17 July 2014

Learning from past experiences

One of my main guiding principles is that you can learn something from everything and, not surprisingly, some of my best learning experiences have happened when things have not gone as planned and when I have had to face and overcome problems and obstacles. Based on that the exercise yesterday when my teammate Otto and I was out the whole day running, testing our gear and getting to know each other better was a poor learning experiment because almost everything went very well. The sweet and sour chicken pre-cooked meal ready-to-eat (MRE) warmed with a water-activated chemical heater was actually quite tasty, I got no blisters or chaffing, no stomach issues, I have no muscle soreness today, and most importantly, Otto and I had great discussions and share the similar thoughts about the experience that awaits us at PTL (Petite Trotte à Léon).  Of course, we made some navigation mistakes, got a little bit thirsty due to the heat before we found water at a farmhouse, and I got annoyed with the Garmin GPSmap 64s more than once, but overall we could have hoped for more difficult challenges, but it was not to be this beautiful summer day.

We ran a small section of Sörmlandsleden, a lowland trail path of more than 1,000 kilometers close to Stockholm. It brought forward some nice memories as my first trail Ultra was actually a 50K race in 2002 called Sörmland Ultra Marathon along another section of this trail. I ran at a rather modest 4:35 and remember that I could barely walk for a week afterwards (the world is indeed small – Otto also ran this race in 2002 at a time of 4:23 – at that time none of us could know that we 12 years later would head out for PTL together). The picture below from Whatifultra entitled “My family watching me try to get around the house the day after my first marathon” really captures this.
Picture from Whatifultra
Yesterday we ran of course slower, but were out for a much longer hike, and I was actually quite surprised that I did not feel any muscle soreness when running to work this morning. It appears the body is really adjusting and learning to cope with physical stress. One of the most profound experiences I had a Tor des Geants (TDG) last year was that the healing process was remarkably and that I could have quite severe pain for some hours, but that that was transient and abated either when the course changed character (i.e. less downhill running sections) or when I rested and slept for one hour. So I am much less nervous for my physical condition before PTL and I think yesterday’s test run was a very good answer that my preparations up until now has been good and paid off.

I had not tapered anything before the run yesterday and that might be one reason that my legs felt quite heavy and slow during in particular the more technical downhill sections. Another reason might be the quite heavy backpack. In any case one of the learning experiences was that I know most focus much more on downhill running the next few weeks. That much can be gained in downhill running technique was something I most painfully learned at TDG last year. It can also be learned watching this video of Kilian Jornet, Timothy Olson, Julien Chorier and Dakota Jones descending the north side of the Grant-Svamp pass early in the Hardrock 100 race this evening. As the video photographer taking it said “What the hell”. Completely amazing and certainly a downhill running technique to strive for (or at least dream about).

Mentally I also think it was a good preparation yesterday discussing some of the premises we will be faced with during PTL. One thing we can be certain about is that, unlike yesterday, things will not go as planned and this is also a driving theme in most race reports from this long race. Unlike the plentitude of videos frompast editions of the race (see previous blog post), there are not many race reports from PTL in English. Some of the one’s I have found are listed and linked below. I think that some of them definitively are providing some good thoughts and the second best thing to learn from your own experiences is really to learn from others.

PTL race reports in English:


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