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.

Escape from Meriden Kit Check

It’s been a month since my last post and that’s because I haven’t really done much.  Sure I’ve put in the miles but I’ve also been listening carefully to my body and my body kept on saying rest.  So, for probably the first time, I listened and I feel great because of it.

I’ve also been planning for my next big race.  The Escape from Meriden in a couple of weeks time.  It’s just too far and crazy a distance for my mind to understand which is perfect as it hopefully will mean no pre race nerves.  I’ve planned my route from the start to my finish point and apart from a few small sections it looks good for running on.  I’m a road runner so the route was always going to be a tarmac one, less chance of mud as I really hate mud.  People keep asking me how far I think I will get and the answer is always the same.  I will run 105 miles to get home.  How much of that I manage in the 24 hours of the race is a different matter, I’m hoping for 90 miles, as the race finishes at midnight Saturday night and I still have to get home.  Of course after midnight I do have the option of public transport or a taxi or any friend who is foolish enough to have their phone on, doesn’t drink and has a car.

Laid all my kit out on Sunday just so I can see it all and so I could take photos for Addey.  It looks so much when you lay it out but in reality it all squishes down in size.

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I’ve decided to do away with the bladder for this run and go with a water bottle belt instead.  It allows me to pack more equipment in the back pack but without increasing the weight that I’m used to carrying.  Whether that decision is a wise one only time will tell.  I’ve also doubled the front and back safety lights I wear: Be seen. Be safe.

The Charity vest is not a vital piece of my kit but I’ve always run with it from my very first race and it’s like a comfort blanket.  I’ve also found that people are more willing to help you if they know what you are doing is helping others, and that includes use of toilets, filling up water bottles and cake.

I normally don’t taper well at all but this time it’s different.  This time there’s no back up, no aid stations, no 1st aid help on the race.  I have to get to the start line in the best possible physical shape, I’m even having my first sports massage next week.  Mentally I’m already there waiting to set off, hoping there is a toilet near to the start.

How do I choose races?

Sometimes you choose races and sometimes races choose you.  Great examples of this are my next two races:  Great North Run and Escape from Meriden.

The Great North Run on Sept 11th is one of those iconic races, never good for a PB but for me it is a “tick it off your running bucket list” kind of race.  57,000 people can make a great atmosphere  but I can imagine it will be terrible for running it.  Too many people to be able to keep a nice pace especially for the first few miles, but it’s a race about fun and charity and I’ll be going up there just to have some fun.  It’s also one of the races that non runners have heard of.  🙂

On the other hand, Escape from Meriden, 19th November, flashed up on my Facebook feed and immediately I had to book it.  This is a race as far from GNR as it is possible to go and fits more with my style of running.  So what is it?

Escape from Meriden is a simple ultra race, Meriden is the traditional centre of England by the way, 100 runners start the race and have 24 hours to get as far away as possible.  There is no route, no plan, no aid stations, in fact there is nothing at all.  There is bling though and what you get depends on how far you manage to escape in the 24 hours.

Meriden to my house is 104 miles so even if I didn’t make it all the way there at least I would know that every step would be taking me closer.  All you mathematicians out there very quickly worked out that if I ran 0.8 miles more it would be 4 marathons.  🙂   4 marathons in 24 hours?  Why not?

Of course with this race being different, it comes with its own obstacles; no aid stations so food has to be bought along the route, the same goes for water.  Everything you need has to be carried, there’s nothing in the rules about not being allowed a crew but I can’t imagine any of my friends coming out for a 24 hour crew as none of them are runners.  One major thought:  If I have to stop through injury there’s no backup at all.  I bet all my friends and family turn their phones off that night.  🙂

24 hours on your own.

Not many people ever do that by choice, you have to be extremely at peace with yourself to want to be on your own for that length of time or extremely pissed off at the world.

24 hours running on your own. 

