Assen: the 50K through hell.

50 km (IAU World Trophy)
Assen, The Netherlands
5:28 min/km
161 hrm

It all started beautifully. I tend not to be very lucky with around-the-race circumstances, but today I really cannot complain. To get to Assen we had to leave (I had Mikolaj as support; thanks man :) at 6:30 and take trains with 2 changes, ~3 min for each. And if we missed something I would not make it for the race. I thought: this cannot work. It did. Smoothly. The weather was also ok. Later it got too hot, but most of the loop was in the shade so it was still bearable.

I still don't know what I'm getting myself into...

The first 20K (4 laps) were pretty uneventful. The only problem was that I was kind of assuming there will be isotonic drinks (pretty normal) and maybe even power gels available at the refreshments points. And all I could see was water. I only realized close to the end of the race that the main refreshment point had bullion & isotonic drinks, but one had to grab them and all the staff was only handing out water. Oh well.

Going for the gallows...

Anyhow, I managed to keep a pace of close to 5:00 min/km for the first 20K, in the upper part of my zone 5:00-5:20, which I was very happy about. But I knew the rules of the game. I knew I'm sitting on a time-bomb. I knew that at some point I'm bound not to be able to keep this pace any longer and that then the things will turn for the worse. The real question was: when is that going to happen. If it was around 40K I was hoping I'd still manage to crawl for the last 10K; but if it was closer to 30K...

Start. Still smile on my face ;)

It turned out to be almost exactly at 30K. The first lap after that I still managed to stay in the 5:00-5:20 zone, but this time in the lower parts (all lap times below). But the next lap was already much worse. And the final two laps... Suffices to say I in those 2 laps I was stopping at every refreshment point (2 per lap) and walking for a bit. Eventually I did manage to get myself past the finish line. 4:33:27 was my final time, although that's an aspect of this run that I stopped thinking about long ago.

Getting some extra energy from Endomondo ;)

Now, I wonder, what am I doing wrong. Is it simply that I'm unable to pace myself? Start too fast in the initial parts of races? Lack of respect for the distance? Or maybe I just lost the ability to push hard after hitting the wall? Whatever it is, my recent long races tend to go according to the same scenario: too fast beginning, too much suffering at the end. Suffering apart, it's clearly not the most efficient strategy and it's time for a change...

Finish? Almost. One more lap to go...

There are two things that scare me after this run. Firstly, my marathon time during this event was 3:44:10. I never run a marathon that slow & yes, if I didn't have 8K more to go, I know I could have done it somewhat faster. But my plan for Budapest (2nd of October) was to do ~3:10:00. That's 34 minutes faster! That's almost 50 seconds faster per kilometer!!! Unless my not fully co-operational hamstrings hampered my result (I don't think so), I seriously don't think I can do that...

Boy oh boy...

My second worry is that at some point I was planning to do a 100K race. And quite frankly at the moment the idea of doing twice the distance I did yesterday is... well... downright scary at best, but in fact closer to: 'impossible'. I know that in such an event one has to pace oneself differently. But I just cannot phantom covering such a distance in one go, regardless of the pace. Big respect to anyone who ever did that.

Water. Cold. Good.

Ok, what else can I say. I guess I can count myself an ultra-marathoner now ;). Surprisingly I'm not in a very bad shape now. Well, of course, I can hardly walk and my legs are hurting as hell, but I consider that normal. Apart from that a bruise on one of my toes is all the damage I got. Not too bad.

Was it worth it? Totally :)

Last but not least: my BIG thanks to all of you who offered me your support. You guys sent 41 (!!!) pep talks. I'm afraid I did not catch all of them during the run. But enough :). I have to say at times it was a bit frustrating when I could hardly walk and you guys were telling me to pick it up :D. But all in all: very helpful. Big, big thanks! Also to Mikolaj who made sure I got to Assen (and back) on time & who documented the trip with some photos :).

Next stop? Well, the marathon in Budapest, is already booked (2/10). But in my ultra-calendar? The original idea was to run 60K either Amsterdamse Bos or Texel next year. But Texel run seems to be organized only every other year and in Amsterdamse Bos there's only 50K, not 60K. Well, I'll see... but though as it was, I hope it was not my last word in the world of ultras ;)

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