The Journey from half marathon to 100km (part 2)
Following on from Part 1, this blog post is all about my training and nutrition prep before and during the race, with a race recap of course!
The training was pretty simple – I did 2 slow 5kms on Monday and Tuesday with no other exercise that week. This allowed my injured knee to be completed rested and also fit in with the carbohydrate load that I started on Wednesday.
-During a carb load you need to do minimal activity to ensure you’re not using the carbohydrates you want your body to be storing.
Carb loads generally last 2-3 days and don’t require a depletion phase (period of no carbs) beforehand. That myth was thankfully busted!
Recommendations for females are ~5-8g of carbs per kg of body weight and ~7-10g per kg for males.
My goal was to hit 472g!
Which is surprisingly hard to do! Unless you’re downing boxes of chocolate, doughnuts, and pizza. But like most people, these foods make me feel super bloated, tired, lethargic and will most likely not feel good jiggling up and down in my stomach for 100km…
Which is why my biggest nutrition tip would be to practice everything!!!
Before each long run I would test different high carb meals and figure out what did or didn’t feel good. You may be totally fine eating pizza pre-run, lucky you! But 100% test it out!
Foods I recommend testing would be rice, potato, bread, pasta, yoghurt, fruit and fruit juices. All high in carbohydrates but also not too high in fat or fibre - which usually cause runners gut.
An example of what I ate pre-race day:
During long training runs I also practised and tested a nutrition and hydration plan.
As a general rule of thumb, you need 1g of carbs per kg of body weight per hour of exercise.
For me that’s 59g per hour, equal to roughly 2 1/2 gels.
Water requirements are a little trickier, it depends on if you’re running in hot conditions, how much you sweat and how hydrated you were pre run.
For me, 200ml of water every hour seemed to work well. But everyone is different! I recommend just trying different amounts and seeing what feels right!
Or, if you want to be technical you could do a sweat test where you minus your post-run weight from your pre-run weight to show your sweat loss. This then shows you how much you’ll need to drink during your run.
Although most of the hydrating is done in the days prior, during the race you only want to be topping up.
For example, during race week I drank a minimum of 3L every day. Which is more than normal for me to ensure I was well-hydrated pre-race.
1 gel every 40 mins & 200ml of water with 1 scoop of Tailwind every hour.
I had this broken down in detail and laminated to the back of my race bib so that before each checkpoint I was able to see exactly what I needed to consume at that stage.
Alright, let’s do this!
Saturday 21st September, 100km surf coast century ultra-marathon.
The race start was 7.30am from Anglesea beach.
The gun went off and it was a very slow start! We ran a 4km loop up the beach, through some tight tracks that required a single-file walk and then we all came running back down the beach and past the start line. I had to keep telling myself to stop smiling so much because I was running and grinning ear to ear like a crazy person!! I was just so happy to be there and kept thinking ‘I can’t believe I’m actually doing this!’
The rest of the 21km beach leg was fun - lots of sections were quite technical and required us to climb single file up and down the cliffs. Other parts we were running through water up to my thighs, over rocks and through rockpools.
My goal was to not go out too hard, I focused on my breathing which helped me slow my pace down and not get puffed out.
I was also having such a good time and felt the best I ever had during a run. I really believe my positive mindset and the fact that I set out to have fun and enjoy it was making all the difference.
Leg 1 was done! I changed shoes at checkpoint 2 (21km) and shoved down some food.
I’d already fallen behind in my nutrition plan, so I choose to walk up some of the large hills and cliff tops and use this time to catch up with my nutrition.
And then it rained!
It wasn’t heavy too though; I was feeling really fresh and it didn’t bother me too much.
The track was now all bushland, with a few steep hills that slowed me down a bit. Until I saw the 30km sign! This gave me the biggest push to pick up the pace for the next 2km and run to my team waiting at the next checkpoint.
None of us could actually get over how good I was feeling, the runner’s high was at an all-time high. However, I had heard there were a few people ahead of me looking really rough and I knew my time for a low period would come. During training this usually happened at around 35km, so I preempted this and asked if Daniel and my parents could be at the 38km additional location point. They weren’t able to give me any aid here but just having that to look forward to gave me a little boost of motivation.
I quickly departed checkpoint 3 and had in my head, ‘just 6kms until you see them next’. Breaking down the run like this made it seem much more achievable - little sections to tick off rather than overwhelming myself with a total of 68km to go.
Leg 2 was seemingly harder than I had anticipated, there were a lot of tough hills and I was running alone for quite a while. I tried focusing on enjoying the change of terrain, as we were now on mountain bike and 4WD tracks with lots of rocks, ditches and sticks to avoid.
*At about 38km now*
SURELY, I was close to seeing them by now. It felt like I’d been running for ages and could hear people cheering in the distance, so I must’ve been close! Right?...
What felt like forever after hearing the cheers (probably only 2km), I checked my watch to see how far away I was. That’s when I saw Daniel’s text message...
“sorry babe there was no additional checkpoint, we can’t see you until 50km”
I was gutted, my heart dropped and for the first time that day I was not smiling.
I had told myself before the run that if at any point I felt a little low it was probably because I was hungry. So, I gave myself 2 minutes to walk, have a gel and refuel with some tailwind.
