Ultras are like zebras- they have black stripes and white stripes. Tough out the black ones and you will appreciate the white ones more:)
Now, usually at major international ultra races like the Worlds and Euros, they typically tend to put us on flat, fast courses so people can put down fast times and or go after records. Back in February, I booked my tickets to Bordeaux. About a week later, IAU posted the course info and elevation profile for the Belves course. I looked up last year's winning time for women as this was also the French NC and it was only 9:21! Oh dear, not encouraging at all. I seriously had to sit down in think. Ok, this is NOT a PR course and I generally bust my ass training for my 100ks with the goal to PR. (well for those on the road, if it were a trail race time is less relevant as there are just too many variables in a trail race like surface and terrain). This is an event I am still improving in and have quite a bit of wiggle room to keep doing so. My speed has gotten pretty decent oddly enough since moving up to the 100k in 2010. Part of me still wants to try one more fast marathon, but I would have to do that somewhere in Europe early spring like March/April before it gets too hot. Barcelona in March is a good possibility, so is Rotterdam in April. Both trips, especially Rotterdam, would be uber expensive weekends though. So, my thought was this: see if I can get a refund on the France tickets and sink that $ into a fast spring marathon. Riga is always a possibility too in May, but the course is now 3 loops and they have added nearly a couple k per loop through Old Riga- translation: COBBLESTONES that do gobble up some time. Aside from that, it's now an 8:30 start to avoid the heat and the course is relatively fast. So, I checked with Air France to see if I could get any kind of a refund- nope. At over 500 euros it wasn't a cheap ticket either, it's just that France for some reason was a sky high price place to fly to. Crap, I paid that to go to CHICAGO for a MONTH last October! I would have given my spot up this time on the team to another lady if she wanted it and just waited til Worlds for the 100k. I simply did not want to train my ass off all winter to run on a course I would not have a snowball's chance in hell of going after a PR on let alone a sub 9 only to have to sit out most of May upon my return so I could recover properly.
The logical solution would have been to go to Kyrgystan in March for 3-4weeks of altitude training. Well, that will always be a pipe dream and here's why. I can take off and go anytime since I'm my own boss, but that means a month of no salary, plus the cost of missed work(winter is busy season in the English teaching world summer is slow), plus the cost of the trip itself. We are talking a total of a few thousand bucks here when you add it all up. At the end of the day, that leaves me in a nice hole and although I'd be in great shape, I wouldn't be able to afford to get out and about to races in Europe and or the US. So, I'm just stuck in a vicious cycle with ever going to Kyrgystan or Kislovodsk to train. I can go at any time, but it's not cost effective and it leaves me with nothing left to travel out on and I'd have to forget about going to the US in a year that I went to Kislovodsk or Kyrgystan, so what's the point of that if I can't get to the race(s) I want to kick ass in after the altitude training? So I was back to my snowpacked trails for lots of loooooong runs to try and figure out how I was going to attempt to effectively train for a hellaciously hilly 100k.
So off to Bordeaux I was. Igor Tyazhkorob form the Russian team and I booked at the same time back in February before prices got even worse and flew together. We were about 40 min late getting into Bordeaux and just missed the shuttle 200km or nearly 3 hrs to Belves and had to wait for almost another 3 hours for the next one. The organizers did meet us and have a room for us to wait in with snacks so that was nice. We got in for dinner at almost 10pm after a long ride through the French countryside and the famous vineyards. WINE YUM....but it would have to wait til AFTER the race. I was dead dog tired having been up since 4:30 (2 hr time difference). I had begun to drift into drool sleep on the bus from Bordeaux. By the time I finally got dinner and got home to bed after, it was after midnight or 2AM to me. The only thing on my agenda was sleeping til lunch and that's just what I did! I got up and had a snack then went for a shakeout run for about 30 min then came back for lunch. Lunch was another 3 course meal starting with patte and bread then chicken cordon bleu,and yummy ice cream for dessert. They did feed us well. France has some of the best baked goods, red wines, and cheeses I have ever had. I still remember this from when I was in Courchevel in 2007.
shake out run on the flats
We stayed in nice 2 bedroom mobile homes on a campground. They were similar to what we had in the Netherlands in 2011. Nice. The frogs were croaking in the night and put me right to sleep this time.
