August 03, 2010

That first 100-miler

On Monday morning, six days before STORMY I am feeling the adrenalin, the fantastic excitement that comes with the prospect of trying something you have not done before. In my case, it's my first 50-mile race.

   The previous day I had run the Squamish 10km, and had a solid race with a time of 41:00 after a 2-hour training session the day before. After the race I interviewed the second runner for my next book: she is tackling the 100-mile distance for the first time this weekend.

    Her 20-year running career, which includes two wins of a 100km race and setting a women’s course record for that event in her first attempt at it, began with five-minute walks during a stressful time in her life. Gradually doubling the time she walked and speeding up, it wasn’t long before she could comfortably run 5km and a family member recommended she enter a 10km race.

    From there she just kept upping the distance, half marathons, to marathons, then her first ultra 10 years ago, and another, and another. She is a mum, has a busy full-time job and is now five days away from starting her first 100-mile race at the age of 46.

    She is superbly modest about her accomplishments, saying at the end of the interview that she hoped she didn’t sound boastful. Which she didn’t. Not even one tiny bit.

    As I Monday, yesterday, worked on writing her profile and listened to her comments again on my tape recorder, I was soaking up her enthusiasm and knowledge and was feeling just so excited for her race, and my own. She knows she is ready. As a long-time marathon and ultrarunner, she understands the challenge very well.

    While her focus is on ultras these days, she still runs one marathon a year because she absolutely loves the distance—and it keeps her honest, she says. “The difference with ultrarunning is truly not worrying about every second or every minute. It is a lot more about going with the flow, and walking the hills and knowing that that is OK, and stopping at the aid stations just long enough to properly fuel.

    “The ultra is a different beast in that you know you can feel absolutely terrible. You can feel like you are going to die, maybe you vomit, maybe you have diarrhea, maybe you get dizziness but there are things you can do to work through that and still finish. You have to learn that you can feel bad and keep going. It’s not the end and you will have those bad patches.”

    Her top recommendations are to hydrate and fuel properly, to start at a slow pace, have good shoes and—perhaps most of all—to keep your mind positive. “The less tension you hold in your body the more fluid your body can be.”

   And last but not least, she recommends savouring that introduction to a new challenge. "It’s having the open mind to the possibility. I love the first time I run a race because you truly have no expectations, no time to beat. Often you can worry about it but it is a beautiful thing running a race for the first time." 

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