Kosci Kosci Kosci, Oi Oi Oi

Crossing that bridge to the unknown.

To say that the past two years didn’t take its toll, would be a lie. I thought I was reasonably okay with everything that surrounded the COVID-19 pandemic, but on hindsight, I did feel down and uninterested in most things. Especially with regards to running, training, events, and everything running related, but also going groceries shopping or even just out for coffee. The constant reminder via masks, the tracer app, QR codes, and the resistance-inducing smell of sanitiser, was all a bit overwhelming and distressing, and it was almost as if social distancing became attractive and comfortable – not needing to interact with others. It was promoted everywhere – keep your distance, stay two metres away from others, and so on completely the opposite of normal human behaviour, wants and needs.

During the very first month-long lockdown, Gerry and I trained heaps – 465.5km in one month to be precise. I loved everything about it, apart from the fact that the virus was new and unknown, and just a little bit scary. I loved that we could run, and still get lots done around the house. It was also the first time ever we ran more than a hundred kilometres in 24 hours outside of an event. 

At the time I thought we were well set up for an ultra in the near future, but for some reason we just about stopped short the moment everything went online and all events were cancelled. I can’t explain why or what exactly happened, but before I knew it we hadn’t run for months, and we were back to square one. It always amazes me how quickly that happens, and how being sedentary creeps up on you so easily. Laziness seems to be the default mode.

The fact that events were cancelled left, right and centre, didn’t help. With the lure and prospect of an upcoming event off the table, keeping going didn’t feel important enough. I know it is and one should never stop moving – move it or lose it – but it always helps if there’s an event on the horizon.

Finally, after two years of not feeling interested in events in the least bit, I found one that got me a little bit excited: the inaugural Ultra-trail Kosciuszko by UTMB, in Australia. It is a sister event of the UTA and TUM. There are four distances to chose from (27k, 50k, 100k, and 100 miles), allowing 450 participants in each distance. 

Since we did our first marathon and ultra in South Africa, and our first 100k in New Zealand, I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that our first 100 mile event should be in Australia – a tri-nations of our running endeavours if you will. The event seems to be not super technical and might be the perfect introduction to a 100 miler. Only problem is, we’re almost starting from nothing and have to be ready by the end of the year. 

To kick things off, we decided to do a 15k for 15 days base-building stint, finishing our last 15k at a slow trot. Almost every outing was a run-1-walk-1 kilometre to help build a base without breaking ourselves by trying to run everything. Occasionally we walked the whole 15k, as often these outings took place after work and partially in the dark, and sometimes one just don’t feel up to running anything. There will be lots of walking involved in a 100 mile event (for a normal person), so training the walking muscles is a no brainer. Having to do this after work meant that we also already started using headlamps – another good thing to get used to.

On the eve of our last base-builder, we hauled out some big sheets of paper and coloured pens and started drawing up a training plan. Even though we plan to build up to reasonable weekly mileage, we will still be walking about half. Time on feet is after all what we need. Unfortunately, time is the one thing we battle with on a full-time job for Gerry, including 30 weeks of night and weekend classes for the year. To juggle everything around to get enough training, especially during the winter months, will be the biggest challenge.

On the up side, I haven’t been this excited about an event in a very long time. Now just to keep to our schedule, and not get sick or injured. Of course maintenance will have to come into play also – foam rolling, stretching and strengthening. 

The prospect of being signed up for a 100 mile event is very exciting, but at the same time I am scared senseless. A hundred miles is a very long way, and staying awake for 35-40 hours will be super challenging, let along trying to move for all that time. But scary challenges are always a good thing – something that will get one out the door and doing the homework.

The big question now is, what is further, a 100 miles or 161 kilometres?

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