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Five lessons from the Mighty Marathon

Home again. A kind of stopover, as we’re leaving tomorrow for Italy. The Mighty Marathon was the start of a very, very busy summer; running-wise, working-wise. So, what are the five lessons I can take away from the Mighty Marathon?

More altitude training

I’ve got a month and a half to go before I’m running the 55 kilometers long Dolomiti Extreme Trail. That race has 3.800 meters of altitude. Yesterday I had to climb a bit more than a thousand meters of altitude. So in Italy it’s going to be a lot more. I need to prepare my body for that. Yesterday I definitely felt my hamstrings.

Okay, I knew I would. I only started to train specifically for altitude last week. The coming weeks are going to be busy, but I should be able to set aside half an hour a day to do lunges and squats. I know, it’s not the same as running uphill, but as you know I don’t have a lot of hills close by.

I do hear a lot about the N70 trail close to Nijmegen. Maybe that’s an option. It’s almost an hour and a half from our place, but if I can free up some time, it would be a nice run. It has only 200 meters of altitude, but it’s also only 14 kilometers long. That’s not a bad altitude for such a short distance.

Do more long runs

Number 2 of my 5 lessons is to do more long runs. The distance yesterday felt relatively easy. Well, mentally. My legs were painful. Just like in Sussex I could still power walk easily at the end of the race, but running was a different story. I could jog, but my legs didn’t like it. Mostly because of all the climbing.

The Dolomiti Extreme Trail is going to be my longest ultra up until now. I know I can’t prepare myself for all the climbing, but I can prepare myself for the distance. So in the coming weeks I hope to do a couple of more serious long runs and a few double load days.

Maybe I can even fit in a day on which I run half a marathon in the morning, half a marathon in the afternoon and half a marathon in the evening. Olivier Verhaege writes about a training day like that in his book The head weighs heavier than the legs when he’s training for his first Spartathlon. I like to try it out for myself. Although I might start with 3 times 15 kilometers.

Polenta works

I ate pieces of polenta with peanut butter last Saturday. It works as an energy bar. I was slowed down by painful legs at the end of the race, not a lack of energy. I had wrapped the polenta bars in aluminium foil. That doesn’t work. The foil breaks inside the pocket of my trail vest, covering the polenta in small pieces.

I still had gas in my intestines though. Not as much as during the ultra in Sussex, but enough to give me some cramps every now and then. Besides polenta I had some Holyfat salty gels and energy bars. The gels are okay, the bars are tasteless. At the refreshment posts I just grabbed a piece of banana and some water. I also took 3 salt tablets with electrolytes during the race.

So yes, I have to get my stomach sorted out before the Dolomiti Extreme Trail. Maybe just train more with eating and running. Another problem I encounter is that I don’t feel like eating after a couple of hours running and that my mouth is very dry. Eating an energy bar is almost impossible.

Long live running poles

Not a lot of people were running with running poles, but I was happy I brought them. They take the pressure of my thighs and give extra grip on the slippery parts. I’m definitely going to use them in the Dolomites. They don’t bother me while running. Last Saturday I needed them throughout the race. If that isn’t the case, I can simply put them in the Quiver.

RELATED: Trail running with a Quiver, a review

My hands are slowly getting used to them. In Sussex I had a blister on my right hand and muscle pain in my triceps the days after. Today my triceps are fine. I can feel the spot on my thumb where I was holding the pole, but I don’t have a blister.

Mentally I’m ready

I’m mentally ready for Sussex, I think. I didn’t have a dip yesterday. I didn’t put on a podcast nor music. I just ran, looked around me, chatted here and there and enjoyed myself. The trail was beautiful, varied and asked all my focus, because of the slippery mud.

My stomach played up a bit, my legs were painful, but I never thought about stopping. Sussex was in my mind all the time. That race was 52, now I only had to run 45 kilometers, so I knew I could do it.

I think that’s it. These are my five lessons from the Mighty Marathon. I’ll try to implement them on my way to my next race; the ERYRI at Ultra Trail Snowdonia. Will I see you there?

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