When I've planned my goal event for 2016 together with my coach Lior Zach-Maor, we've looked for a relatively flat course that will enable me to run 100 miles faster than 16:48H (since this result is 20% better than the qualifying criteria for the Spartathlon race I'll be able to automatically enter the race in 2017).
Several months before the race, when Lior and I planned my preparation in a high level view, Lior asked me how motivated am I and I've told him that "I want to win the race".
I didn't mean that literally, but I wanted to emphasize that I want to be prepared in the best way possible and Lior planned accordingly.
In the last 6 months I've worked hard and specifically to this race including "race simulation" of 100km, and 6 weeks of 200km/wk in various combinations.
At 6:00am in Aug-13th I've made my first steps in the race with a good mixture of respect/fear for the 100 miles distance and confidence thanks to my race preparation process.
In this report I'll focus on the race day events.
The starting and finish line of the race are in a stadium. After few moments, a group of 10-15 runners start the race in a very fast pace (faster than 5min/km). My decision at this point is very easy – not to chase them but rather stick to my own race plan.
After 7km we path through Brandenburg gate and "break" a symbolic wall.
After crossing the gate I'm surprised to hear encouraging in Hebrew and I see a familiar face from Israel (Boaz Cohen that was on a weekend in Berlin…). I'm running together with a group of 10 runners and Boaz is taking some pictures of us.
(A word about this picture in retrospect – this frame was taken after 10km. Out of the 4 runners in the picture you can see the those who finished the race eventually in rank #1,#3,#4. At the time that this picture was taken, we're not even in the top 10).
Overall I feel quite comfortable with no pain at all. Even though it starts to get warmer (we had 25-27C degrees during most of the race) I feel that all the different aspects that I need to manage in such a long event (liquids, salt, calories etc..) are working according to my plan.
After 35km Minoru Onozuka from Japan, that had the honor to get the bib with number 1, joins me and we run next to each other until the 70km mark. We still don't see any runner from the group that started much faster than us.
After the 70km mark, Minoru slows down a little bit, and I'm running all by myself in the beautiful nature, surrounded by lakes and trees, just as I love so much. I keep looking all the time about the direction marks (which are great !!), eating and drinking according to the plan.
I'm very happy to see that I've crossed the 80km mark at 7:10H.
During all the race I watch my pace and heart rate limitations, but since I have the data from my prior races/workouts I can estimate if I'm on the right direction towards my goal.
I've summarized those key marks in the following table:
Frankly speaking during the race I don't care about this at all. In a way I prefer NOT to know that and to focus only on my race, since there's such a long way to go.
After 90km, for the first time since the beginning of the race (!!) I see that I'm passing an Italian runner (Luca Morstabilini that finished 5th) with the respectful Spartathlon tattoo on his leg. I'm greeting him with "forza Italy" and continue to run.
I'm passing the 100km mark in 9:08H. It's 18 minutes faster than the workout I had in May, but more important in a much better overall feeling.
After the aid station of 100km I meet Sophie from the organizing team. She escorts on a bike the runner in the 2nd place and she updates me that currently I'm ranked at the 4th place (and I'm thinking to myself "where all the other runners disappeared…") and then she moves on.
I say goodbye and can already see the runners in rank #2 and #3 not too far away.
I'm not trying "to catch them up" but passing them until the next aid station.
The real bonus being in the 2nd place is that now Sophie is riding next to me
At the next aid stations I'm getting several updates about my distance from the leading runner, but as I did during all the race I've focused only on my own plan. After all, I still have to cover over a marathon distance myself.
After 120km Sophie gets a phone call, stops at the side of the road and tells me to continue to run. I can see the leading runner walking, and out of the blue I meet Thomas Stu (the Spartathlon winner from 2012, that I've met last year in Greece) that run in a relay team. Thomas confirms what I thought that just happened – "You are the leader of the race now. Good job!"
From this point until the finish line Gerhard now escorts me.
Me and Gerhard after the finish line. Credit: Merav Molcho
I continue to run, about a Marathon distance to the finish line and I have no clue about the runners that are "chasing" me now. Again I focus on my own race plan.
I'm very happy about my overall feeling and mainly from the fact that I'm still "cruising" with no need to combine walking besides few minor uphills.
It seems that the organizing team is very excited about the change in the lead and I see Hajo, the race director and Itta from his team, at every aid station until the finish line.
Gradually it's getting darker and I pay attention on my steps in order to twist my ankle.
At this point I can do the math and see that even if I'll walk from here until the end, I will successfully meet my time goal (16:48), but NOW I really want to win the race.
I continue to run, a little bit more conservatively in order not to risk myself in muscle cramps, dehydration etc.
I'm leaving the last aid station, approximately 4km before the finish line, escorted in the street of Berlin by 3 bikes (getting contradicting information about how much is left to run) but happy to see the lights from the stadium from (not too) far distance.
I'm entering the stadium for a victory lap run, and getting from Merav (that ran 60km this morning as the first runner in a relay team) the Israeli flag. Those moments are unforgettable.
I'm very excited when I'm holding the Israeli flag together with Hajo few steps after the finish line.
Moments after finishing the race, I've been interviewed by the race organizers and the German TV.
I'm getting updates from Merav regarding her husband (Nir Aziza that also met his personal goal in this race by running under 21H).
I'm calling my wife Odile (and my kids as well of course..), my coach Lior and my parents, and after a shower (and a beer..) at the stadium I'm getting back to the hotel, by taxi this time, and starting to digest what happened in this long day.
I've finished the race in 15:20H (avg pace of 5:42m/km), much better of what I've wanted and with a great feeling !!
Choosing the right equipment for such a race can be crucial. We've made some choices at the beginning of the training period and everything worked flawless during the workouts and eventually at the race.
I'll detail my choices:
Shoes – I'm using Newton brand and selected the Kismet model for such a long distance. For me it was a great combination between relatively light show with some support.
Orthotics – Designed by Mario center specifically and personally for me.
Socks – I've used Swiftwick and finished the race with no blisters
Running tights – I'm using the ULTRA model of ChampionSystems that enables me to take everything that I need for the race without carrying a bag.
Nutrition – I'm using GU energy gels as my primary source for calories during the race.
Fresh spirulina – I'm eating fresh spirulina on a daily basis as part of my healthy nutrition. In addition I've prepared energy bars from dates and spirulina that I took at the major aid stations (we could put 3 drop bags).
Running watch – I've used Garmin Fenix3 and Garmin forerunner 630 as a backup.
Compression – I'm using a shirt and tights from SKINS and wore them right after the race and during the day after.
As I've told Lior after the race – I'm sure that from my point of view this race looks quite differently from the way it looked from… anyone else During most of the parts of the race I've ran on my own, with my own race plan, with no information about my rank and/or distance from other runners.
Overall it was quite a "boring" race, with no crisis management and no drama stories at all.
As someone that experienced few races in the past, and as a running coach that prepares other athletes to long distance events, I know that those "boring" races are the best ones !
Eventually the runners that finished in the first 4 places were not even at the top 10 during the first part of the race.
The fastest strategy that will take you to the finish line is – race your own race.
The more competitive you are, it's better that you'll stick to this strategy.
CU in the next challenge,