Thursday, April 5, 2012


The third ascent out of 4 at the 30k mark
I fear this up and coming  race is going to be a real examination of my capabilities . I can see the far peak from my terrace and everyday I think that's the third ascent out of four, I must be crazy. I  did a big long training run a few days ago, 36 kilometres and climbed nearly 7000 feet of solid rock, loose shale and stone in 6.5 hours....and it was hot....and, I nearly trod on a snake, a black Viper..... now this is really getting serious! When I got back Sue asked, 'Is all this worth it ?' Well the simple answer is 'No', especially after a 6.5 hour bone shaking 'painfest'.
       In the morning I felt a little better, luckily ultra runners have terrible memories and so most of the exhaustion and mental fatigue had gone. In the real race I would still have another 16 k's to go plus another 1500 + feet of climb! This UTBA is going to be a nightmare 9 hours plus, methinks. Hopefully this and other tough mountain training runs will help but with 4 weeks to go, who knows ? I must be careful not to 'burn out' and overdo it or it really will be extremely hard......maybe thats why they call it 'Endurance running'.
      I've just been reading some of the blogs of Dakota Jones, a young elite runner, and I'm happy to say he goes through the same pain and mental torment that I do......What a relief, I was beginning to think it was just me.
     On these long runs I am often asked, 'what do you think about?'...well to be honest I'm just thinking of the next aid stop or the next hill,  my quads, salt balance, energy levels etc......or where's the next bit of shade? Sometimes, if I'm lucky I can drift off, but most of the time its a real 'in the moment thing' and I am totally absorbed by the task. This can be quite a strain mentally as well as physically because you know what you have to do. I can't kid myself that its easy because it isn't. Many ultra runners talk about 'flow' where you are moving effortlessly mile after mile, I would love to experience this as it must really help but so far I've not been that fortunate. What I do is break the race down into segments and as I finish one and start another I feel a sense of moving forward. I try not to think about all the big climbs to come because I could just become despondent and negative. As I've mentioned many times before its the negative thoughts in ultra running that will stop you, not the physical pain.
       'Why am I doing this to myself ?' is a question that keeps popping into my head, and at 8 hours into a race, with a huge mountain climb ahead and no sight of the finish, its sometimes difficult to find an answer. But thats the challenge; to overcome the mental, physical and emotional barriers in order to reach your goal.......A physychiatrist would have a field day if he cared to run along with us all....then again he'd probably quickly work out we were nuts, light up a cigarette and chill out on a rock in the sunshine.....
    But life is full of suprises and you never know, he may just sit on the rock where Mr Viper lives!
The UTBA in a storm
       Because this race is all about hill and mountain running then that is obviously what I have to train on. About 90% of this 52 K is either up or down and there is very little running on the flat. The good news is that the muscles are contracting in a variety of ways depending on the terrain and this can help in avoiding fatigue.....that's if you do it right.......if you do it wrong, the lactic acid builds up and then you are in real trouble. The key to hill running is to control your effort not your speed and the more balanced and constant the better. This can only be learnt with practice. Also some of these mountains are so tricky that poles can be a help but then thats something else to carry so its a difficult decision whether to use them or not. I prefer not to but in this race I may have to as last year I noticed about 40% of runners carried them. I only really use poles on near vertical ascents and so they are only needed for short periods and the rest of the time you  just carrying them.....which is a pain. I guess I need to keep practicing.
         We had a big storm here yesterday and somehow I found myself up in the mountains right in the middle of it and with no rain proof gear........which was slightly the end though I quite enjoyed it.....a kind of alone in the elements thing. (Very Alan Bates in 'Far from the Madding Crowd'). I even got a picture and video  just before it all turned nasty!
  Finally, on a sadder note, Micah True (Caballo Blanco) who was made famous in the cult ultra running book 'Born to Run' died a few days ago doing what he loved. An inspiration to many.



  1. Phil

    In the spirit of Caballo Blanco, even if you die from a snake bite of a black viper, you're dead. Just like Steve Todd. There's people that still want you around, so whilst everyone probably applauds your Pheidippidesean effort as a runner, maybe an environ a tad tamer might be the order of the day?

  2. I hope you enjoyed the descent into the peasoup again??!!