I first started dreaming of ultramarathon glory in high school, before I had even completed a half-marathon. But after years of injury issues and slowly falling out of love with the sport, I concluded that running wasn’t meant to be in the grand scheme of my life. I decided that it was silly for my identity to revolve so much around being a runner, and that the thought of running an ultramarathon or even a race at all, was simply something my body would never be capable of achieving.
Then at the height of sadness I’ve experienced in my life, I decided against all of that, and reignited my dream of completing an ultramarathon; and finding my love for running again. I set the goal in mind of doing an ultra not right then and there, but in a year from that initial spark. I wanted to present my injury-stricken body with plenty of time to work to a place where I was not only capable of completing an ultra with ease, but capable of winning the event. What’s life without competition, after all?
After eight weeks of what I would casually deem outstanding ultra training, I surprised myself with how quickly I was able to progress to where I wanted to be – running 30k’s+ at 4:30/k pace on several easy run days with ease, and conducting speed workouts at a faster pace than I had achieved since university. Then under the stress of work, a lack of proper sleep, and a complete ignorance around the heel pain I had been experiencing throughout this time, it all came crashing down.
So as I sit and wait for my return, I’ve had some time to now re-assess whether or not I would be ready for an earlier ultra than I first planned for. So long as I can get back to running pain-free by January 1st, I am now of the belief that I will be ready to complete one of Canada’s famous ultras at the end of July. This will give my body three months of solid training for my 30k at the end of March, before delegating my attention to hitting those longer distances again for another three months, easing into that natural progression toward what other people look at as insanity.
The race I aim to do opens on that fateful January 1st, and I’m hoping for the best. Knowing me, I might take the risk regardless, ensuring I get a spot in the race I want, and paying for the consequences (or potential rewards for the risk later).
With all this background information that you certainly did not ask for, let me now get to the headline of this article: Why I’ve chosen to do a 6-hour as my first ultra-marathon. While a 6-hour event means I will probably end up running more than I would in a 50k event, it also means that if I’m not feeling good on the day, I can stop after 30k, re-assess my goals in the moment, and evaluate my situation based on my health and fitness at that time. I don’t actually have to run an ultra on this day unless I’m ready for it, and no matter what, I’ll still be a finisher of the event I signed up for – whether I’m walking 30k or running to my maximum.
Knowing my injury record and my undying willingness to push far past the point of pain, I think this is the safest way of doing an ultra for my first event. Again, a 6-hour simply allows me to assess how I’m feeling in the moment. I can go for the record (69.5k), or I can go for a nice walk in the Valley.
So when January 1st rolls around, don’t be surprised to see my name on the Race Roster for Talley in the Valley. Hopefully this ends up being my first ultra, and in a dream world, hopefully I can even have such a sustained training period that I can win the event. But if none of that goes according to plan, I’ll be okay; knowing that other goals remain on the horizon for 2023. I’ll also be okay knowing that while running 50k (or a record 70k) is quite cool, that running 50k (or a record 70k) does not define me.
If you want to crew me for my first ultra on Sunday July 30, 2023, check out What I’d want in an ultramarathon crew. Be sure to check out more of our content below, and join the B2B community!
Strava Profile | Rhys Desmond
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