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13th May 2014

Pony Express Winner Damian Carr How an elite runner trains and what goes on in their mind while racing

sports psychology, endurance, endurance mind, running, ultramarathon

The Pony Express Build Up and Event

Weekly summary 28/04/14 – including Pony Express Ultra

  • Mon- 10 miles easy and gym
  • Tues- 5 mile Tempo
  • Wed- 12 miles easy
  • Thur- 16x400m
  • Fri- 5 miles easy + strides
  • Sat-  RACE
  • Sun-  RACE

KIT- Hi-Tec Infinity Trail shoes,  Hi-Tec Zuuks ( post race)

Only 5 days till my first ultra marathon and nervous was an understatement!!  I haven’t even mastered the marathon distance so running back to back marathons would be the ultimate challenge ( or just pain stupid ).

The plan for the week was to keep it short and sharp,  getting a good leg turnover but at the same time keeping the mileage down so my legs would feel fresh and ready to go on race day.  As it was my first ultra I decided to experiment a bit with the nutrition ide as I felt that was the key area for running long distances.  I done some research and was inspired by the performance at the London Marathon by athlete Steve way, so I followed his routine of a carb depletion diet.  Ate my last carbs on sunday night and only had fats and protein up until Thursday night.

Mon- Thursday runs were  really hard.  Friday morning I went for a light jog then a massive pancake breakfast before the drive down south.  I had great support from my friends who were driving me down although sharing a hotel room with 3 of your mates before the morning of your race isn’t the best idea.  Trying to get to sleep was a mission!! as they decided to watch A-Team on TV at full volume.  We stayed in a hotel in Ringwood about 10miles from the start.  Had breakfast of fruit porridge and a back coffee then went to the race start.

The Pony Express ultra race is a two day event covering 60miles through the New Forest.  30 miles a day.  The event is organised by Extreme Energy ( XNRG ) and sponsored by Hi-Tec and 9bar.

Went into the hall registered and collected my bib/race number and sat down trying to save energy.  I studied to map of the course however nothing was going in,  stomach was in knots worrying if my body could cope with an ultra.  My friends did there best to keep me relaxed by fetching me a cup of tea.  The runners started to fill the hall and all was sorting their kits out.

The race had 3 start waves- 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00.  I was in the 11:00 start.  My friend Jason was also running his first ultra and was in the 10:00 start.

The event organiser Neil Thubron gave a safety brief, wished the runners good luck,everyone cheered and then we were off……….

The race started at a gentle pace and after a couple of miles I was in a group of 4 including a great a guy called Mo ( not Farah lol ) who later on become a good friend.

Sitting in a group  makes a huge difference not having to worry about “doing your bit” . All I had to concern myself with was ticking off the miles.

The first 5miles  went by averaging 7:20/mi , I persuaded myself that was fine as I was keen to push on!

The first checkpoint was around 7miles and I have got to say it was the best water station I have ever seen.  All the things you need to refuel – water, energy drinks, pretzels, 9bar, sweets and not to mentioned the support and help by the marshals. The next check point was at around 14 miles and the lead group was down to myself and another lad called Nathan Montague who was a very experienced ultra.  Running next to him gave me a bit of a boost.  He was like The Gebrselassie of ultras.  We maintained pace and before I knew it we reached the last check point at 24miles.  Which was manned by my two mates Foxy and Thomps, that gave me a massive confidence boost.  I took on board some energy drink and carried on chasing Nathan.  I then started to panic as I as approaching unfamiliar territory.  To be fair I was waiting for my body to shut down…. but it never did and within a mile to go I felt strong and when I saw the finish in sight I picked up the pace and finished in 1st place.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was all smiles until I realised I had to do it all again in the morning.  The event was so well organised- accommodation, food, shower and changing facilities, massage all on offer.

In the morning my legs dint feel to good and was wondering if I could run another 2 miles let alone 30!!  Anyway went for breakfast and the relaxed before the start trying not to think to much.

The race started….   After a slightly slow start which I was sooo happy with Nathan decided to push the pace and I thought ” here we go again”

The miles ticked by and we reached Check point 2 ( 16.7miles ) I gave my mate my water bottle to fill up and hoping for a little rest however Nathan meant business and flew off like a rocket, I followed and my mate running after me with my bottle.  I managed to grab it and went on my way.  So the next 13 miles of the race was all about just me ,my thoughts, dreams ……. ! I went through a bad patch and my stomach didn’t feel good, plus it didn’t help that Nathan was trying to break me by putting in some hard efforts.  At one point he managed a 6;05/mi through tough terrain . I found myself in control and although I had to focus on my effort levels to keep a good pace, I was able to maintain a solid pace for the remaining miles.

This gave me a real buzz and allowed me to pick the pace back up a little for the final mile  which came in at 3.37.

The main thought running through my head at this point was that I actually completed a ultra.  Then it was time to celebrate but first I wanted to see my good friend Jason Mitchell cross the line.

Damian Carr

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