I’m leaving in two days for the Golden Ultra. Multi-day staged races are definitely my favourite ultramarathon format, and this one intrigued me as soon as I heard about it. Most multi-day ultrarunning events are kind of the same from day to day – usually between 20 and 50 km of hilly running per day for five or six days (and sometimes with a 70 or 80 km overnight stage thrown in). But the three-day Golden Ultra (aka Blood, Sweat and Tears) is different:
Day 1 (the Blood) – 5 km, but with 1000 m vertical gain
Day 2 (the Sweat) – classic 55 km mountain ultramarathon (2500 m vertical gain and loss along the way)
Day 3 (the Tears) – a 20 km trail run on rolling, relatively flat, trails (total 400 m vertical gain and drop)
So this is more like three completely different races, each one suited to different types of runners: hill-climbers OR ultrarunners OR half-marathoners. Few people are all three! (And there is the option of entering for just one of the days… but of course it is the full three-day event that captivates me).
So, for me, my main goals are:
- Don’t blow my legs out on the first big-uphill day, because there is still a long way to go.
- Don’t let my feet swell after the 55 km ultramarathon day – or I won’t be able to run the final day.
- Try to train well at running so I won’t be embarassingly slow on that third, supposedly very runnable day.
- Don’t get injured – because I am racing the 7 day Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon, in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert, only 4 weeks later!
So, now, how have I gone with my training to achieve those goals?
1. Well, I’ve done a real lot of hill-climbing (as well as a little bit of leg weights) so I think I am in the best climbing shape I have ever been. In the last two or so months I’ve done Della Falls (still waiting for Dave to do that blog post), Mt. Arrowsmith, Mt. Adder, Mt.Klitsa, Mt. Albert Edward in Strathcona, the Castle Crag/Mt.Frink/Albert Edward loop in Strathcona and – the highlight of the summer (blog post not uploaded yet, sorry!) – the Buttle Lake to Mt. Washington Augerpoint Traverse! These hikes all have elevation gains of 1000 m or more. And I have also trained on our usual “back yard” uphill hikes a lot too, like the CPR trail, and up the start of the Alberni Inlet Trail (same hike I did with Nikki Scott last year, when we were prepping for the Squamish 50k. Coincidentally, Nikki is one of the organizers of the Golden Ultra!).
2. I’ve trained as well as I can so my feet won’t be “shocked” by the effort and swell. I’ve done a lot of really long days – in particular, those three big Strathcona days three consecutive Tuesdays: 8.5 hrs then 9.5 hrs then 13.5 hrs. I’ve also done a lot of back-to-back days – either two big hikes in a row, or a big hike followed by a hilly run. So my body is pretty accustomed to that kind of thing: the amount of hours and the fatigued muscles. And I will have electrolyte pills along (and use them) for the race. And I’ve just ordered new Injinji compression socks for running and recovery too. Those are the things you can do to try to minimize foot swelling. Beyond that, there still is a little bit of a luck-of-the-draw component there. But I think I am set up pretty well.
3. Well… I am still not a fast runner. I was really good with my long hikes training… but probably could have done a bit more with the long fast runs. I did get going on some HIIT (high intensity interval training) which supposedly helps with speed… also have been taking iron supplements these last two months. Low iron is a very common issue with female runners, and I definitely have problems with that.
4. And then I will just have to go safe and smart. I am probably in the best shape I have ever been in my life (at age 51!!) – maybe not my fastest ever, but definitely my strongest, and recovering really well and quickly after big days. So I am in good shape in that department. I’lljust have to be careful, and make sure I don’t get hurt.
So there you go. I leave here Thursday, flying into Calgary and then driving out to Golden. The race starts with that first short but steep leg on Friday afternoon, so I will have some time up my sleeve to relax and get a good sleep there the night before. I’ll be staying at the official host hotel, Kicking Horse Lodging’s Glacier Mountaineer Lodge (which has a hot tub and sauna!) – so many thanks to the race organizers and the host hotels for arranging this! What a treat, to have such luxurious accommodation while running such a wild and rugged multi-day ultramarathon. Wish me luck!