Six days in the groove (part 1)
Here's the first half of my long-read, unfiltered, first-draft report of my recent six-day race in France. Second half to come next week ...
As I stood on the start line of the 6 Jours de France, on a warm but blustery afternoon in the Ardèche region of southern France, I had a goal. I knew I could run 100 miles in 22 hours - my record for the distance - so I figured that 100km (or 62 miles) in 24 hours should be fairly achievable. And it had that nice, round-number ring to it: 100km a day for six days; 600km in total.
I had no idea what I was talking about.
Still, in my happy ignorance of just how brutally debilitating running for six days continuously can be, I stuck my neck on the line: 600km was my target for the race.
I also had one eye on my ultimate goal: the Self-Transcendence 3100, the world's longest race, in which you have to run 100km a day for 52 days straight. If I was ever going to manage that, I had to be able to run that same distance for just six days, right? It seemed reasonable. In fact, the organisers of the 3100 had said as much to me, insinuating that if I fell too short of that goal in this race, then they wouldn’t be able to give me a place in the 3100.
They didn’t stipulate exactly how much "short" I could fall, but I thought best not to risk it. Hit that magic 100km a day - which I really thought would be fairly within my reach anyway - and leave no room for doubt.
That's the thing in ultra running; the numbers can become so big that you start to lose sight of the reality of what they actually mean. Break it down, and 100km a day is just over 4km an hour. I could walk that. Of course, I’d be taking breaks here and there, and sleeping. But even taking out six hours a day to rest, it was still only 5.5km an hour, which was barely jogging. I was a decent runner, a sub-3 hour marathoner, I could knock out that pace effortlessly. Endlessly. Or so I thought.