A New Breed of Multi-Day Ultra Marathon
A little overdue on this race review but I don’t think my quads couldn’t come to terms to reconciling about this stage race until now. When Jon and I heard that the Zolkan 4 Days trail race was only a little over 100 km and over 4 days, we felt a good 10lbs lighter. With our wedding happening only 3 weeks before the start of the race, our training was pretty minimal for this specific race but we knew we could run an average of 25 km over 4 days no problem. But the Chilean Andes mountains are a whole different breed of trail running! See all the race details on their website.
Chairlift to the starting line at the very top of the ski hill
This ultra marathon race turned into a quad wrenching couple of days that tested our limits and as every ultra promises, some new lessons to take away in the end. Jon and I have raced many ultra marathons
as a pair from the beginning and we always say “it has it’s highs….and it’s lows”. When one person slows down or stops, the other does too. BUT, they do so to get that other back on track, to rev up a defeated mind, and get the wheels turning again. These moral and physical pushes have been one of the biggest benefits we have experienced as running as a team. Through heat exhaustion, screaming patellas, & a broken foot…Jon has raised me up more times than I have for him. This has been frustrating to me and obviously not a trend I like to boast about.
However, Chile decided for this race, to switch the roles for the two of us and give us both a different perspective…
Arriving to camp with perfectly aligned tents, pre-blown-up mattresses (doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re about to run an ultra, any thing that conserves energy means A LOT), and having a 4 course meal with wine/beer set on the had us both on cloud 9. Contrary to our Racing The Planet Madagascar race
, we were “liven’ it up”, “glamping”, “high rollin’”….With an announcement night that at every stage’s finish line there will be ice pools, massages, and beer waiting for us we were planning out our days already after our run every morning. What we didn’t know was how desperate we would be for each of these crossing the finish line each day, especially Jon.
Day 1 fed us, and 41 other competitors, with a 2800 m drop over the span of 25km, so as you would expect, much more than quads got torn apart. As always, we started the race in our Xero Shoes however about 10 km into the race the shale and the steep declines proved too much to handle in our sandals. After deciding to switch to shoes, the hot spots on my feet that were ready to bloom a blister were silenced. Jon made the switch only a few km’s after but that proved to be too late. This plus he forgot to even pack a pair of socks, so he was stuck running the rest of the stage with bare feet in his shoes. At this point, his feet were getting raw and we would see the extent of the damage by the end of that day. Arriving at the finish line, Jon was clearly already in excruciating pain and for good reason after we took off his shoes. A beautiful garden of roughly 8 blisters had blossomed on Jon’s feet with sizes ranging from a heel-wide Big Bertha to small but fierce ones between the toes. Never having to deal with blisters to this extent posed a big challenge for Jon for the remainder of the race.
We set a pace for the rest of the race; becoming habituated with power hiking ups, lightly running flats, and doing as much as we could to get down the declines as fast we could to work with Jon’s feet. Hearing him say that he didn’t know if he could start the next stage day after day was something foreign to my ears and goes to show the amount of pain he was experiencing. But as he did for me, we talked out him out of the negatives, said “the hell with it!” and we will start each day and keep going till he couldn’t go anymore. And that decision was a good test for Jon and his mental strength while giving me a different perspective with the role of helping to keep the gears turning throughout the race when the other’s gears get a little roughed up. Being in this role that Jon has been in multiple times before when the situation had been switched gave me a greater appreciation for the words of motivation and the physical aids he lends to help me out. And although I would have never wished this kind of thing to happen obviously, it allowed me to have a sense of “repayment” as silly as that may sound.
Biggest take-aways from the Zolkan 4 Days race:
- Chile has BADASS trails that we never knew about and killer sights to see on them
- Jonathan is a stubborn man that doesn’t know how to quit
- You can actually gain weight on a stage race if you do it the Zolkan 4 Days way (fresh salmon, croissants, quesidillas, cookies…..oh lord)
- Remember why you run and why you race. Experiencing a race that handles all the logistics for you and allows you to focus on building a sense of community with other competitors is a real treat.
- Get a pack that fits like a glove….invest in the money for that or you’ll be investing your money in scar removal cream…you choose
Ultra Mel and Jon