Week 28: ultra marathon part 2 – success

You will always be
The one I remember
To give my thanks to
For my success – Christina Aguilera

Today I officially ran 50kms. Unofficially I ran 52.94kms, but more on that later.

Polar watch with my race distance on it

52.94kms

In this much anticipated post I want to talk about success.

Success means something different to all of us, and is framed by past achievements and, let’s call them mis-achievements shall we? What we all consider success is also shaped by our beliefs: in ourselves, in what others may think of us, and of what we feel we have some control over.

This week at uni in a seminar on Behavioural Change (I l.o.v.e. my Masters program), we spent a lot of time looking at the Theory of Planned Behviour (TPB) from Icek Ajzen. In summary, an individual’s behavioural beliefs (thoughts about ourselves on taking a particular action or behaviour), normative beliefs (what we think others may think of us taking that behaviour or action), and control beliefs (how much control we believe we have over the action or behaviour) shape intention and thus theoretically behaviours or actions. Sounds a bit academic, eh? An example:

  • I’ll feel better about myself if I am healthier and fitter by running a lot (behavioural belief)
  • Running a lot will make me look good in the eyes of other fitness friends (normative belief)
  • It will be easy to run an ultra marathon if I develop a realistic training plan (control belief).

In this example, these three beliefs suggest that I would have a positive disposition towards running an ultra marathon, and increases the likelihood that I will do it. But I pose the question: is my success the achievement of the outcome of running the ultra marathon? Or was it all of the steps, lessons and experiences that lead to the final result?

After the run today I went to a local restaurant I like, La Camera, for an Italian hot chocolate (I love them – they are so decadent – the spoon nearly stands upright in them. Super treat days only!!) and some cake with some of the support crew that were there at the end. My mum’s partner asked how I felt after the run. That is such a large question, as it encompassed all of the ‘success’ criteria noted above. I didn’t give an answer that satisfactorily addressed that, but just talked about the physical aspect (felt fine – body was in good shape, etc), and a bit about how it felt to be running the race today (the camaraderie of other runners, warm weather, support from random strangers around the track, ease of the first 11 laps, challenge in the last 2 etc).

But now I want to try to tackle the larger question: how do I feel after all of the cascade of success that lead to me finally crossing the line this afternoon at 1.20pm?

  • Overwhelmed by the belief that others have in me, even from the start in many instances
  • Honoured by the support of my friends, family and other new connections who have so generously given encouragement as well as financial support
  • Like I have been given a few reality checks for when I have pushed myself perhaps a little hard at times
  • Sad that the run is over. As like all great journeys, planning and embarking on the new, novel and exciting is always more thrilling to me than coming home when it is over. I am sure I will have the post-ultra blues over the next couple of days/week(s)
  • Afraid that I will not be able to do something so significant again – until I set my next BHAG I guess ; )
  • Joyful in each moment I experienced when running that involved truly engaging with the world around me. I know I will miss seeing the sun come up as I run along the river most mornings, and the sight-seeing distance runs when travelling
  • Anticipatory of ‘what next’ – and slightly anxious at the same time
  • Surprised that I was capable of all of the training, knocking off the 50kms, and not having a single injury along the way!!!
  • Frustrated by having to justify why I was planning to run an ultra marathon
  • Pride in my final achievement, as well as in the long runs and quick runs I did along the way
  • Closer to others in the running community (hello Google+ friends!!), and to those who supported me throughout this journey
  • Relaxed in the knowledge that I can do anything I set out to do if I really want it enough
  • Respectful of all those who are taking their own challenging journeys (hello 12WBT friends and many of my friends and family!)
  • Appreciative of all of the space given unrequitedly by my partner so that I could go and run for hours on end by myself instead of doing things together
  • In love with the beauty that I have seen and heard on so many of my runs (kookaburras, parrots, squirrels, oceans, stars and crescent moons in ink black skies, the list goes on)

I hope that answers the ‘how I felt’ question a little more.

