Over the summer I had a goal of completing my first ultramarathon and aimed to work on duration rather than intensity or speed as I’d spent the previous spring doing quite a few interval sessions. Summer training consisted of Zone 1-2 heart rate training with very little, if any, speedwork. My friend Carol messaged me on Facebook a few weeks before moving back to Norway asking about signing up for the Trondheim Half Marathon and after a few days of thought I decided to go for it, using it as a test for where I was at speed wise. Fast forward a few weeks and exactly one interval session later and the event day arrived.
I estimated a pace of 7:26 per mile based on some tempo runs I had done in the weeks before and felt I could do it, although I knew it would hurt. With most of my half marathons and marathons ending with a positive split (the last half of the race was slower than the first) my goal was to try keep an even pace throughout all 13.1 miles. I planned to reduce my hourly basal rate by 65% as I definitely did not want to go hypoglycemic as I knew that would kill my pace. I opted to carry 4 gels (23g carbohydrates each) and fuel with one every 20 minutes for the first hour, and keep one in reserve. I also knew there would be sports drink every 2-3 miles so I would take that when available.
The night before I noticed my Dexcom site was beginning to fall off and wouldn’t last the next day if I didn’t tape it. I ended up using Leukotape (the best tape for everything) and it seemed to be holding securely but sadly in the morning I got the dreaded ??? on the receiver. Since I had been wearing it for 13 days, I wasn’t surprised but was also hoping it would maybe, just maybe, begin to work again before the race started. About 4 hours before the race I had a pretty carb rich potato breakfast and gave insulin for 100% of it. Assuming my blood sugar would be fine, I didn’t check for another 2 hours and when I did I was rocking a number of roughly 450mm/dL. It was at this point I realized I would be having a tough time as giving too much insulin at this point would mean hypoglycemia during the race and giving to little would mean feeling really crabby during it too. I opted to under bolus the correction in hopes that I’d run slightly higher rather than too low as that would be less detrimental to performance.
When I arrived at the start my blood sugar had come down to 320mm/dL and I had 3 units on board (which drops me 100mm/dL) so I felt better that it’d stabilize by the start. My Dexcom was still not functioning so I ripped it off before the start. I took a few sips of water and toed the line in the 1:40 pool so I could pace off some of those runners. I hadn’t pre-run the course but had run around Trondheim enough to feel confident in what was ahead: a mostly flat 10k loop with a few short kickers.
The first 2 miles went well and it was mostly just trying to slowly budge ahead in a cluster of runners. The course was mostly narrow until we hit some of the roads so this was challenging. Pace wise I was doing well and started to get into the groove. A couple of us seemed to be running at the exact same speed so we traded turns pacing and got into a good rhythm. The toughest parts were when the road went from smooth to cobbled and I noticed my heart rate went up and pace went down. When I arrived at the small hills, I just opted to slow the pace and then gain the lost time on the downhill.
Loop 1 (10km) went by and I was feeling good. I felt as if I could have pushed the pace but held back, knowing that’s what caused me to blow up right before the end. A Norwegian runner in all blue and I linked up and would eventually do the whole lap together using each other as pacing rabbits. With about 5km (3ish miles) to go I felt the twinge of cramps forming in my calves and realized I’d have to be very careful as to what intensity I was at. I wanted to keep the pace but didn’t want my legs to seize up.
At every aid station I grabbed the sports drink hoping any sort of electrolyte might just help ward off the muscle spasms. I focused on slowing down and stretching out my legs while running on the uphill which seemed to help. Eventually I was able to sustain a 7:30ish pace while staying right below the threshold of muscle lock up. The last kilometer felt much longer than 1000m but I ended up crossing the line in 1:37.23 (a 7:25 pace). My ending blood sugar was 227mm/dL which meant I remained stable though the whole race most likely! Next time I’ll have to try get that number down to 160-180. Overall, I was happy about the race and it’s a good starting point to try get down below 90 minutes for a half marathon. We’ll see what a few months of high intensity training does.
Shoutout to Headsweats for the hat so I don’t get blinded by my sweat while running!