A few weeks ago I was sitting around feeling very blue as it was the first time in months that I did not have a big race coming. After the ADDO and AfricanX the reality of being back home was just a bit too boring. I decided to enter for Oorlogskloof, a 42km trail run just outside Niewoudville but I was still not feeling excited enough. I then heard that there was a new race in Pretoria, the Modern Athlete Irene Ultra the weekend before the Loskop Ultra and there was a familiar itch at the back of my brain that usually means I’m about to have a bad idea. I decided that I would attempt running the Irene Ultra followed by the Loskop Ultra six days later and end it off with Oorlogskloof the following weekend, three Ultras in two weeks. The blue, bored feeling was replaced by a feeling of doubt that I don’t often get. Would I be able to do these three races so close together?
Modern Athlete Irene Ultra
Having a race like this in Pretoria is really great because it means you don’t have to get up at sparrows fart or travel for days to reach the venue, so obviously I had to do it. The route was described as flat and easy so of course I showed up on the start feeling a bit too confident, it’s only 48km, how bad can it be? I started at a reasonable pace but after 10km I started chatting with a group of people and of course I ended up going way too fast. Even though I don’t run with a watch (different story entirely) I knew I was going a bit too fast, but for some strange reason I was not that worried. The route goes all the way from Irene to the Fountains Circle where you turn around and head back. I knew it would be a gradual drag all the way to the finish so ran a bit slower in the hope of saving my legs. This was in vain as when I turned at the bottom it was like a grizzly bear jumped on my back, followed by me falling off a cliff and then being hit by a truck. I had absolutely nothing left and was struggling to even maintain a slow crawl that can’t possibly be described as running. I limped the last 18km home having to dig very deep in my vault for mental strength, all the while rather wanting to lie down next to the road and wait for somebody to put a space blanket on me and feel sorry for me. I managed to finish in just over five hours which wasn’t that bad considering I was feeling like month old road kill. I realised this #3Ultras14Days plan was indeed a bad one and I was starting to imagine how I was going to explain to everybody that I wasn’t going to do Loskop which would inevitably be followed by a few people doing the ‘I told you so dance’, not naming any names, you know who you are. Luckily as it goes with ultra-running I quickly forgot the suffering and I started to think how I was going to approach the #LoskopUltra to avoid a repeat of Sunday.
I have done the Loskop Ultra twice having narrowly missed out on a sub five in 2012 and running a very sedate 5h40 in 2016. I secretly harboured hopes of doing a sub five but was very worried after the shocker I had six days before. I knew if I started too fast my legs would not last the full 50km as the first 21 is also slightly uphill, followed by some downhills that will chew up your muscles if they are already in bad shape. The day was perfect for running and I had what can only be described as one of the best days of my running life. I managed to run a consistent 5:42 for the entire race except for the last little hill about four kilometres before the finish, which gave me more than enough time to finish well under five hours in 4h47. The other highlight was that I improved my 42km time with 17 minutes from 4h15 to 3h58. I also came into the finish with #KAEM friend Rinaldi Botes and for me running with any of my Kalahari family is always a big highlight.
I don’t know how it will go in Oorlogskloof but I don’t really care as I am sure of one thing and that is that I will finish the race and get to spend a day in one of the most beautiful parts of our country. So the bad idea that I got a few weeks ago of running three ultras in two weeks have taught me a few things so far and they are:
- If you feel like Elana Meyer, remind yourself you are not and slow down! Even if you think you’re going too slow, slow down even more.
- When you realise you are not Elana Meyer, don’t let it scare the living daylights out of you, just carry on running at a pace that will get you to the finish.
- If you feel bad in the beginning of the race it doesn’t mean you will feel bad all the way to the finish, but also if you feel amazing at the beginning don’t be surprised if it all comes down around you like a ton of bricks.
- Your body is always capable of more and running with a happy heart can turn even the most horrible race into a great experience.
- Trust yourself. If you’ve trained hard you can achieve your goals.
- Absorb the energy of people next to the road. Give a kid a high five and if you laugh your ass off while running fast you will not slow down too much.
- If you’re physically able, always go run, you never get home and say ‘I should have rather stayed home’
- Going out for cocktails and sleeping very little two days before a big race is not as bad as people make it out to be. I may now have to do this every time before a big race. Again I’m not naming names, you guys know who you are.
#3Ultras14Days #destinationOORLOGSKLOOF #runhappy #ultrarunning #ultramarathoner #irunfar