The night before an ultra

The traditional meal…

…or so it has become the night before an ultra. Spaghetti Bolognese, full fat Coke and ice-cream.

This was supposed to be a simple train ride to Eastbourne. But, somehow I ended up on the wrong part of the train and arrived in Hove. Back to Brighton I went in hope of catching the next train to Eastbourne.

How would I get my spag bog? I’ll pause in Brighton and find an Italian. What a find! Pinocchio’s just off the North Laines was vibrant and smelt good. The waiter said he could deliver my meal pronto and so he did — see above. Then came the massive white chocolate ice-cream studded with white buttons and honeycomb; great!

The night train

Now off to Eastbourne at last. It will be bed by midnight, but I don’t sleep well before a race anyway. I usually wake every hour or so, thinking it is time to get up before realising that it is not, and try to go back to sleep. The pattern repeats.

Essential kit

I travel light. Wearing the shoes, ‘my ride’, I pack the essentials only for running. A vest, bottles, first aid pack, spare socks, a second layer, head torch, belt, headphones, cap, buff, sweat band, credit card, charging pack.

The South Coast Challenge tomorrow will be the third 100k run in three months. You start to know what to expect. Times to push and times to hold back become more apparent. Rest stops are planned more closely, and on this particular course, they appear every 10-15k. This may not sound too far. It’s the terrain that has the impact. Tougher terrain can mean it takes 10 minutes to complete 1k, or longer sometimes.

I learned on Race To The Stones that a little lunch (pasta) worked well, together with a foot inspection and change of socks (sweat = damp socks = blister risk). Slipping into a fresh pair has served me well on both the prior 100s.

Visualisation, breathing and meditation are all part of the routine the night before and on the morning. Creating calm and clarity, rehearsing mantras and tools for the inevitable tough moments means being prepared. It’s not a case of will it hurt, but when. I call these the sticky bits. This is the time to keep the feet moving. Plodding along. The ultra shuffle some call it.

Several days before I always experience some interesting bodily sensations. My right foot always hurts, together with my ankle and often the right leg as a whole. Throbbing, tightness, pulling, and a touch of strain all call out like individual voices, a choir perhaps. It’s a little reminder of past sensitivities and that something vigorous is coming up.

An ultra is like life. There’s a beginning and an end, with a sequence of things happening in between. Things always happen. It’s the response that is key in making it what it is for me. How do I respond automatically due to learning, social conditioning and genetics? And how do I choose to respond to those responses? Again, it’s not a matter of if life will have tougher, challenging moments, but when? I need to be prepared, to use those moments to learn and move on. How can I best deal with it? How can I get back on track quickly?

Next stop Eastbourne. Follow my progress tomorrow if you like: #upandrun on Twitter (@painphysio) and Instagram (@paincoach).

RS

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