WC/EC 100km 2011

Running 100km isn't tougher or more exhausting than running a marathon. But it is definitely more difficult, because there is one additional variable in the equation: the stomach. I've never liked sports drinks. They make me feel sick. Back in the early days of my ultrarunning career, I used to only drink water. That, of course, made me run out of energy after 75-80km. Later, I followed the science-based advice to ingest at least 60g of carbohydrates per hour. That worked reasonably well once, in 2008, when I achieved my first sub-7h finish, but led to miserable failures in the following three 100km races. This year, I decided to try a compromise, drinking water in the first half of the race, and switching to moderate amounts of sports drink in the second half.

It's been a horrible summer, with cold and wet weather from early July until mid September. Except, of course, on my three race days. Assen was hot, Boddington was sizzling, and Winschoten felt as tropical as the Amazon rain forest. When we lined up at the start, I knew that many of the competitors in the IAU World and European Championships wouldn't make it to the finish line. It turned out that only 60% did. For some reason, I usually cope with the heat better than most, so I wasn't in the least concerned when I came through the 30km point in 12th place. What did trouble me more, however, were intestinal cramps that followed my impulsive decision to eat some of the Dutch 'peperkoek' provided at the organisation's aid station. I lost some time and a few pounds during the next 20km, but then my bowels calmed down and I settled back into my rhythm while pouring gallons of water over my head, provided by the friendly people and children of Winschoten. At 70k, I took some energy gels which, somewhat to my surprise, stayed down. At 80k, I passed defending European Champion Jonas Buud. I then decided to hold my pace because, in the chaos of hundreds of relay runners, I didn't know that I was quickly closing down on Americans Andrew Henshaw and Michael Wardian. So I ended up a few minutes short of a WC podium place. I guess that'll have to wait until next year's WC race in Italy, land of the formidable Giorgio Calcaterra, who won the race in an amazing 6h27', all by himself.

Lap times: 39:15 - 39:20 - 39:22 - 39:44 - 40:51 - 40:49 - 40:48 - 41:37 - 42:12 - 43:06

In conclusion, it looks like my new food strategy works and that, after 12 years in the business, I'm finally getting close to realising my potential in ultrarunning.

1. Giorgio Calcaterra ITA 06:27:32
2. Michael Wardian USA 06:42:49
3. Andrew Henshaw USA 06:44:35
4. Pieter Vermeesch BEL 06:47:01
5. Shinji Nakadai JPN 06:48:32
6. Matt Wood USA 06:50:23
7. Jonas Buud SWE 06:52:19
8. Yoshiki Takada JPN 07:03:55
9. André Collet GER 07:04:35
10. Dominique Bordet FRA 07:04:37

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