Running 100 kilometers in mountains
The last couple of years I’ve been motivated by the idea of running 100 kilometers in mountains. It had everything a good goal should have: It felt realistic, but I was also a bit scared about it. That perfect spot out of your comfort zone, but not too far out.
In the process of training for and doing the the race, I have realized something about myself, which is that I’m probably quite difficult to motivate and what motivates me is difficult to predict. But when I’m motivated by something, then I truly feel like nothing can stop me. If a goal feels right to me and I’m devoted then I’m willing to go far to reach it, which can both be a skill and a flaw (it has multiple times cost me a lot of money, when I continued with startups I should have stopped).
Training for a race of this size right now was not super logical. We have 2 kids, aged 5 and 2. They are both home full-time. Both my wife and I are self-employed. On the side, we have been working on the Traveling Village. Our plate was kinda full. But it just felt right. I signed up to the race 7 months out, after being signed up for the same race the last two years. The last years I wasn’t fully devoted, I think because I was not mentally ready. The last year it has slowly become easier to juggle full-time parenting and being self-employed, or maybe I’m just more relaxed and used to the imbalance that comes with it. I intuitively knew in February that I would do the training and finish that race in September.
That’s why I would say the process, the 7 months of training, and the actual race was “easy”. It’s a bit of hard work of course, but I wasn’t questioning stuff all the time, which just makes things so much more simple and easy.
The actual race day was just perfect and for me a beautiful experience. It was just as I had dreamed about. The race was starting already at 5.30 in the dark with headlamps on and starting directly up with 2000 meters elevation gain in the first 16 kilometers. We arrived pretty early to the start area and instead of that annoying nervous feeling, I was just soaking up the atmosphere. The race started in a small square in a beautiful village with locals standing on their balconies.
The atmosphere was incredible and the last 5 minutes before go I was super emotional in a way I haven’t tried before. I think it was a combination of actually wanting this for multiple years, a lot of hard work, and the thought of seeing my wife and kids after 70 kilometers. I have had a tendency to be a bit of complainy-pants in my head in other races, but this time something was different and in my head, I made a deal with myself: Today we just appreciate everything that happens.
I had my two good friends support me during the race. There were 4 aid stops where you could get outside help, and they would be at 3 of them, joined by my family at the last of the 3. I saw them after 16k, 31k, and then everyone at 70k. It was perfect to have the help and mental support in the two first stops. Getting a hug and “good job” helps a lot. My two friends had been super involved in planning the day and seemed excited about spending the day touring around the mountains, which I feel super privileged about.
This was my first time going beyond 12 hours active in one go, so I was really excited and nervous about the hard times that would occur. I had read from many pro ultra runners that when you have a crisis, you should just adjust, relax, and continue and give it an hour. I had two major crises underway, mainly because of the heat in the valleys. It was incredible to feel super down, but just continuing forward (slowly) and then experiencing suddenly a renewed feeling of energy both psychically and mentally.
Experiencing the re-bound from having a hard time, running for almost 18 hours, and being able to run hard after 90 kilometers was an incredible experience. It’s an experience that has truly moved my mindset on what I’m capable of, to a degree I haven’t tried before.
I was expecting to find another goal after this, to do something different. But for some reason, I’m extremely excited about doing the exact same race again next year. I keep thinking about specific segments of the trail and how I can improve. So I’m signed up again and ready to start working for it.
A small overview:
- Race: Ultra Pirineu, 100 kilometers with 6600 meters elevation gain
- Race time: 17 hours 44 minutes
- Training period: 216 days (March to September)
- Plan: 2.299 kilometers
- Actually done: 2.013 kilometers
- Missed training: 9.82%
- Total vertical: 34.242 meters
- Periodization: 3 weeks build-up, 1-week rest
- Total hours running: 194 hours
- Longest training: 5 hours 19 minutes
- Training race: 51 km/4000m vertical/8,5 hrs – 2 months before 100k race
- Daily average: 9.31 kilometers