I'm currently in the middle of a different kind of ultra...yet one that can be easily related to a 100-miler. Or, maybe, 10 100-milers, on consecutive days.
I take the MCAT in 8 days. 8 am, on the 17th. I've been getting ready for this, more or less, since June of 2007 when I sat down in that summer chemistry class and began this long journey. It's been quite an adventure.
I've spent the last month and a half (since Jemez Mt) studying at least 2-3 hours per day for this test. Over the past month I've been putting in more hours - somewhere in the 4-6 hour range. The last two weeks, it's been even worse, in the 10-12 hour range.
The last few weeks have been quite analogous to a long race. I'll start a day out strong, trying not to think about all the work ahead of me. I'll start to get tired, take some breaks and try to re-focus. Then I'll get really tired and start setting small goals for myself; get through this next section, run halfway up this hill, etc. Past a certain point it all becomes a mental game you have to play with yourself. Eventually I finish each day and I find it hard to remember what it felt like throughout the day, I just know how it feels to be done.
The analogy extends to other people (racers) also. You come across people who seem to be so prepared for the test. They don't even seem to have to try and they exude an air of confidence that you wish you had and wonder if you could have developed given the right training and preparation. There's others who you're wondering why they're even toeing the start line, thinking there's no way they're ready, why are they even here?
I guess it'll end just like an ultra too. Some of those folks who looked so good at the start won't even make it halfway. Others who you wouldn't have put a dollar on finishing will end the race with their head held high, looking strong and ahead of most in the field. You'll still wonder how they did it after the race.
You'll finish also. You'll run your own race, doing what you need to do to get you to the end in one piece and in a respectable time. There wouldn't have been a doubt in your mind that you would finish, you know your preparation and hard work were a good foundation to run your race off of and all you have to do is show up race morning somewhat coherent and with a couple pairs of shoes. It'll be a fun race.