So what about the run?

I was blessed this morning to wake to a partly cloud sky that promised to clear. After a week of pretty full on rain, things did not bode well for the run initially. What that did, however, was to bring a depth of green to the grass and the parklands that would otherwise not have been there in this often dry city.

My morning routine involves about 15-20 minutes of stretching and strengthening work. That was done as per usual, and my foam roller and I had a lot of intimate time.

Breakfast for this creature of habit was porridge with walnuts, chopped banana, cinnamon and a couple of teaspoons of maple syrup. I went wild and added some pumpkin seeds on top. Such a rebel.

Then it was time to slather all bits that rub with Body Glide, get the kit on and walk up to the Tan. Handily I live only about to 10-15 minutes walk away from the Botanical Gardens, so running that course as well as walking to it, was not a day’s journey!

I picked up my bib (lucky number 519 – I would hear that number called out by the marshals 13 times throughout the run every time I crossed the line, so if I didn’t know it at the start, I certainly did by the end!), and did my pre-race prep: found where to pop my drop bag (extra food stuff for me in case I wasn’t enamored with what was supplied – not needed, as the event organisers had a brilliant spread of snacks and drinks!), head to the bathrooms one last time (I did not need to go once during the 5hrs 20mins! The answer: prunes before dinner the night before and dandelion tea as well), do some extra stretches and generally check out the other runners (hmmm…no placing for me today!).

Race Bib

Race bib – lucky number 519!

I was astounded that my mother was at the race before it started! I knew she was going to come later to see the end, but when I saw her not long after picking up my race bib, I just burst out laughing. Mum is almost never on time for anything, so to see her there half an hour before the start  – well, I wondered if she had gone to bed at all! A couple of others rocked up to see me off – thanks Annmarie, Michele and Liv! It was great to have your early encouragement, especially Michele and Liv who stayed all day – a long day in the sun! My dad and one of my brothers, Pete, also turned up during my 2nd – 4th laps, and mum’s partner, Mez also rocked up towards the end with mum when I had 2-3 laps left. Having a few people there to cheer me on was fantastic.

early in the run

Early in the run – beanie and jacket now off!

I was also very moved by the encouragement of so many others who did not know me at all. The partners and friends of other runners would clap me as I passed, or say some words of encouragement, asking how many laps left, telling me my form was strong etc. And most of all – the other runners. They were amazing. From the fittest to the ‘back of the pack’. From the ‘hats off to them’ 100km runners to those doing a single 4km lap. As our race bibs all had our names on them, you could address each other by name. It was common to hear ‘Looking great, Dianne’, or ‘Doing a good job, Dianne’, from runners as they passed me, or I whom I passed. I had initially thought the name on the bib thing was a bit odd, but very quickly warmed to it!

Two laps left!

Two laps left!

My attack on the track and the distance was planned out. I was going to do my usual run then race walk cycle (4km, 400m), and re-fuel at every third race walk period. I did adjust the exact distances a little, as there was no way I was going to walk up Anderson Road Hill (the Hill). That was for running only. A lot of other runners chose to use the Hill for their own walk breaks, but I knew from experimenting during my training that my shins don’t like walking up that Hill. Thus I was left with no alternative but to run it. Every single time of the 13 laps. To be honest, the first 11 ascents were ‘easy’. The 12th was somewhat slow, and the lucky last 13th was a corker. I was about half way up on the last lap and I thought about how tired my legs were getting, especially my calves. That lasted about 30 seconds. I shook my head, set my jaw and ploughed up the last stretch of the Hill with my mind focused on the joy of the slight gradual downhill that appears immediately afterwards, which also equals the road home. I knew that all I had to do was get myself up the Hill that last time and I would be able to knock the race off.

