The first half of 2016 is already planned – there will be 5 races: 1 semi-marathon, 2 full marathons and 2 ultra-marathons.
As for the second part of my 2016 running calendar, I chose to keep a little bit of flexibility, party because there are still a few traditional races that didn’t announced their exact date, partly because I plan to at least try a triathlon next year (which will be something different than running, obviously). But more about the triathlon later on, when my swimming will be at least survival level (right now I can barely cross a pool a few times).
January 31st – Semi-marathon Gerar
This is a very special competition. It’s not so much about the distance (it’s a normal, 21km semi-marathon) as it as about the weather and the team. Being right in the middle of the winter, it can bring quite a few challenges. Last years it wasn’t unusual to experience sub zero temperatures and a lot of snow. This year, the weather seems to be nicer so that may not be a problem.
What may be a problem, though, is the team part. This is the only race I know about (correct me if I’m wrong) when a team of 3 is running at the same time. It’s not a relay, so all the people in the team have to run together, and they can’t be apart more than 1-2 meters. I heard that at some of the previous editions some of the teams even used ropes to tied them to each other.
I will run in a mixed team, 2 guys and a girl. Both the guy and the girl are – statistically – faster than me, so it will be interesting. Add to this mix the fact that I’m not a very fast runner by definition and I may be in for a very interesting experience. Nevertheless, I’m really looking forward to this.
March 17-19 – Ultrarunners Athens 48 Hours
This is by far the most important race of this year. There are at last two reasons for that. First, I’ve never been to Greece. And second, I never ran in a continuous race for more than 31 hours (and that happened only once, last year, at Ultrabalaton). So being in a 48 hours event is something that I really look forward to. In an anxious, expectative way, sometimes, I admit it.
The good part is that we will run in a 1km loop, which means that, logistically, the race will be contained. It’s unlikely to remain stranded in the middle of nowhere, if something bad happens (which may be the case at mountain ultra-marathons, for instance). The mental challenge of running in circles for 48 hours will be quite tough, though. That’s also something I never did before, all my ultras were ran on a continuous course.
My personal goal for this race is to cross the limit of 300km. If we try to look at the numbers on paper, it should be very doable. At Balaton I ran 222km in 31 hours and a half. Even if, from that point on, I would have switched to walking, I could have “easily” come across with 80km in the remaining 16 hours.
But “easy” and “hard” are two words with a very different meaning, based on the context you’re using them. On paper, it’s easy. In the real life there will be an army of unknown factors affecting my activity – lack of sleep being probably the most important.
April 10th – Maratona di Roma
Just two weeks after the Athens, I will run the Rome marathon. The main reason is to have an official competition included in the Athens recovery process. That will force me to be mindful about the whole package, and not giving it a “hit and run” attitude. When I ran Ultrabalaton last year, I didn’t schedule any race a month after it and it wasn’t good. That didn’t motivate me to run again sooner so I eventually let the recovery process unfold “by itself”. With Maratona di Roma so close to the 48 hours race I intend to find ways 1) to ran the 48 hours in a more mindful way and 2) to implement a better recover program.
May 9th – Marathon de Geneve
I ran a few times in Geneve (my sister lives there) and I really, really like the city. When I heard they organize a marathon too, I just couldn’t miss it. With two weeks before Balaton, this time, it will also be a good rehearsal. I don’t have any specific goal for this race, other than thoroughly enjoy it.
May 28th – Ultrabalaton
This is the tenth edition of Ultrabalaton and, officially, it will be a 220.9 km race. After I ran it last year, I understood something very important about those distances. Any race above 100km has at least a 2 km tolerance. Most of the time, it will be plus 2 km, at least. Because you will never walk the same path as the guys who measured it, doh. You may cut corners, do small detours, etc. And when we talk about big distances (over 100km, as I said) these small detours add up. Not to mention the situations (quite frequent, if you ask me) when you literally get lost, as I did, for at least a kilometer last year.
The goal for this year Ultrabalaton is to finish it with zero injuries. And within the cut-off time, of course, meaning under 32 hours. But, since I already finished it within the cut-off time, I know it’s possible. But, as I said, there are a lot of things that may happen.
The injury part was quite nasty last year. It wasn’t the pain in itself, as it was the time taken to heal the wounds. The blisters healed in a week, but the more profound damage, at the sole and toes, took a few good months.
Other Possible Races
This year Spartathlon will be out of question, because I didn’t qualify. The requirement was to finish Ultrabalaton under 31 hours. I went over this limit with barely half an hour, but it counts. Will see if I can qualify for next year.
And since Spartathlon is no longer an option, I have the whole summer to find something better. I got word from Transmaraton organizers they will stretch the ultra from 64km (as it is right now) to 100km this year. Transmaraton is in September, so it might be very good fit. Will see how things will fall into places.
The rest of the article will sketch some insights on my training plan, both physical and mental.
Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner
The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”
And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.
Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.
If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.