Overcoming the fear of failure.

This morning was only my 3rd run this year and one that I’ve been putting off for weeks.  I suffered an injury back in November and was advised to take the rest of the year off to recover.  Amazingly I didn’t gain any weight over Christmas and then, after another check up, starting on my running plan for the next Ultra.  Second run in and a sudden hamstring pain stopped me in my tracks. And that’s when the fear kicked in.

What if this pain comes back every run and I can’t run anymore?  What if I am stuck running 5k races and can not get back to long distance again?

Safest thing is to rest and recover. Right?  So I did and I kept coming up with excuses convincing myself that it wasn’t the right time, it was too cold, too wet, etc. The worst thing was I knew I was making excuses and still I couldn’t get out of the door.  Day after day went by and it got easier and easier to not put my kit on and go out and run.

I’m not like a lot of runners out there who enjoy running, the best I can achieve is I tolerate it.  To be brutally honest it bores me but I do have the ability to shut off my brain and kind of blank out.  If nothing else it makes the distance and time go faster.  🙂

So why go running if you don’t enjoy it?  I guess it’s a personal battle to push myself further than I’ve done before.  It’s not really a challenge if it’s fun, is it?  The next event for me is The Isle of Wight Ultra again.  We have unfinished business the Island and Me.  I had to come back and complete the whole circle as not finishing the last 6 miles last time has prayed on my mind.  Only time will tell if I manage it this year and I know that I won’t be able to move on without finishing even if I have to crawl over the line.

Hopefully the 4 miles this morning will be the catalyst to get the training plan back under way.  I’ve lost 2 weeks already and have to get my base fitness back up again before I get to long distance training again.

New Charity this year: The Princess Alice Hospice.  A very local charity this time and one that I know will inspire me to push myself.

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An Escape too far!

Escape from Meriden 2016

I’ve started races before not entirely fit but only short ones, I’ve hobbled and stumbled around a few 10k’s in the past knowing that if any pain came it would be over in about an hour or so.  I’ve usually run those even when slightly injured as it was for Charity.  But I’ve never before taken on a long run when not completely fit and ready.  Ten days before this race my IT Band went and despite a lot of rest, foam rolling and massage I knew it was a case of when it would go on this run not if it would go.  All I could do was adopt a run/walk strategy and try not to push at all.

I traveled up by train, first to Coventry and then to Hampton in Arden, a small village 3 miles from Meriden.  I had expected to find a taxi company at the station but nothing.  After a quick check on my GPS I set off walking to Meriden, already slipping and sliding on the frost covered pavements.  As I got to Meriden another runner stopped to ask directions and then gave me a lift for the last 4oo metres.

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Race HQ was in a community hall and possibly the strangest I have ever been in.  An amazing collection of runners all who looked both calm and almost bewildered to why they were there and what they had gotten themselves into.  I checked in and was given my number and race drone tracker.  Everyone was in really chatty moods and I had great conversations with many of the runners.  A few words from the Race Director and we left as a group to walk up to the start line.  With temperatures at just above freezing there seemed to be some nervous tension as people discussed plans for their race.  After five or so minutes and a quick countdown we were off.

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A large number of runners headed off in the same direction as me and for the first twenty minutes it was like running in a fire parade with all the twinkling lights ahead, around and behind me.  Spirits were high but the temperature remained low and I ran in a small group for about forty minutes.  At this point I experienced the first sign of my IT band going and decided to walk for a while.  I stopped at a garage for drinks and had a great conversation with the attendant who had seen other runners passing by.  Her look of incredulity as I explained what the race was all about was amusing and I was soon off and moving again.

Two more hours of run/walk that was turning more into walk/run as I went along and then I slipped on a patch of frosty road and down I went.  As I lay on the road I knew I’d damaged my knee but the one thing I’ve learned is that I can deal with pain to a certain degree so I got up planning to just continue.  The pain was so bad plus with the muscles around my knee already misbehaving I knew my race was over.

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And this is where Escape from Meriden differs from all other races I’ve been in.  There was no Aid station a few miles away, going forward or backward, there was no-one I knew who would come out at 3am to pick me up.  I knew all this before the race so it helped in making the decision I did.  It helped mentally anyway, and running long distance is so much of a mental game.  I did have a SOS button on the tracker but, to be honest, it didn’t cross my mind until just before I got on the train and I went to turn the tracker off.

