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Should I have a race plan for Sussex?

One more night to my first ultra run, here in Sussex, England. Should I come up with a race plan, or just run? I mean ultras are unpredictable. Yet, the experts say you should run with your head.

I’ve got a lot of questions at this moment. First of all, what is the weather going to be like tomorrow? So far the weather forecast has been changing a lot. It looks like I’m going to run in the rain all day. That’s no good. At the beginning of this week it looked like rain and sun were going to take turns, but no.

I am not a fan of hours and hours running in the rain, yet I don’t think I will miss the sun. Sara and I went to the Seven Sisters yesterday, for a little walk to loosen the legs. On top of the cliffs the wind was cold. Based on that, my choice for running clothes would be 2, maybe even 3 layers, long pants, a beanie and even a pair of gloves. Yet, out of the wind, in the sun it was hot. It was weather for shorts and a shirt. So some consistency in weather ain’t bad. Well, except when that weather is rain.

Rolling hills

The hills here in Sussex are rolling hills. Beautiful rolling hills. Green rolling hills. Just walking on them makes me want to run them. The ones we’ve walked are not too steep. Still I will walk up, and run down. That saves energy.

Speaking about energy; I’ve got an energy bar/gel with me for every half an hour; Isostar bars and Maurten and Holy Fat gels. The last ones are salty ones. I have got some salt/electrolytes tablets on the side. I’ll take two soft flasks with Isostar with me. Both are 600 milliliters. I know there are refreshment points on the way, but I prefer to run on what my belly knows.

Slowly does it

I hope to contain myself in the beginning. There is a saying; a marathon starts after 30 kilometers. I guess it’s the same for an ultra. Although, this ultra has 1.600 meters of altitude. That’s why I want to take it easy for the first 30 kilometers. Easy in this case means trying to keep my heart rate below 150 beats per minute, which means I’m in heart rate zone 2.

Mentally, I am dividing the race in small parts. 53 kilometers and 1.600 meters of altitude sounds like a lot. Yet, 11 times 5 kilometers sounds doable. So I am just going to run 5k, and then another 5k, and another and another.

I think those 5 kilometers will go by pretty fast, as it’s really beautiful here in Sussex. The green hills, the white cliffs, all the sheep, cows, horses, the trees bending in the wind. Plus this is England. You can run from historical landmark to historical landmark.

Seven Sisters

Six kilometers and I am at Birling Gap, where Sara and I had a brownie and a tea yesterday. 8 kilometes and I am at the William Charles Campbell monument. After kilometer 9 I will pass the Seven Sisters, and leave the coast behind me.

Kilometer 12 is at the Seven Sisters visitor center, where we bought two beautiful prints for our house. Kilometer 15 I should see the St. Michael the Archangel church in Litlington. Just before kilometer 19 I hope to see the mystical figure of the Longman of Wilmington. Kilometer 21 is at the Church of St. Peter ad Vincula in Folkington. That’s where we make a u-turn into the forest, and back to the coast.

Kilometer 31 is the refreshment post in East Dean, not far from the Tiger Inn, we’re staying at. From there on my heart rate doesn’t really count anymore, and I can allow myself to just run, based on how I feel.

Back to Beachy Head

Kilometer 34 I am back at Birling Gap, running more inland this time to Beachy Head, where I will join the last part of the 10 kilometer route Sara will run. At kilometer 42 I should see the tower of St. John’s Meads Church of England, as a sign I’m back at Helen Garden in Eastbourne. A couple of minutes later I will pass the start. I have 7 hours to get there, if I want to make the cut-off time. That sounds doable.

When I pass the start I hope to see Sara for a moment, before I run one more lap of 10 kilometers around Beachy Head. The exact lap Sara will have run a couple of hours earlier.

So to cut a long story short; the physical plan is to start easy for the first 30 kilometers, see how I feel, and adjust my pace based on that. The mental plan is to tick off landmarks, and focus on Sara’s smile that is awaiting me after 42, and her arms that will be awaiting me after 53 kilometers. Well, if she can wait so long. 8 to 9 hours, I think.

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