In the morning, while I was sleeping, each team could send 1 person to see the course. Edgars from our team went as did one of the Russian coaches sitting next to me at lunch. The Russian coach told us it's not an easy course. His girl was ready to run at least an 8:15 but he would be tickled if she even ran 8:30s-NOT encouraging. He said the midsection was all major hills of 1-2km in length the worst of which was between 35 and about 50. Ok, note to self, go out SLOWLY as ye who goes out fast shall face a slow and painful death.
The next task on the agenda was getting all my drink bottles ready for the course. We even got 22 stickers with our number, country,and aid station number on them to stick on each bottle. WOW sweet major time saver!!!! Bottles done and off to the opening ceremony. We got to walk around Belves a bit before. It's a small town of about 1500 on top of a BIG hill. After that, they had some snacks out for us before heading back for dinner. OK, I couldn't resist, I took a small glass of red wine....just a couple sips:) I used to drink 2-4 glasses a week of dry red wine because it is good for you and it helped keep my cholesterol in check, but it's not easy finding good QUALITY red wine in Moscow, so I got away from my red wine habit. Dinner rocked! Once again a nice 3 course meal with soup and as much fresh bread as you could eat, home baked lasagna MMMMMMMMMM, and dessert- HAPPY TUMMY!!
yup- always come prepared because there is little time to hunt down bottles last minute!
riding UP the hill into Belves
Race Day- For breakfast calories I went for Vitargo highly concentrated and some breakfast bars. I can't have anything heavy before a race and there was no oatmeal and honey which is my breakfast staple-oatmeal and honey from the beekeeper with propolis. The bus took us up the hill into Belves to the start. We had to get there in time to drop our drinks. Well what a mess. No one really understood where to put them. They had boxes out but they were for the French national championships. OK after asking a few several times we finally figured out everyone else had to put EACH BOTTLE in individual baggies and LABEL the aid station number they were supposed to go to. JFC!? Seriously? I could have done this yesterday if they had given us the baggies then not now! We barely had time to get things sorted and labelled before the van with team drinks took off!!!!!
STRIPES-makes it easy for my crew to spot me at the aid stations :-)
Seriously- the Runningskirts compression socks have the best fit and the
sleeves were a must in the cool weather
bottles go where????
Now Andris and his sister bless their hearts agreed with the Lithuanians to ride out to the 30 and 60k aid stations. I didn't risk taping my gels and Vespa to my bottles in case they didn't make it to their proper homes along the course as was the case in Italy last yr. This way, I would only have to carry enough gels and Vespa for about 30k or so at a time which is easy peasy. The course was one big loop so if drinks didn't make it to the aid stations, I was going to be totally up sh!t creek!Amazingly enough, those magic elves got ALL of my Vitargo bottles to their proper homes at all 22 of the aid stations ! WOW! Weather was the saving grace of the day+6 at the start and barely 10 12C at the finish and overcast. I went out conservatively as slow as 5.20 in the first 30k. I saw my crew at 30k and got what I needed just before all HILL would break loose from 30-55k and not really leveling out in spots til well after 60k. As soon as I passed the station at 30k, it was straight UP UP UP a steep hill. So it started. Some of the hills were so steep I power walked them and saved my legs and actually passed quite a few people doing this. I can power walk the hills and still keep things in the 5.20s (about 8.30-40 miles) and I learned years ago on mountain courses in Alaska that this is far more effective than trying to run fast UP a STEEP hill! So up and down the hill it was for the next 25k up and down, up and down, repeat.....My quads were not particularly happy. I just remembered the Russian coach had warned us about the midsection. Every turn was either an up or equally as punishing down. At about halfway, I got treated to HAIL, yes, a hailstorm that went on for the next few kms. Nice. I wasn't cold, just wet. I had in my thin silkweight Run It Fast shirt under my singlet just in case it rained so I wouldn't freeze and so it would dry quickly after. That was smart. At 60k I got what I needed for the next 30k...but noticed only some of my gels were there and ONE Vespa......oh no! I need at LEAST TWO Vespas to get to the finish one at 60 one at 80k. After 60k, I always tend to add Coke to whatever else I'm eating and drinking. They had Coke on the regular table so after grabbing my own eats and drinks I took a Coke on the way out of each aid station sometimes with a saltstick to boot. It's weird, it's a classic ultrarunner staple, but after 60k or so, my body asks for Coke every time!
