SIX weeks ago I reached the end of one amazing journey, and without so much as a brief pause, I started focusing on an even greater challenge – traumatically named ‘The End of the World’.
Before that, let’s go back to March 3 in Tokyo where I completed the final piece of the Abott World Marathon Majors – which also include Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York along this incredible journey.
While basking in the glow of being one of a select number of marathon runners who have completed the world’s ‘Big Six’, I kept recovery to a minimum as I started to focus on the even more grueling challenge of the 50K Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc World Series (UTMB) with just four weeks to prepare.
I recently took part in the 50km UTMB Ushuaia – one of my favourite places on earth – which also happens to be in my native Argentina.
So how do you go straight from a marathon into an Ultra Race, just four weeks later?
For me, I started training after just five days rest – which included 24 hours from Tokyo to Buenos Aries – where Totum Sport helped replace lost minerals and managed my time-in-the-air, eliminating jet lag and boosting energy levels.
Once back in Buenos Aires – where I work as a doctor – I was ready to go back at work and my ‘normal’ training regime for my Ultra challenge.
Of course, anyone who occupies this space knows that Ultra running isn’t just about ‘running-only training’, and strength and functional exercises are key to my routine – where cycling and swimming help to take the edge off the constant drudge of pounding the road.
As my grandmother used say: ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ And I certainly have the will, it’s just to figure out the way for me to be best prepared from the exhaustive process of completing the UTMB.
Part of that process is to make all the parts fit into the regime of what needs to be done. I do that by breaking down whatever I can of my training, into smaller, intensive sessions, and to try and make the most of each one.
Once up and running, my training volume started to rise again for the following two weeks until it hit a high of 90km per week. This includes pumping many hills, stairs, increasing strength and balance specific exercises, which are designed to hopefully prepare me to run in a surface I don’t usually run in.
Ten days before UTMB Ushuaia I was ready to start tapering, training volume was cautiously cut down by my coach Claudio Vazquez, putting ‘rest first’ at the top of our training priority list.
To be honest, if somebody told me five years ago, that today I would have seven marathons completed, with a six star medal, and I would be getting ready for my third Ultra, I surely wouldn’t believe it.
But here I am, and after a certain chain of events in the past four years, I am facing into an event known rather cheerfully as ‘The End of the World’ to log-in another 50k through the wilderness.
The week preceding the race the weather started playing it’s tricks in Ushuaia, to the point the race director changed the course the day before our start line, maintaining the elevation profile and difficulty of the course.
This change was made to enable rescue teams to get to stricken runners fast, where needed.
Even the pre-race briefing was designed to prepare us for the worst – to ensure that all athletes had warm and waterproof clothing, as rain and wind had settled around the mountains and temperatures were dropping below freezing.
Saturday, April 6 at 7:30am, 50k and 70k runners all concentrated at the start line at Playa Larga, to take on this quest of completing the course.
As the starting gun fires we’re off on our ‘End of the World’ quest, and we begin to ascend through a road that leads through forest. About 40 minutes into running through the woods, it begins to snow.
The first opportunity to take some comfort comes at the first aid station, at La Cloche, about 10km from the start, but thanks to my Totum Sport consumption 15 minutes before the start of the race I decide to keep going. I will take one sachet every hour for the duration of the race to beat hydration and to maintain stamina, performance and concentration.
I still had everything I need to see me through, packed in my hydration vest, and very much intact. All except my water, which I soon discover has frozen and is obviously un-drinkable.
This would normally freak me out, but I had an amazing landscape to run thought and Totum Sport to help me keep my electrolytes balanced. As I ran past Rio Olivia, arriving to the next aid station at El Natatorio almost 30km into the race, I realised that I hadn’t eaten anything yet, quickly started chowing on a Lara Bar I had in my vest.
As I took on some water at the station I decided not to stay long and I downed another bar and some gels for calories, before taking off to the steepest ascent of the race – a mountain they call Cerro del Medio, as it sits between 2 others.
Before long everything around me was covered in a thick blanket of snow, which only got deeper as I continued to climb.
This was my first time running on snow – another new experience for me – but the climb wasn’t the difficult piece, the descent was extremely hard, but nonetheless, a hugely satisfactory experience.
After trudging through more snowed woods, soon salvation was at hand as the city of Esperanza came into view, and mercifully shortly afterwards the finish line was in sight.
My overall time was 6 hours 18 minutes – a deeply challenging, but ultimately exhilarating experience, and another fantastic achievement for me and my go-to solution – Totum Sport.