Easy + Strideouts warm up/down (road) 12:00  2.5 km (4:48 / km)
Went out for the race briefing 20 minutes prior to race start. The sky was gray, but it wasn't raining and the temperature was right around 8 degrees.
Did the warm-up exercises during the briefing and drills afterward. Jogged for 10 minutes and ran one stride. Felt ready to go.
Trail marathon race (dirt, road) 2:52:00  42.27 km (4:04 / km) +560m 3:49 / km
Gun went off and I immediately found myself running by myself. The first kilometer was a loop around the scouting camp we stayed at. It started raining lightly, but the trail was hard packed dirt and easy to run on.
Tried getting into that moderate rhythm from the start and think I succeeded well. I wasn't accustomed to running with a bag yet, but it fit me well and nothing on it was loose.
This course seems to be constantly undulating and never gives you time to rest. The trails are wide and solidly built though, so it's not technical at all. Ran in Challenger 5s and they seemed like a good choice.
The first 6 kilometers went by quickly. I was all alone, but felt okay and had found a good pace on the ups and downs.
In my mind I had the race split into three parts, each for one hour that passed. Before the race I hoped that the first hour would go by quickly, the second would be okay at least when the sun was still up and then I'd hang on to a solid pace in the darkness of the third hour. It didn't really go that way.
The first hour did go by fast, but I didn't really have that spring in my step even though it barely felt like a moderate effort. Earlier on than expected, maybe 10km into the race, I realized that this was starting to feel like a grind. I didn't slow down or anything, but I didn't fly over the trails either.
The weather cleared up though and the sky was fiery red. It was going to be a wonderful night. Although it was starting to get dark, I wasn't freezing and I actually never changed clothes or put on a jacket as I was certain I would have to do.
Close to the half marathon mark I put on my head torch. My hamstrings were a little sore which was worrying. I knew I hadn't done many suitable long runs, but I thought for sure I wouldn't start to fatigue this early. Managed to keep up the pace though, but again, it was a grind.
Although I was all alone and there weren't that many checkpoints, I was comfortable in the darkness. It was completely silent and everything was still. I saw 5 rabbits, some sheep, and many birds.
At the 2 hour mark, I checked my watch for the last time and started fueling as often as I felt like. My fueling strategy worked well last night. I had no issues with my stomach and I don't think that fueling was the reason for my flat legs. I had the Spring gels, a Cliff Energy bar and water. By not checking my watch, time passed by a little quicker even though I knew I was slowing down. It was partly conscious as it was literally as dark as I think it can be in the western world. My head torch worked great, but it's just not the same as running in daylight. Also, my legs were tired and didn't have the strength that was needed.
The courses continued to wind up and down over open fields and through thick forest. This was the loneliest stretch of the trail as I think there was 15 km between the final two checkpoints. I basically just ran at the same effort and finally got to the 40k mark. If my legs were feeling stronger, I probably could have kicked it up a notch and gotten the course record, but I really just hadn't had it in me. If I had been fitter and more healthy in January, this would have been a completely different story. Next winter I gotta make sure I don't get any niggles/injuries so I don't start my season up on the wrong foot.
The finish line was inside a hall and it was so bright in there it felt like I went blind after being out in the darkness for so long. It felt really good to get to the finish knowing that I had won by a comfortable margin and ran an ok race. Drank some soda, went to the shower and changed clothing. Had a recovery shake plus a couple of tea-cups. Wasn't able to eat much the first hour, but I drank a lot. After a while I started eating and it sat well.