Dr Luke – Preparing for an Ultra Marathon

Dr Luke has recently completed The Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in Capetown, , South Africa.  He ran this after a series of setbacks during the previous couple of years which had hindered his ability to run at all.

After running the 56 kilomitre event, in a very respectable time of 5hours 40 minutes and coming back in one piece feeling stong and healthy, he passes on his experience and advice for bombproofing your body.

So, the race:

6:30am  kick-off, ran in the dark till sunrise at 7:30am, yet already hundreds of people were out and about wishing everyone good luck for the day ahead.  It was such a great atmosphere and really gave us a taste of just how proud the locals are of “their run”.

The first hour was spent dodging the other 11,000 runners, which helped to maintain an easy/slow pace, while we chatted excitedly and failed to temper our raging adrenalin…  The vibe and excitement from all the other runners was palpable & contagious.

Our favourite quote from the early stages of the run was when we overheard two South Africans talking and one guy asked the other, “What’s it like to run with out your gun?”.  Classic.

As the sun rose the first hour slipped by and we forced ourselves to have a “gel”, sip some water and keep a steady pace.  We were aiming for a sub 6hr time and which we decided was about a 5:45min/km pace.

Something really cool that they do is on your race number they indicate how many times you’ve run the Ultra or Half previously.  This was great because you could have a chat to someone who’s done it a number of times before and find out what’s around the corner!!  It also left us wide open for poking as the three of us all had “0” on ours and two of us have significant visible tattoo work.  One trio predicted that we were going way too fast and that I in particular would finish last.  Once I overtook them I didn’t see them again.

Soon after sun-rise the first climb loomed.  It was like running the Great Ocean Road but with a steady incline for 5 km followed by severe up and down for a further 5km.  But it was honestly sooooo beautiful that you barely noticed it!   We had the ocean on our left, the mountain on our right with the sun rising behind it…  It was during this uphill that Albi, Carl and I started to get separated as we found our own rhythms.

We were greeted at the top by music, hoards of people, drinks and food.  Never has a boiled potato tasted so good?!?!?  Only to be trumped by a banana… Amazing!

Eventually we veered right, towards the sun, and started our decent.  I must admit to slowing down and stopping a few times to let the others catch up, but found that breaking my stride was starting to become too uncomfortable.  I put this down to a few things: the hills; the warmth (25 deg); but it was most likely due to the fact that we now had 40kms in the legs and still had 16km (10 mile) to go!  One elderly chap with 14 finishers to his credit was chanting “keep on rollin’…  keep on rollin’…”.  I thought it wise to run with him for a mile or so.

The last 10 miles were through some very affluent suburbs and basically up hill of varying degrees.  The most memorable bits for me were the supporters.  There were cheer-leaders, live bands, parked cars with radios on full blast, bbqs, dancing (not me) and encouragement on multiple levels.  I remember thinking that given that I’d not run further than a marathon previously that I was running into the unknown, or at least for me it was.  To alter my pace even a fraction became really uncomfortable and I just focused on the next drink station and keeping moving.

It was so steep.  The road had a significant camber either side, so I found myself running on the middle line and occasionally having to overtake another runner.  I can remember thinking that being so focused on the white line was a funny thing to be thinking about…  But occasionally I’d chat to another runner.  I’d hear about previous year’s conditions, like 2 years ago the whole race was nearly called off due to torrential rain the whole race!  I couldn’t imagine running it cold and wet, give me 25 deg any day!

By the final few miles I decided to walk the length of the drink stations, have a mouthful of coke, a mouthful of water and then run to the next one.  The encouragement was unbelievable and honestly I was getting quite emotional.

I finally passed the 2km to go marker and turned a corner only to see one long steep hill to the finish.  Oh. My. God.  I actually saw a guy cry.  My friend swears he saw another guy get in a taxi half way up.  I just put my head down and pumped my arms and legs as fast as they’d go and in a few minutes I was at the top and could see the finish.

I’m happy to say that I held excellent form to the end and especially enjoyed the final 300m sprint.  Yes, I was able to sprint!

Water.  Medal.  Banana.

I waited for the others who finished within 15min of me.  Perfect.

AMAZING EXPERIENCE.

I’d definitely do it again and hopefully next year.  Cape Town is stunning, incredible food & wine, ridiculously cheap and only an hour time difference from the UK, easy.  Put it on your list!

My preparation was perhaps a little different to a lot of other runners. After experiencing knee and Achilles setbacks over the last few years I decided to focus on strength & form as opposed to “big miles” in the legs. This also allowed me to complete the run having done 8 training runs over the previous 3 months.

I put myself through The Running School’s rehab program and refined my technique to more of a midfoot strike style. This is generally accepted as the most efficient and least stressful running style. I also made the decision to run in a thinner soled shoe to allow my foot to move more naturally, yet in hindsight I could have done with more cushioning due to running the entire event was on tarmac.

By far the most important aspects of my training were strength work in the gym and getting my spine adjusted regularly. I believe the strength work not only made my legs strong but also enhanced the efficiency of my muscular system at a cellular level. A strong/efficient muscle is more able to withstand the continuous pounding than a weaker one.

Chiropractic Spinal adjustments kept my nervous system clear of interference which is paramount for efficiency, recovery, maintaining good running form, digestion & breathing. An efficient and highly tuned machine is significantly less likely to breakdown and I’m sure is one of the main reasons I made it back feeling so good!

Happy running everyone,

Luke.

Ultramarathon website