So I did what I knew I had to do, I walked to the nearest train station so I could get home.  I walked through the night and into the glorious sun rise.  According to my tracker I walked for six hours and eight minutes after falling at an average speed of 3.5 mph.  I knew Banbury was on the London line and would be both the closest and best station to head for.  I had no idea how far it was and that was immaterial really, I just had to get there.  I wasn’t helped by the fact that the route I had chosen may have been the most direct but it didn’t pass through any towns or villages almost at all.  The last 3 miles into Banbury were by far the slowest and the most painful but I had all the time in the world to make it.  🙂  I bought out half of a Greggs bakery on arrival and after a small wait started my multiple train journey home.  Three hours later I arrived home, sank into a hot bath, ate and slept.

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Total distance 53km in about 9 hours so not fast at all.

Injury is something that happens and I’ve learned to deal with it.  I had trained well over the previous three months and I have suffered from IT Band failure before.  I knew it would go but had convinced myself that I would be okay.  I didn’t want to miss out on such an intriguing race after all.

I’ve learned from this race as I’ve learned from them all.  I’ve learned a bit more about my capacity to deal with pain and next time I might do things a little differently but I doubt it.  🙂

I will come back and do another one like this, I loved the format and the organisation was spot on.

The Internet Internetted against me.

I’ve been around the internet from it’s very early days, the days before pictures!!  I had a Compuserve account and a network of friends that for a few years never knew what each other looked like.  Then pictures arrived, albeit very slowly, and over time networks of friends sprung up and then there was Facebook.  The ultimate network to bring people together and share pictures and birthdays and ideas.  The problem with instant media and instant response is that people are doing more posting than reading.  Very often people read something but don’t actually take in what has been written as they are instantly in posting mode so they kind of get the gist of what was written kind of like Chinese whispers where people “hear” what they want to hear not necessarily what was said as they are so eager to pass the message on.  After all speed is everything and whoever posts first wins, or something like that.

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One person who read my last post, let’s call him Bob, decided that he would take it upon himself to post to one of the communities we are both a part of and this is where the Chinese whispers, internet style, came in.

My post was a little dig at a runner I know that continually puts down other people for running slowly, basically if you can’t run faster than 1:45 for a half half or sub 4 hours for a marathon then you aren’t a real runner and shouldn’t be allowed to run with the “good” runners.  He posted the other day that he was devastated to miss his PB by 10 seconds and this was caused, in his opinion, by slower runners on the course.  As he runs a sub 1:15 half, there can’t have been many “slower” runners to get past as he always starts at the front.  He proceeded to flame the group and was ejected.

Now when Bob posted onto this community we are both part of it suddenly became about Bob, he describes a “us or them” scenario happening where he is the “them” and Bob is a different “type of runner” to the rest of the group and he is upset that there is this division in the group and that the group doesn’t want him there because he is so special and fast and that I think that Bob shouldn’t post anything he does good or bad.

Poor old Bob!!  But it wasn’t about Bob at all was it?  Bob wasn’t in my post at all.  That’s just the Chinese way he decided to take it and he gets more clicks and likes by becoming the victim.

The Internet then did what the internet does so well.  It kind of stopped “listening” and just went to writing mode.  Comment after comment about how the group was so inclusive and special, and to be honest it is a group full of positivity and encouragement, there is no “us or them” there is no division of runners.  This turned into “my best time is….”, then the cliches started, you’ve got to love a good running cliche; “You’re lapping everyone on the couch”  “Finish Lines not Finish Times”.  “You’re better than the couch potatoes”

Now other people are threatening to leave the group because Bob said he might.  So dramatic, I love it.  I’m not sure if this is what Bob intended but I LOVE IT!!!  Then there came the post that I think secretly Bob had been waiting for.  The head man, the top admin, begging Bob not to leave the group.  Oh how the angels sang in Bob’s ears, he really had become a true “them” someone stood apart from the group and worshiped.  Bob was filled with the joys of Elitism, he was a Facebook running group GOD!!.

Now the small problem is that other people read my blog post and some of them read Bob’s post and they now think, because of that post, that I was writing about Bob.  Some of these people now think I have something against Bob because Bob can run faster than me.  On the contrary, I enjoy reading Bob’s blog mainly because he gets so cross at himself.  🙂  Reading about someone achieving what he does interests me and I am constantly amazed at the times he achieves but , dum dum dummmm,  he doesn’t inspire me.  I don’t run fast, I run far.

