Monday, 5 July 2010

Reflection - one week after Western States

Just a quickie now. It's been just over a week since WS and so it's sunk in and I'm running again after forcing myself not to for five days (was meant to be a week but I felt fine).

When I finished I was generally exhausted and not too keen on doing that to myself again. It felt so slow to run all day long and even have walking breaks, but I learned some valuable lessons for future 100s. Yes, there will definitely be plenty more since I didn't screw it up and it is satisfying to complete longer distances.

It wasn't as fun as running shorter ultras and I'm pretty sure that the 56 miles of Comrades is about the optimum distance for me, as well as the most enjoyable. Although 100k (62.2 miles) would also fit in with that, which is lucky since I was honoured to be offered a place in the GB 100k team a few days ago. I can't make it this year due to work and next year the World Championships are at Winschoten in the Netherlands, but are two weeks after UTMB. So maybe not even next year for my debut representing my country, but I'm only 29 so have plenty of time to fit it in (not normally the way I think about races I have to admit and I'd rather fit in every race going this year if I could).

Ultrarunning is a funny world. The World/European etc Championships are very low key and attract a decent, but not always outstanding field. Comrades has a much higher standard and the male and female winner would only have to jog (almost walk) the remaining 10k or so to get a time which would win the World Championships.

And for trail running, there's high quality shorter races organised as Sky Races and World Cups but beyond the marathon there're no meaningful Championship races. Instead, races like WS, UTMB or Davos become the equivalent of the Marathon Majors to the marathon world - the best come to race even though there's no title (or much money for the ultras). That's why this year's WS did shine in one definite respect - it attracted a large number of, arguably, the world's best ultra trail runners. It felt like a championship, and not just a North American one thanks to Killian Journet. Being part of that was something special and something I want to repeat, plus the silver buckle was nice.

I've said it before, but I'd rather race against the best and see where I stand than win a race with no competition. There's something very appealing about testing yourself against not only a course or time, but against other people. That's why I think I'll have to run Comrades forever and will turn up to WS frequently too. UTMB should be a good option next year and one other race I haven't mentioned - the North Face Challenge 50-mile Championship Final in San Fran in December. The latter has the biggest ultra prize purse outside of Comrades and, maybe, Two Oceans - $10k for 1st. So it attracts hot competition and is conveniently local for me now. Definitely worth focusing on over winter. Hopefully I'll see plenty of familiar faces there.

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