Very few people want to do that.  It’s a physical thing but it’s also a mental thing.  The desire to stop can become overwhelming and you need a reason to continue.  Running that kind of distance can hurt, I know that all too well and there’s not much you can do to stop it hurting.  Sucking it up is part and parcel of Ultra running.

2 races in 3 months, totally different but the same really, I mean it’s just running.  🙂

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.

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.

 

Isle of Wight Challenge 2017. The rerun.

The Isle of Wight.  A small island of the Southern coast of England.  Picturesque.

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A popular holiday destination and when the weather is good is stunningly beautiful.  The picture postcard looks are there for all to see.

However, when the weather turns it’s not quite as nice.  The wind gusts off the sea and temperatures can plummet and the rain can chill you quicker than you can believe.

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In April 2016 this is exactly what happened.  3 hours of glorious sunshine, perfect running conditions and then, almost without warning, the weather changed.  Freezing rain, hail stones and gales force winds battered the island.  It only lasted for a couple of hours but the damage was done.  Fields that had been firm underfoot became glutinous mud traps, trails became mud slides and runner after runner limped into aid stations with blisters.  For some this was the beginning of the end and the island would continue to take its toll throughout the night as temperatures dropped.

For me this was my first trail run, my first Ultra and the first time I’d experienced blisters from running.  When the bad weather hit I was between aid stations and the two hours I spent trudging through muddy fields with wet feet was the time it all went wrong for me.  The blisters had formed and despite fantastic work from the St John Ambulance crews and regardless of treatment and padding, I spent the next 15 hours running and then walking on very sore feet.  Ironically it was my knee that took me out of the race, just too many stairs up and down the cliffs.

After 21 hours I could no longer generate body heat and with sore feet and a knee I couldn’t put pressure on I made the decision to withdraw with only 6 miles to go.

Now in 2017 I’ll be going back to finish what I started.  I know the course now, I know when to push and when to be careful and hold back.  Nicer weather would be nice but this time I will learn from my mistakes and complete the island.

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It’s 90 per cent mental. The other 10 per cent is all in your head.

As you may already know, distance running is a mental sport.  Sure there is a physical side to it but if you can’t get the mental side right then you’re not going to do very well.

It’s 90 per cent mental. The other 10 per cent is all in your head.

Sounds silly doesn’t it?  But it’s true especially in Ultras.  There is, on average, a 25% drop out rate before the start of most Ultras and at least 10% of those are just too plain scared to start.  It’s a truly daunting prospect standing at the start line of a 50k or a 100k  race for the first time.  No level of training can prepare you for the hours and hours or running ahead.

I was lucky in the way my brain refused to acknowledge the distances in all my training.  I’ll try to explain that.  When I first started on C25K and was running my first kilometre, the thought of running 10k was just about imaginable but a half marathon wasn’t something I could comprehend.  The same happen when I moved up to 10k; a marathon was an impossible distance so I didn’t think about it.Once I switched up towards the marathon, 26.2 miles slowly, over 8 – 10 weeks, became a distance that my mind allowed me to realise was possible.

A 50k race is just that little bit further than a marathon so a little more training and you are there.  A 100k race is a different beast and takes a totally different mind set to complete.  Imagine your last marathon, or your first if you’re still training for one, and remember how you felt when you crossed that finishing line at 26.2 miles.  You’re tired and your muscles are thanking you for finishing. You can slump into a comfy chair or sit in the bath and relax and congratulate yourself with a glass of bubbly and then take a few days off.  Well this is a 100k race and you’re not even halfway, you drag yourself up and you start running again and hours later you finish your second marathon.  Wow!!  At last you can sit down and rest, that cup of tea looks pretty good now!  “What do you mean I still have a half marathon to run?”  Yep, sorry, on you go.  Just 13 miles to go now!!  Mentally that’s tough.  I’ve done it and it’s mind blowing but I can just switch off my mind and trudge onwards, ever onwards.

Looking forward to the long races I plan to do next year my brain just can not understand 5 1/2 marathons or 9 1/2 marathons back to back which is probably a very good thing right now.  🙂