loading up for the next 30k(at 30k station) after that all HILL broke loose for those next 30k or so!
I didn't waste time at the stations, I could see my drinks as I approached the table and grabbed what I needed and took off. I only had 1km which was much over 6 min all day and it was the inevitable need to use the loo for number two (or bushes) just before 70. Hmmm had to do that last yr at about 70 75 or so too. Seems I can go about 6 hours before needing to suddenly GO. I was fine after that and there were no more unplanned pit stops. At 70 I found the rest of my gels and Vespa. Our crew had dropped them off along the way. After 70 there were some flats but not until after 80 did it flatten out a bit. This is what was a bit frustrating. I went right back to 5.15/km pace after 80 was already picking up after 70 over the final few hills. I never died, just like many lost time in the hilly midsection. At 77, I caught Lena Abashova from the Russian team on an uphill. She is really good too-8:30s 100k. She went out way ahead of me in the first part of the race. I should never have caught her, she's a hell of a lot faster. After that, I caught one of the Lithuanian guys, a couple of French ladies and the German girl who blew past me in the first 15k. At 93 ish I realized if I busted ass and dropped the hammer to about 5 min pace through that final climb at 98(last 2k was on a straight UP hill), could possibly PR. Are you kidding me???PR???On THIS course??? SO that's what I did, started trying to bank time by running 5 min(8min mile pace) pace to compensate for a potential big loss in the final 2k climb. I even managed to throw in a couple sub 5s. UGH Coach was right on a flat I need to go out at 5 -5.10 pace and not be afraid. My pulse at that pace is only in the low 130s so, yeah, it's doable on a flat in good weather. We had planned 8:40s on a FLAT but this was not the course for that stunt. Going out slow in the first 30k paid off. Just before 98k and that final uphill, I passed another German girl who also blew by me in the first 20k. I felt like kind of a brat passing someone that late in the race, but if I was going to be out of commission most of the next month, I had better have a damn good reason for it-go for the PR. 98-99k 5.15 on the initial uphill WOW I had planned for 6-7min final K dropped to 5.30 in spots then I picked up the final 600 to the finish-9:15. How the hell did I PR on such a hard course? Yeah it wasn't rocket science to figure out that on a flat, I could put down a damn good time. I finished and our crew helped me to the tent. I was holding onto Andris' sister because I seriously felt like my legs were going to give out. I finished 22nd overall and spent the next hour or so getting my poor feet fixed and my legs massaged. It was a beautiful course, just a tough one. The views from on top of those hills were really pretty.
OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!! 4 toenail casualties from those HILLS no doubt!
OWWWWWWWW 100k no problem,fixing feet after OWWWWWWWWWW
Andris getting the flag because we are hosting next year!
Team managers for Latvia and Russia-Andris and Nail-Nail and I ran Boston in 98 and in 2000
In the evening the Russian,Latvian, and Lithuanian teams all had dinner together. Most all of us know each other and we are a friendly bunch. We had all pitched in for good wine and eats. FINALLY, I could enjoy that good red wine!