Updated: Feb 6, 2019
Last Sunday, I completed my second ultramarathon - Two Bays 56km. I placed 6th female, in a time of 6:00:25 (damn those 25 seconds!). This was one of the most enjoyable races I have ever run plus I learnt a few things along the way.
Less is more
2018 was a big running and racing year for me. I completed my first ultra in Feb - 50km at the Snowies Trail Festival. I then went on to run the Gold Coast Marathon in July and then Melbourne Marathon in October.
On top of this, we moved from Melbourne to Bright in July, which meant my Melbourne campaign was spent running up and down the rail trail, over and over again.
By the time the 14th October rolled around, I was ready for a break from training. I also never wanted to see the rail trail ever again.
Following Melbourne, I had three weeks with very little running. I strained my back at the gym, which my physio believed was my body saying "I'm tired". It wasn't until November that I felt motivated to run.
My biggest mileage week was 80km and my longest run, which was completed one week prior to Two Bays, was only 31km long. I did pace some friends for 50km at the Alpine Challenge however that was primarily walking. Whilst my mileage wasn't high, my elevation definitely increased compared to my Melbourne training. I think this helped build strong legs. I considered downgrading to the 28km race but decided to just wing it. I didn't feel any pressure because I really hadn't trained for the race.
The other thing that was different was my diet. I had read about training the body to become fat adapted. This is essentially using fat as main fuel source as opposed to carbohydrates. Your body can only store enough carbs to fuel approx 2 hours of energy but, regardless of how ripped you are, you have an endless supply of fat.
I lowered my carb intake and increased my fat intake - hello avocado, cheese and bacon! During long runs, I ran slower and limited my calories to train the body to rely upon itself for fuel. The first few weeks were hard but slowly my body seemed to embrace the new diet.
Relax, it's only a race
In the 48 hours before a race, I normally tie myself in knots. I worry about letting people down, about failing. But this time round, I was simply excited run.
The night prior was spent eating spaghetti bolognese with a glass of wine with my running club - the Melbourne Midday Milers. I was in bed by 9:30pm. The alarm went off at 5am. Immediatelt had a coffee (of course) and a bagel with avocado. Couple of nervous poos and in the car by 6:15am to get to the start line for 7am.
The weather was cool and start line had a buzz of excitement. Hawaiian shirts covered by Salamon vests were everywhere. Classy. Had an obligatory pre-race photo with the Milers and then we all filtered into the corral for the start.
Gun went off. I was towards the back so we slooooooowly shuffled forward. I spent the first 7kms dodging people. "Excuse me". "Passing on your right". "Excuse me". It was slightly frustrating but I think it forced me to start slow. I had a very rough game plan - run around 5:30/6:00 min pace for the first half. Hold on for the second half.
The first half was relatively uneventful. I plodded along without too much worry, chatting to a couple of people. I have run the trail from Dromana to Cape Schanck once before, but didn't realise the detour (to avoid the 28km & 56km running into one another) was along a long, sandy trail. Talk about a killer! Everyone was teetering along the edges where the slightly harder ground was whilst simultaneously cursing the sand.
Over the years, many runners have raved about drinking Coke during a race. I don't really like Coke so never understood the fuss. That was until I hit km 24 and ran into my friend Sarah-Jane, who handed me a cold bottle of it. Being polite, I had a couple of sips and OH MY GOODNESS. IT WAS AMAZING! Where have you been all my life? After this, I made a point to have a small mouthful of coke at every aid station.
I made my way down Arthurs Seat whilst the elite runners powered their way back up. I hit the halfway mark in 2:49 and around 8th place female. Rang the bell, grabbed some water, a mouthful of coke and was on my way. For the next 6 kms I distracted myself by cheering on all the runnings coming in the opposite direction. This also seemed to energise me. It shows the power of positivity.
Having said that, around 34kms I hit a mini wall. I was suddenly feeling tired and hot, and doubts creept in. Had I gone out too hard? Can I hang on? Should I have eaten more? But I kept putting one foot in front of the other and focussing on just getting through the next aid station. Suddenly I was over the wall and feeling good again!
Running into the final aid station at Boneo road was a highlight. The support was outstanding. As someone sponged me down and another filled up my flask, I felt like a pro runner for a second! I ran out of there feeling like I could conquer the world!! However 2km later I was literally counting down the metres as I slogged it over my favourite terrain (sand) in the beating sun. To be honest, this part of the trail is quite pretty but I am sure none of the runners really appreciated it that day.
Suddenly I was at the 55km mark and I was powering my way home. The best surprise being the final km of the race wasn't really a km - it was more like 500m so in no time I was running on tarmac across the finish line to the sound of blaring music. 6th place in just over 6 hours. I grabbed my medal and a can of coke, and lined up to cheer on the rest of the runners in.
Slightly misleading title as the damage was actually very minimal. My body felt a little tired that afternoon but I was back running on the Tuesday. Unlike other marathons, I was actually motivated to get back running.
Another big difference was how my digestive system felt. During other races, I generally overdose on gels which cause havoc on my guts for the rest of the day. At Two Bays, I had 2 gels, a clif bar and a mouthful of coke at every aid station from 28km onwards. I had no stomach distress during or after the race whilst still maintained energy. I attribute this to my body become more fat adapted.
I am pretty excited about my Two Bays result, given I didn't specifically train for it. It has ignited the fire in my belly to race again! Next up is the 21km at Snowies Run Fest on 24 Feb.