally a massive part of me knows that I just need to keep ticking of the sessions – getting the training done and the rest will just fall into place and this little turtle will somehow find it’s turbo. But there will remain until I cross that line the sense of wonder, unease and challenge of getting it done. If you are joining us in Canberra please come and say hello and chat through your own fears with us! You will be in good company. If you are running the 50km with me make sure you say hello and get your trail on with a cheer and support as we cross paths! I hope to see a LOT of my running family up there and on course and I can’t wait to cheer every single one of you on!

Here’s to all of us ticking off the sessions needed, slaying those internal demons and achieving the goals!

Stay safe out there,

Sa x 

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