Some of these people write naughty words about me and say that I should leave the group but don’t worry they won’t be published; this is a nice blog.  🙂

Training Marathon run report

I train slightly differently.  I have no training plan so I can choose to run whenever and for as long or short as I want.  This week I knew I wanted a long run at the weekend so ran a 10k on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as easy warmups and then took Thursday and Friday off.

The only plan for today’s run was to get to 30k and see how I felt.  I knew that I would be passing close to a few Superstores and a few smaller shops I’ve used before so I knew that extra water and food would be easily available.  I started with 2 litres of Tailwind in my backpack, it just works for me, and headed off.  The weather was calm and the sun was just rising as I headed off.  I rarely see any other runners on my morning runs and I didn’t expected that to change, at least not in the first 2-3 hours, maybe as I got further into the morning and headed into areas with more housing I might encountered other exercisers.

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1st Aid Station

At 15k I entered my first aid station.  I knew this had to be a quick stop and I was in and out within 5 minutes, orange juice, water and a bag of crisps.  The guys inside knew I was rushing and helped me out finding things.

At 22k I felt a hot spot forming and, knowing how quickly they can develop into a blister, I immediately stopped to change socks and use a Compeed plaster.  This was the moment that I realised that I hadn’t repacked my backpack after washing it this week.  No plasters, no spare socks, no spare buffs, no spare gloves, nothing at all, not even toilet paper.  So I readjusted my socks and thought I’d be okay as long as it didn’t rain.

Then it started raining.  I did have my waterproof with me so that went on pretty quickly and off I headed again knowing my next aid station was at 30k so I could check again then.  I always thought my waterproof jacket was in fact waterproof but it seems not at least not in that amount of rain.  I do have another one but it’s not quite as light. Sometimes running in the rain is refreshing but at other times, like today, it’s as much I could do not to drown while running.  Of course shorts get wet in the rain and thoughts automatically turn to the possibility of chaffing.  I do use Body Glide and I always use what I think is enough and then put more on but today was the first heavy rain test, it just about passed the test.

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2nd Aid Station

Again at the 2nd Aid Station everything went like clockwork and again I was out within 10 minutes.  The rain continued to pour down but my feet felt okay so I decided to continue.  Up to this point I had been using a run/walk program and it did become a bit more walk/run at this point.  Because I’m not in training for a marathon my thoughts are always monitoring my body to make sure I’m not expending too much energy too early.  There’s no point me finishing a marathon distance with no energy left when I’ll normally have at least one or more marathons still to go.  That’s when the mental stage of my running comes in I think.

So a marathon run, my feet came out unscathed, I have now repacked my backpack, schoolboy error, I’ll now have to do some runs in a new waterproof jacket but it’s nice to know that mentally at least I am ready to run some long distances again.

Great North Run in 3 weeks time, it’s a long way to travel for a half but it seems to be more of a fun carnival run, so I just plan to go up and enjoy it, no racing just to have fun.

Anatomy of a Run

What really happens when we run (maybe): NASA Style
Brain: This is mission control we are at T minus 5 minutes, let’s have a Status check.
Head: Covering on.
Ears: Plugs inserted.
Chest: 2 Layers on.
Left Arm: Music device in place.
Left Wrist: Timer in place.
Hands: Gloves on
Legs: Covered.
Knees: A bit sore but within parameters.
Feet: Ready to go. Shoes on.
Brain: Listen up people, this one’s for Addey so no mistakes, make it a good one. Here we go!!
Left Wrist: HOLD ON!! Still waiting for a signal mission control.
Brain: Legs move us around a bit to help Left Wrist.

