Stage fright: The final ultra challenge
After the toils of the , battling the altitude of the , going all night long in the 24-hour and clocking triple digits on the , its time to take on the final challenge on my journey from marathon man to ultra runner the stage race.
A regular stage race is a series of back-to-back runs over a number of days, covering a marathon distance or more. Probably the best known example is the Marathon de Sables, a 156-mile slog broken down over six days across the Sahara. Runners take on four days at marathon distance, one day of double marathon distance and a half marathon on the final day.
Other stage races tend to be less gruelling, just the small task of consecutive marathons.
Im not quite ready for the desert yet, so Ive devised my own version of the stage race. Instead of taking on two marathons over two days, Im attempting to run 31 half marathons in 31 days during December. Yes, even on Christmas Day.
Lets put that in context with a few numbers. Thats 406.1 miles, or 651km. At a nine minute-mile pace Ill be looking at more than 3,600 minutes of running. Beside the sheer endurance, my main concern is time. Fitting this in around work and Christmas is going to be tricky. The plan? Plenty of 6am starts, running into work on an extended route. While its dark. Maybe while its snowing.
To make things interesting Ill be throwing in some curve balls like the Santa Run and doing one of the half marathons at altitude at the Altitude Centre in London.
The pre-December Challenge fitness test
Before kicking off, I thought itd be wise to get an idea of how fit all this running has made me. So I booked in for a V02 Max test at Fit.as, experts in preparing people for endurance events and partners to the Human Race series.
After a year of five marathons, four ultras and a lot of time on my feet youd think Id get a glowing report that would tell me I couldnt be in better shape to take on thirty-one half marathons. I was brutally disappointed with what I found out.
1. I have very slow metabolism. I burn around 1,500 calories just being alive and thats fairly low.
2. I get most of my energy from carbohydrate, even at rest, rather than from stored fat. This is the opposite of where I need to be as an endurance runner.
3. I have 14% body fat. Which, if my maths is right, means Im lugging around 12kg of the stuff.
4. Contrary to what I thought, I have a ridiculously low aerobic threshold. I basically hit it when my heart rate reaches 80bpm. To put that into context, thats a fast walking pace. This, needless to say, is not ideal for endurance.
5. This combination of a slow metabolism, and the quick switch to burning glycogen rather than fat that happens due to my low aerobic threshold, means if I stopped running tomorrow Id gain weight quite quickly.
Ill post more on the test itself, the results and what I can do to change my endurance profile over the coming weeks as I get to grips with the detail. At the end of the December Challenge Ill also be heading back for a second test to see what impact this level of running has on my overall fitness profile.
But for now Im off to set my alarm clock for 6am.
Video: LG stage fright - so real its scary 2
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