I've always liked running... Let me rephrase that: I've always been running. Ever since I was a kid I have practiced all kinds of sports. My passion was football and even though I was not the most technically gifted, my presence was always welcome on the teams I played. I can still remember a pick-up game with several local ex-players when one of them told me something like: "You sure can run!" I thought that his remark was due to the fact that they were in their mid 40's and I was still in high school - it was only natural to outrun them. I decided to be polite and told him that I was sure that he used to run much faster than me when he was my age. He said: "I am not talking about speed. I am talking about endurance. I never ran that much."
I first decided to test my endurance years later, in 2013, when the local parkrun scene was picking up, and after a couple of 5k races, I decided to train for a marathon. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was short-lived. I did not spend enough time on preparation and, what is worse, I found out I had a mental barrier I could not cope with at the time - it turned out that 20-30 minutes was the maximum amount of time I was comfortable staying alone by myself 😅. So I gave up running sometime in 2014.
Fast forward 5 years and I was already part of the Documaster team with enough willing colleagues to take part in the annual Business Run relay. I started training again as I tend to take races seriously. I noticed that I felt different this time around - even 10km runs were not a mental struggle. I was starting to fall out of love with football at that point in time as the group of people that I used to play with was not the same anymore and the games started bringing more negative emotions instead of the intended relaxing effect. As a result, I decided to focus entirely on running and test my endurance once more.
My approach was rather methodical and I created the " '19-'24 big picture plan". It contained both race distance goals as well as time goals for some distances. I started with half marathons in '19 and '20, marathons (road and trail) in '21, and planned for my first ultras in '22.
And that was how I signed up for the Tarnovo Ultra 53k race taking place on April, 10 (fun fact - that marked exactly 5 years at Documaster 🎉). My planning started way back in November when I began building my fitness. I wanted to play it safe as I had a couple of nagging injuries in my previous training blocks.
I started with 50k weeks in December, slowly growing my mileage to 80k in March.
In the meantime, I spent some time researching fuel and liquid intake strategies that I wanted to test. A really good overview I stumbled upon gave me a basis for tailoring my approach. All in all, I ended up with this detailed racing plan:
As it can be seen, my goal time was 6h 36m and that was the conservative estimate - I knew I was able to cut it to 6h on a good day.
Well, as Burns has put it "The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley" . The Friday before the race I played football with my colleagues for the first time in almost two years. Needless to say, that brought a whole plethora of movements that were not part of my daily routine 😅. The result was a noticeable inflammation in the adductors on the morning after - just a day before the race. To make things even worse, the apartment we had rented turned out to be right above a club with live music. I did not get much sleep.
I felt fresh at the start, though and everything was going according to plan. At 30k I was 25 minutes ahead of my conservative expectations. I was getting optimistic. At 35k, though, the cramps started. It was a specific muscle, to be exact, Vastus lateralis. I needed to stop for a couple of minutes, stretch, and massage in order to be able to continue. I felt better in a while, although I did not want to risk not finishing and slowed the pace a bit. At 43k it turned out to be a recurring issue. After a similar treatment (and don't start me with Magnesium, Calcium, and the likes - there is plenty of research on the topic pointing in other directions), I was able to get to the finish line exactly 6h 40m after I started. My conservative estimate turned out to be rather accurate given the circumstances 😎.
And what's next you might ask? After all, I disclosed that I have a plan till the end of '24. Well, I definitely want to tackle the 100-mile distance in a year or two but I'll first test my endurance with a 100k in a couple of months. Keep your fingers crossed 😉.