And then I was back, the smile was on and I knew I could do this. Only 8km until the halfway mark!
A few kms later It started to rain again, and for some reason I found it really motivating. I finally came across a group of other runners and ran in the rain with them. It was really motivating and helped me to get back a bit of speed which I maintained for a while.
I could hear the waves crashing and we were no longer running in the bush so I knew I was definitely close this time. I then realized I was running on the same path we had walked down in the morning to get to the start line. Not long now!
The feeling of running in and seeing my people, so happy and proud of me already was just amazing. I was over the moon and could not get over the fact I was already halfway!
Nothing was really hurting at this point, I did a few squats and stretched my hips but overall I felt pretty good, both physically and mentally.
No one said it but I think we were all waiting for me to have a massive crash now. It was bound to happen, and this next leg was the most challenging with rough terrain and lots of elevation.
I had previously done a practice run of Leg 3 during training, so I knew what was ahead of me. Although I was still a bit nervous about how hard I knew it would be, and when I would hit a wall. I thought that it might happen soon so I tried to stay positive and kept repeating to myself, ‘you feel good and you’ve done this before - you’ll be fine!’
Most people had hiking polls for this section, something I was very envious of as it was steep and more of a hike than a walk. Although I tried to run between each hill there were long stretches of climb that I had to walk. with 45kms to go there was no use in wasting all my energy now.
Tip: It’s not for everyone but I found listening to podcasts really helpful. They allowed my mind to wander off and get lost in the conversations, forgetting about the tough hill I was climbing or any pain that I was feeling.
As there was no checkpoint between 50km and 70km, I preempted that I may be struggling at this stage and asked Daniel and my parents to meet me at an additional mock station near 60km.
It’s so simple, but a little wave from your people really gives you such a big boost of motivation! It also just makes the large 20km break between checkpoints more achievable. Even if you can’t stop there, having that 10k mark in your head makes it easier.
The next bit was my favourite, the downhill! What goes up, must come down, and oh boy did I come down fast. I was loving it. My speed here meant I was able to gain some time back and it felt really good in my legs. I did have to be very careful going down at that speed though as it was pretty technical with a lot of rocks, and ditches to avoid. The poor guy behind me stacked it twice!
Checkpoint 5, the 70km mark. I was expecting to be really struggling by this point, either mentally or physically. I of course didn’t feel 100% fresh, but really, I felt pretty good! No serious pains anywhere and I wasn’t hating it or wanting to quit.
Without even looking at the time I said I’d grab my head torch at the next checkpoint, it was really sunny still so I’d be fine.
That turned out to be a terrible idea. The sun started to set, and I was running on 4WD bush tracks covered in rocks, sticks and potholes that I now could not see!
I usually run in the dark, but out here away from the city lights It was pitch black and really quite dangerous. After tripping over for what felt like the 100th time I eventually caught up to a lady with a head torch and tried to run behind her. She then started to slow, and I really didn’t want to lose any more time, so I ran ahead and tried to use my phone torch. It didn’t do all that much but it was better than nothing.
This is the point that I thought I would break; I’d had in my head prior to the race starting that by 75km I would be seriously struggling and most likely crying. For some unknown miraculous reason, I still felt okay. Yes, things were tight and I was a bit tired but really, I felt bloody good. I was having the best time, I had my favourite people cheering me on, and I was basically nearly done with only 23km to go.
The next 3km consisted of more rocky 4WD tracks, followed by flatter dirt tracks. I found another runner to run with for a while and tried to stick with his pace for as long as I could. There were some tough hills but nothing quite as bad as the bridge crossing.
Right before the 86km checkpoint, we had to hang on to the side and crawl sideways under a bridge whilst trying not to fall into the river below. Not something you want to be doing after running all day.
At this checkpoint I was definitely feeling tired and also annoyed by the bridge crossing.
I probably stayed a bit longer than I should have as I felt a bit stiff running off.
From here it was uphill to Ariey’s inlet lighthouse and then onto soft sand along the beach, which my hip really did not enjoy. The previous hill fatigued me and now I couldn’t bear to run on the sand. Every step in the soft sand was like a dagger to my hip. My positive mindset had also stopped, I just wanted to get to the finish line now.
I nearly broke at the 90km mark. I thought I was nearing the finish line as we were off the sand and running on bush tracks again. Then I saw the beach ahead, back down into soft sand hell… It was brutal.
Again, I thought I must be getting closer to Anglesea as we were off the beach again and onto flat paths I could comfortably run on.
94km - I saw Daniel and nearly burst into tears! I realized I was still so far from the finish line and for the first time couldn’t even smile back at them. I had to head back onto the beach and it was horrendous. It was cold, dark and I felt so alone out there hobbling along in the sand.
3 and a half km's later I struggled my way up some stairs and back onto gravel. I was finally able to run again and had a little glimmer of hope that maybe I was nearing the finish line.
I followed another runner up the last hill to the top of Point Roadknight lookout, and then down into Anglesea.
I recognized the path from earlier that day at the 50km point and gave it my everything! No more walking, I was getting to that finish line!
I’d done it! The absolute best experience, I could barely walk but was SO proud of myself.