Sarah Ludowici is our superstar Maroubra Running Coach. Sarah has all the credentials behind her as an Exercise Physiologist, Diabetes Educator, Pilates Instructor and Outdoor lover. Although she will never boast about it, Sarah's running accomplishments speak for themselves, having won events such as The Glow Worm Marathon, Buffalo Stampede Ultra, Mt Solitary Ultra and most recently getting selected to run for Australia at the World Trail Championships.
Here is her story about her most recent experience running over in Portugal.
Running is my way of practicing getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.I run to be connected with my body, with nature, with other people, to relax, to energise and to explore the world. The World Trail Championships in Portugal was my third and most official experience running overseas. It was the toughest terrain of them all - 44.6km, with approximately 2200m of elevation, the Trihlos Dos Abutres (Trail of the Vultures), challenged me physically and mentally.
This was my first experience racing for the Australian Team, and among some of the best athletes in the World. I was racing against athletes, whom I assume in each of their own domains all place, and succeed at events. With different routines, race prep, race strategies, fuel plans, gear, shoes, body types and strengths, it was hard to expect what might happen on race day.
So what happened? There were no waves, only a start channel, with 400 athletes from 52 countries, all bustling and pushing to get as close to the start line. The start gun went, and then everyone surged fast off the start to get ahead before the track narrowed to a single track. This was very fast paced. I normally start steady off the start, and like to run the people ahead of me down, but knew this wasn't quite possible. If I got too far back it would be very challenging to make my way comfortably past people on the single track. I aimed to stay "fast not forced" off the start line, the words of another teammate on repeat in my head. Normally after the first few kilometres, I find myself settling into my own rhythm, and moving comfortably along with only a few people. This time however there were lots of other runners nearby for the majority of the race. This made it challenging on narrow sections, including technical down hill, scrambling sections, and at times run-able up hills. With varying terrain, and runner strengths, there was lots of too-ing and froo-ing.
Moving through the race, I tried to pull it back to my own race, and focus on my own strengths- the downhills. Whenever I hit a down hill, I knew it was my time to push. Most of the time this worked, however the terrain was very technical, and slippery. I fell several times, cutting my knee in the first 7km, and almost losing balance several other times. I think a combination of nerves, the adrenaline, and the challenging terrain meant I continually had to focus. Even glancing down at my watch, or going to sip some water would sometimes be enough to send me over. It was a run where you could not switch off, and your brain was constantly taking in the surroundings to keep you upright!
During the race at times it felt like it took forever but it went so fast. I can't really remember what went through my head. Often things like "focus", remembering back to things I told myself in training, such as " you are fit, you will recover" on the uphills, "drive the knees", and telling myself things like you have 10 seconds (before you push -it, or make it to the top of a hill). The crowd certainly helped. One particularly section running up a set of stairs, there were 100s of people lining the stairs, screaming at the top of their lungs "vamos" and other words/ languages I couldn't understand. This was an absolute highlight- the energy was electric! We had trusty, world-class crew-man, Barton, shouting at me in all of these unsuspecting places. It always gets you out of your own head seeing a familiar face! Another one of my mantras being "only X km before you see Barton"
The final 10km, was a downhill section into the town, with the last 2km on the road. In the last 3/4km I overtook another two runners, 1 female and 1 male. Not wanting them to surge past me in the last 2km, I put my head down and ran as fast as I could, thinking to myself 'lean forward and spring". It was a hot, tough race, and I was very proud to finish, especially the last 10km home where I took over about 5 other runners.
I have learnt a lot from this race. The number one learning being that every race I start at I need to know that I deserve to win and that I can win. I don't say this from a place of running for external gratification it is necessary to detach from this outcome. I say this from a place of not selling myself short, believing in myself, being proud of my ability, proud of my consistent effort, and proud of the entire process. My next goal is to build my capacity to run my own race, run my championship race, regardless of the situation around me.