36 kilometers and 780 meters of trail running in the pocket. In other words, first ultra trail run test completed. Now it’s time to look for a mid-winter marathon. That will be test number 2. Let’s see where I’m going to run that one.
It’s 10.15 in the morning and I’m dawdling. I should have been out of the house already, but it looks grey outside and I’m not in a running mood. Or maybe I am. A bit. I’m just nervous. Today I want to run at least 35 kilometers to test if I’m on schedule to do an ultra run in Spring next year. 35k feels like a serious distance.
I mean I’ve done 2 marathons, but that was in my first running life. The last marathon I ran, the Rotterdam Marathon, was in 1995. That’s 27 years ago. I was 23 years old back then. Now I’m 50. But that’s at the same time the reason I want to do this ultra run. Running 50 kilometers, being 50 years old. It kind of has a nice feel to it.
But to be ready for that 50k, I should run today at least 35k. So what am I waiting for? The weather is not getting any better. I know I will get bored, but I have an audio-book ready, there are some podcasts I haven’t listened to, and Sara is going to run the last 10 kilometers with me.
Shorts and cold wind
Almost 11 am, but I’m off. In shorts, a base layer and a top layer. That’s enough. The wind is cold, but for the rest it’s nice. As soon as I’m in the forest, I won’t feel the wind anymore.
Twenty minutes later I actually feel warm. The sun is slowly coming through the clouds and makes life directly feel a little better. Or is it being outside again. That always makes me happy. So why was I dreading going?
Hot ginger tea
After 11 kilometers I grab my phone to write a message to Sara: Leaving the Maaij. On my way to the deer path. The answer is short, Yo! The refreshment stop a kilometer later is sweet, because Sara is waiting for me with hot ginger tea, a pancake and a new stock of Maurten gels.
When I follow my way a couple of minutes later, I see my heart rate going up to 169 beats per minute (BPM). So far I was able to keep it around 150. That’s where I want to have it. 150 bpm is a heart rate with which I can keep on running without my legs getting too tired. So I decide to walk a bit. Maybe it was the stop and starting up. Maybe it was the food.
Scottish Single tracks
A couple of minutes later I’m going again. It looks like my heart is happy, because it stays below 150 BPM. I’m happy too. I’ve drawn a new trail for today, and I’m discovering all little single tracks I’ve never run before. Some remind me, with their mossy greens, of Scotland.
When I leave the new part of the forest and run over a muddy countryside road to the part of the forest I know so well, I start to feel my left knee. It was annoying before, now it’s starting to be painful. Doable, but painful. I’ve run 2 hours and I’m about halfway today’s 35 kilometers.
Thursday Murder club
The Thursday Murder club is fun. It’s been playing in my ears for almost an hour and a half now. Sara recommended the book. Listening to an audio-book was a tip I picked up from a podcast. But for now I’m done with it, so I switch to a football podcast. I’m actually done with running as well. I think 2,5 hours is the maximum I can be entertained by a run. I love the forest, but after 2,5 hours I’ve seen it for the day.
With 10 more kilometers to go, I’m almost home again, to pick up Sara at the deer path. Seeing her, makes me happy. It always does, but today I am extra happy and realize how beautiful it most feel for ultra runners to see their loved ones at an aid station.
Today Sara is my aid station and my pacer. After handing me another pancake and new gels, we run side by side. Having her here, will get me through those last, boring kilometers. Mentally boring, because I saved the most beautiful loop for last.
However, where my legs are still willing to run, Sara’s aren’t. After 20 minutes we have to walk a little bit, because her heart rate is too high. Yesterday was our resting day, but the day before we ran in Maastricht. Uphill. She isn’t totally recovered from that.
When her heart rate is back to normal, we pick up running again, but her legs are not willing, so we run, walk, run and walk again. Just as I think she got through the tiredness, and has found her rhythm, she stops. Her knee is playing up again. She only started running in August and her legs still have to get used to it.
She offers me to run the last kilometer and a half home on my own, but I always believe that when you go out together, you finish together, so slowly we walk home. Ultra running is a lot of walking anyway. So far today I’ve run almost all of it. A bit of walking is not bad.
Back home I take a long, hot shower, while Sara makes lunch. My first ultra trail run test is kind of a success. What better way to celebrate than with a nice pasta party.