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(2 minutes later)
Left Wrist: Okay, ready to go.
Brain: Activate music, activate timer, Legs take us away.
Legs: Okay we’re off, feet keep up please.
Brain: Ears keep us informed of the information the lady tells us.
Ears: Roger mission control, just passing through ½ km now and she says we’re going a little fast.
Brain: Concentrate now don’t let this get away from us, we can’t have a repeat of last time
Eyes: Feet! Puddle ahead, please avoid it.
Feet: Thank you eyes, legs ready to jump?
Legs: Ready……….and GO!
Brain: Good job everyone, looks like we’re about halfway.
Ears: Confirmed mission control, halfway point and on schedule.
Left Knee: Excessive soreness occurring. Checking
Brain: Can you continue, without you it’s all over?
Left Knee: Permission to use mouth to vent, it might help.
Brain: Permission granted, area is clear of civilians, proceed with venting.
Mouth: $***@£&$ %$££$ $£%$%$%$
Left Knee: That seems to have worked a bit, will continue with movement
Ears: Lady reports 4 km completed on schedule, Irene Cara singing about Fame again.
Stomach: Mission control we have a problem! Experiencing pizza problems.
Brain: Elaborate Stomach please.
Stomach: Pizza had not completed full nutritional circle before mission start.
Brain: Can you hold it together for 3 minutes. Legs, we have a CODE RED. This is not a drill, I repeat this is not a drill. Move it, move it!
Eyes: I see the docking station, hands get unlocking device out of pocket.
(later)
Brain: Well done everyone, we learned a few things today but overall a good job.

Why push so hard, so far?

There are people who don’t understand runners and running.  For many it is an alien sport, a form of torture and where are you running to anyway?

There are also runners who don’t understand runners.  You see runners come in all shapes and sizes.  There are skinny runners who can run short fast distances.  Different skinny runners can run slower long distances.  Almost all runners can run a 5k usually in the form of a parkrun on Saturday morning.  Most of these will progress up to doing a 10k or maybe even a half marathon.  And these are good distances to run and race.  Far enough to be a challenge but short enough to be able to really race them.

The marathon distance is the bastion of the Charity runner, the bucket list runners and the serious distance runners.  Whether it is in London, Edinburgh, Brighton or Manchester, tens of thousands run the marathon each year, the majority of which will be participating for their one and only try at the distance.  It’s a hard distance to run and I admire anyone that steps up to the start line of one.  When I did London Marathon in 2015 I really did think that I would never finish it.  The last 2 miles seemed to go on for hours.

 

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Running further than a marathon has to be a conscious choice and a bold choice.  For starters an Ultra, officially anything further than a marathon, is not as big an event as a marathon at least not in the number of participants.  The organisational setup is usually very similar in it’s professionalism and it must help that almost everyone can run and has usually trained for the event.

An Ultra is a mental event in that you can only go as far as your mind will let you.  The moment you think that you can’t go on your body will just shut down.  In my one and, so far, only Ultra I watched people give up when the going got tough and even succumbed myself with only 6 miles to go when I convinced myself that I couldn’t continue.  At that moment my body shut down and I could not even get out of my chair when the Failure Bus came around to pick me up.  My only DNF and something I hope to never have to deal with again, it took weeks to get not finishing out of my system, though to be honest it’s probably not all out.

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For me, running further came from the premise that I have one speed and it isn’t a fast speed but for Ultras that is kind of what is needed.  The ability to shut your mind off and plod ever onward, come what may, until the finish line is reached.

How far can I go?  Well that’s what we’re here to find out.

 

It’s a Dog eat Dog World, sometimes.

It’s rough and tough out there on the mean streets.  You never know quite what or who you’re going to meet out there on your lonely run.

Now I love a good nature documentary as much as the next man and I often visualise myself out there as an animal, sometimes as a lion proudly roaming my territory, sometimes as a giraffe, head brushing the tallest trees.   Last week I was a buffalo, ever plodding along like I’m on a great migration.  It’s early morning and a storm has just passed over.  I can’t sleep so decide to go out for a run.  About halfway through I find myself catching up to four youths so I cross the road to avoid them.  As this large buffalo went past they became wolves and decided to follow me and then run along side me.

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Now as we know wolves are faster than buffalo but they are more sprinters than distance runners.  The alpha wolf snarled at me. “Oi, grandad, where you going?”  The buffalo conserved his breath hoping that the young wolves would tire of this game.  “Oi, I’m talking to you fat boy”  At this point I remembered the documentary and did what any solitary male buffalo would do, I stopped and challenged them.

Perception is a strange thing, all the time I was plodding along panting for breath I became, in their eyes, a slow lumbering grey haired old man, easy prey  As soon as I stopped I became a 220 lbs 6 ‘2″ larger than life buffalo.  “What did you call me?”  I asked the youth, tail starting to disappear between his legs.  “Nothing”   “Well piss off then”  I turned and just like the buffalo lumbered back on course heading home.

It’s only when I got home that I thought that the situation could have turned out so differently. but there again next time I might be the lion and rip their heads off for entering my territory.  🙂