Some people have commented on how uninteresting it must be running around the same track 13 times. I guess if all I did do was look at the ground, that would probably be the case, so it is an understandable comment. However, as the Tan circumnavigates the Botanic Gardens, there is always something to look at. Also, it goes right past the Shrine of Remembrance, which often has some military event or another happening (a few weeks back it was a 12 gun salute with cannons – rather loud to run past!). Today there was a rather large event to commemorate the execution of the operation that liberated Malta. It went for about 4-5 laps somewhere in the middle of my race. It meant I did have to run through and around crowds a bit, but that is par for the course if you run the Tan!

crossing the finish line

And now it is done!

I finished the 50km run in 5 hours 20 mins (roughly – I do not have an official time yet). As noted earlier though, my unofficial distance was 52.94kms for that time. The extra nearly 3kms came from dodging, weaving, and going around and through crowds on the Tan – people, dogs, prams, military parades, etc. No matter how hard you try to run a straight line, it is not possible on this track! My actual 50km time was around 5hrs 5mins. For those interested, my marathon split time (how funny that I am referring to that as a split!) was 4hrs 15mins. That is 5 minutes faster than any of my official marathon times. Nice! Happy with that!

So I had a very successful day.

  1. I managed to finish the race
  2. I managed to not injure myself
  3. I managed to finish in less than five and a half hours (my goal)
  4. I managed to not come last
  5. But most of all, the end result reflected the culmination of successes accumulated throughout the journey – not the least of which is the grateful love and support of so many people.

To you all, I give my thanks.

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14 Responses to Week 28: ultra marathon part 2 – success

  1. runner1313 says:

    Well done! Such a great accomplishment.

  2. Chris Holman says:

    So impressed Di, you are an inspiration! xx

  3. Ren says:

    So inspiring. You write so well really enjoyed that. Thanks for sharing and proving that we really are more capable than we realise

  4. Trish says:

    What a great achievement. Really enjoyed reading this. How long has it taken you to build up to this level? I’m curious, as I completed my first half marathon earlier this year, and have been looking for a new challenge, other than just running it a bit faster. Not sure I have a marathon, let alone 50km in me, but would love to know how you started out.

    • ultraprimed says:

      Hi Trish. Thanks for your comment. I started training in January, and trained for 28 weeks. If you have a look at the Training Schedule tab, you will find an excel spreadsheet with the training plan I followed, or at least the final picture of what I did. There are a lot of training programs online. Well done on doing your half marathon! Such a challenging distance! Keep it up! Dianne.

  5. Augusto Salles says:

    Absolutely fantastic accomplishment! You should be very proud of it. Congratulations. I loved reading this post and follow your training via Google+.

  6. Kristine (Kipwil) Willems says:

    I am almost lost for words. I have loved reading your blog and seeing your training and everything you’ve been doing. And you DID IT!!!! This was a great great post, fantastic in fact…I am here, giving you a standing ovation.

    • ultraprimed says:

      Thanks so much, Kristine! It has been quite the journey! Felt incredibly good to cross the line. The last couple of kms were great – chatting away with a couple of the other runners. Wonderful way to finish, and with some of my friends and family there too.

  7. Carol says:

    Di I just loved this post. To have a goal and not only achieve it but smash it, is something quite fulfilling. I thought of you often on Sunday morning as I was out in the garden pulling out multitudes of weeds. I loved reading how you’ve approached this goal, how you’ve worked towards it and how you’ve achieved it. Truly rock star stuff. So what’s next? How on earth can you top it, I hear you ask? You did ask didn’t you??? 😉 How about get a team of your google running group to do the Serra Terra in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
    Here’s the website if you want to check it out: http://www.dunkeldadventure.com.au/serra-terror-lv-2013/
    It’s already happened for 2013, but 2014 is just round the corner 😉

    • ultraprimed says:

      Thank heaps, Carol. Your support through this has been invaluable.
      In regards to the ‘what is next’ – time will tell. There is always a next something. Consumer behaviour research shows us that acquiring or achieving something usually makes us reset our baseline expectations and look for the next step up. Will dwell on that for a bit, but i love your suggestion!

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