Well I'm back from a couple of weeks R&R - first walking in the Chamonix valley then climbing on the sunny granite slabs of Ailefroide, and starting to think about running again. Thanks for all the kind comments on my last post. I normally don't dwell on the serious aspects of running, I'm more interested in the day out in the hills approach, but before I put the UTMB to bed for this year I'm trying to work out what I have to do differently to be successful in this event - either in 2010 if I'm lucky in the ballot, or 2011 if I'm not. So what are the factors that might have conspired to stop me getting round this year.......
1. Too old? Definitely not! 24 over sixties and one over seventy got home in under 46 hours, so at 62 next year I'm not special.
2. Not fit enough/ not enough training? Again, I think not. I had the miles in the legs, I could have started again the morning after I dropped out.
3. Not enough moral fibre/ didn't dig deep enough? Tricky one this; Richie pushed on in the TDS with similar symptoms to mine to record a great finish. I carried on with similar symptoms in the West Highland Way with about twenty miles to go, and finished. But I just couldn't convince myself that I could get through the last 35 miles and three big climbs with no food or drink. Have to think about this one, but can't really see how you train to beat it!
4. Effect of altitude? Brian suggested this, and there may be something in it. I was never great at altitude as a climber, I needed a lot of acclimatisation to perform well. But that was at above 3000m, and the TMB trail barely touches 2500. However in the UTMB you never actually rest for very long, you're always on the move so altitudes between 2000 and 2500 could have an affect on me here. I'll prepare better next time. I'm sure it's not the whole story though as I have had similar problems in much lower races such as the WHW.
5. Effect of starting at night? I don't like it, I'm much happier with events that start early in the morning. Starting at night seems to upset my clock. Having stood back and realised this, I can prepare better with more night starts - the only ones I did this year were the WHW and the UTMB, none in training. Again I'm not sure this the major factor but it contributes.
6. Nervousness? My only other "long race" experience is the WHW, and the UTMB is a huge jump up from that in terms of effort required. I don't have the confidence yet that I can finish, and that causes it's own problems. I'm wondering I should do some tougher preparation, such as the Lakeland 100 or the Bob Graham as a confidence booster.
7. Nutrition and hydration? I've left these until last because deep down I'm certain that although some of the things I've mentioned above have contributed to my problems in the UTMB, if I can crack the fluid and fuel issue I'll be OK. I haven't taken this seriously enough so far and I need to be much more scientific about what my requirements really are to keep going for 30 or 40 hours. I've tended to think that what works well for 50 miles will work well for the long haul, but I've gradually realised that almost any strategy will get you through 50 miles, so you actually learn nothing. I found the CCC a walk in the park compared with my attempts at the UTMB, because I knew I could get round with very little food after half way and had the confidence to press on strongly to the end. I've talked to a lot of people about how they cope, and all I've learned is that everyone is different. Certainly no answers for me yet, but I'm going to do a lot of research and experimenting in this area between now and the end of the year, so I can thoroughly test what I come up with during the main training period in the first half of next year.
So that's analysis, and the start of a plan. I promise not to be so serious as this again!! (anyway, don't the military guys say that no plan survives first contact with the enemy........)
Whatever happens, my aim is still to enjoy the training and running as much as I have so far - after all, that's what we do it for.