I like to run again. I feel recovered. Yet, I am trying to take it easy for a couple of more days. No running. Instead, I’m looking back at the Dolomiti Extreme Trail. These are the seven lessons I’ve learned.
There’s altitude and altitude
I had a hard time at the Dolomiti Extreme Trail. Every time I was struggling it was because I had to climb uphill. The thing is, I kind of like going uphill. I love being in the mountains, but I discovered there is a big difference between altitude and altitude. As soon as it becomes seriously steep, I start to struggle. Serious is everything steeper than a 40 percent grade.
We had a lot of that last week. It was something new for me. Only at the ERYRI 25 kilometers at Ultra Trail Snowdonia did I had to go up a steep slope, but that was just for a couple of meters. In the Dolomites we were climbing steep grades for a couple of kilometers.
This is something I have to get better at, if I want to keep running these races. In my training I focused a lot on the distance, not so much on climbing, that’s why I don’t have climbing legs. When I’m back home, I’ll start working on them.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe not, but as well in Snowdonia, as in the Dolomites I got light-headed, going uphill fast. In both races I had to stop for a moment and take a few, deep breaths.
At this moment I don’t have another race planned with serious elevation, but for a future one, it would be good to spend a couple of days more in the mountains to acclimatize.
It sounds strange, but it feels like we all have 4 pairs of legs. One for climbing, one for walking, one for running and one for slipping and sliding. I noticed during my first ultra, in Sussex, that when my legs don’t want to run anymore, they are still fine to walk. In the Dolomites I noticed that when my legs don’t want to climb anymore, they are still happy to run. That’s why it feels like having different legs.
Knowing this, makes me mentally stronger. Yes, I might struggle walking up a steep hill, but that doesn’t mean I can’t run, and if I’m tired of running I can still walk. It makes ultras mentally a lot easier to do.
My stomach can do ultras
For the first time I didn’t have problems with my stomach. Sara made polenta for me, with some extra salt. I cut bars out of it and put them in a plastic bag. I also had some salami with me. I ate that at the refreshment posts, while getting some Coca Cola and filling up my soft flasks. One always with water, the other one with Enervit, the sports drink the organisation provided. Not my taste.
During the race I ate pieces of the Voom energy bars I had with me. They are not too sweet, so that’s good and one bar is divided in 4 blocks, so it’s easy to break off pieces. The only downside; they are just sugar. Cane sugar, but still…. I would prefer something like dates, but for now they are okay, as my stomach accepts them.
I like running
The views during the Dolomiti Extreme Trail were beautiful. The trail was fun, with a lot of single tracks, technical descents and steep climbs. The only thing I missed, was running. For me trail running is still running. Mainly running. Okay, I hike uphill to save energy, but after that I like to run. Maybe it was because of the bad weather – a month of rain – that destroyed a lot of paths, but I had the feeling I walked more than I ran. At different moments during the race I missed running.
It’s always hard to get an idea how a trail run will be, but maybe next time I can study the profile of the race a bit better so I know how much walking and much running there will be.
I’ve got endurance
It took me almost 13 hours to complete the 55 kilometers and 3.800 meters of altitude of the Dolomiti Extreme Trail. I stopped and stood still for a couple of minutes a few times to give my legs a rest, but I never sat down for a longer period of time.
After the first refreshment post I took a couple of minutes to stretch out my right hip and at Staulanza I took a couple of minutes to put on some dry clothes. That’s it. For the rest I’ve always been moving. It’s good to know I can do this.
If you like Ayurveda (Indian medicine), I’m a Vata. Vatas aren’t known for their endurance. They are better at middle distance races. Yet, now I know I can do this as well.
We like events
Last, but not least of the seven lessons; Sara and I like events. We’ve been to small races, big races and everything in between. Every race has its own charm, but it’s nice if there is something happening around a race. The Dolomiti Extreme Trail was one big happening. Not in the amount of people, but in things to do. While I was running, Sara could have a look at the market, taste local products, have a drink on the terrace, go to the shops and cheer for the other runners. That makes it fun to come and watch.
That’s it. Those are the seven lessons I’ve learned from the Dolomiti Extreme Trail. Now I will focus on recovery and the rest of our yoga tour through Italy. From the 1st of July I’ll start preparing for the Sibirien Ultra at Kullamannen.
Keep on running!