I suppose this is why I have started blogging, that and the fact that I've only recently stumbled upon it and have found some very interesting people to read of. I'm from Dumfries & Galloway which is for all intents & purposes 'retirement country' and whilst the running club (that I have just become a member of) is very well supported, with some good talent to boot, it is comforting to get online and read about others I feel I have a connection with despite not really knowing them.
so the first point is 'someone like me'; you know until I was mid-way through my training for last years Bob Graham Round, I didn't actually know what an ultra was. Ofcourse I had read 'feet in the clouds' so when Rob asked me to do the round with him I thought that if other people could do it then there was no reason I couldn't. Simple as that really. And not once through the training did it ever occur to me that I might fail - until I got a bout of food poisoning and then got injured. In the end I averaged just 8 hours a week training but crucially still completed it. Yes, alright, with 12 minutes to spare! But had it not been for the couple of issues mentioned I would've been home and dry in around the 21hr mark which I feel is a fairly average time. Put it this way, throughout our training we were at a 17/18hr pace on sessions that were up to 10hrs, so with fatigued mitigated for we put ourselves in for around a 21 - 21 and a half hour round. It so happens that is what Rob got on the attempt I had to pull out of.
I keep coming back to that because when I meet people and tell them that I'm just getting into ultra running they tell me it's a long process. Then I tell them that I did the BGR in my first year at this sort of thing. Their general surprise at this is what leads me here. You see, I don't regard doing the BGR as being all that and I suppose I can say that as I have nothing to prove in that respect. But the general concensus seems to be that it is a big deal. Therefore, perhaps I do have something worth contributing.
I'm into my second week of accepting that I can't run. In some ways I'm still in limbo as I still haven't seen a specialist nor have I got any idea about an operation that may be required according to the GP. I'm also into my second week of cross training. I admit though, there is an element of fear that I will lose all of my long distance (running) gains but what choice do I have?
Cross training keeps the heart and lungs going and largely avoids the muscle damage associated with running. There seems to be a growing appreciation of the school of thought that running is actually bad for you. Therefore if you must run, keep it to a minimum. I'm not sure how Ron Hill would've viewed this anology! Never-the-less I am eagerly following Disco Stu's blog to see how this pans out for him. He has an ElliptoGO which is gaining popularity among endurance athletes world-wide. In fact he's selling the thing so damn well I'd be getting them to sponsor me, if I were him.
I went out on the bike for 3hrs on Friday with Bridey (photo of the dude below) and then yesterday I went to the gym for 3 and a half hours this is the weekend top-up to the mid-week exploits; a few cycles home from work and a bit of plyometrics and core stuff. I wanted to mention Bridey because (and Rob will testify to this) he is the type of bloke who could probably just tip up with minimal training and complete a BGR. He, until very recently, worked on oil rigs so I was often amazed by his fitness whenever we would meet up. I thought friday would be another session where I would be doing my best to keep up with him - in fact the opposite happened. This gave me a lot of confidence that perhaps the fitness is still hanging in there, like I say though I'm not looking forward to trying to gain all my running stuff back. I'm sure most people would agree that maintaining fitness and progressing through a training programme is one thing but trying to get fit in the first place, is quite another.
So where do I think matters in terms of long distance running fitness? This really depends on what you what to run. I am more suited to running up and down hills and hopefully once I get my foot sorted I can get back into that. Why? Because I epitomise crap when running on the flat. I repeat, I'm not awesome on hills, I'm just better there than on a flat road or track so don't expect to see me on any ultra that doesn't have a bit of ascent and descent e.g. the GUCR. Aside from the obvious cardiovascular work that needs to be done I tend to concentrate on leg strength.
Before we did the BGR, Rob was quite concerned about his nemisis - his leg strength, and I decided that I would have to knuckle down and actually get the heart and lungs going now and again by running more often. As said previously we had done a couple of mountain marathons (MM) in recent years; I was generally quite poor on day one, trying to keep up with Rob. If truth be told, my training for a MM didn't involve much running - because I hated it - and so I feel this inhibited a really good performance. The thing that used to stand out to me was how Rob seemed to fade badly on the second day in terms of getting up and down hills with the same ferocity as the previous day. So for his assault on the BGR I forced him to consider a leg weights training programme.
This is something that I decided to do for myself without any prompting from anyone else. I suppose this was because I really liked doing weights when I was in my mid to late 20's but alas have lost all my upper body gains since getting into this malarky. And this is now something that Rob swears by. Not only that but I have 3 mates (ironically all called Chris) that have asked me for leg weight training advice. They're all getting into ultra's. Chris C has already done a fair bit, more than me actually but he lives in a very flat part of britain. Chris T recently did the Calderdale Hike and remarked how badly his quads were hurting towards the end and Chris B always seems to have problems with his quads on downhill sections of runs. I've never had any problems with my legs. In fact on the fling recently I can honestly say that in terms of my legs and the effort, the whole thing was easy. This is why it is so desperately upsetting that my tummy let me down. So there you have it, a wee contribution from me. It may be that many ultra runners incorporporate this into their base training but from the small snapshot of people I know, I doubt that many actually do. Again though, if you're not interested in the ups and downs then maybe this isn't for you. I would also say that before the fling Rob and I were warned about the 'really rough section' - pah - that was our easiest section!
There are loads of things I want to talk about e.g. my plyometrics and core training workouts. These were added to this years programme after me and Rob had a chat about improvements that could be made. My thing that lets me down though is my CV capacity. I have to accept that I'll never be like the greats at ultra running - there are far too many to mention and to start would be to leave someone out. Two guys that stand out as far as I'm concerned though are Billy Bland and Josh Naylor. Will anyone ever beat Billy's BGR record? Maybe Jez or Richie one day but bugger trying to pace them! What I can do though, is be the very best that I can be - just like the majority of people who do this. I feel it's really not about the winning in ultra running, it goes far beyond that as far as I'm concerned. No matter what position you come you generally feel as though you've won something anyway, something within, right?
Eating is also something that needs to be addressed. Ultra running is such a contentious subject because in my view it's trial and error but not in the most economical of ways. You can spend 6months of your life doing one thing only to find out that it was all wrong, only for you to work on something different and find that it only helped you half of what you had hoped for. And all of this as time slips by. We get one chance at life, so it's important to almost everyone to get the parts of the ultra jigsaw to piece together asap. When I'm at my most intense period of training I eat a lot and I don't really care what it is. However, when I'm just maintaining or in a base phase, I try to be quite disciplined. I'll leave this rather lengthy post with a couple of photos of examples of my perceived healthy eating.
Breakfast; greek yoghurt, millet flakes, gogi berries, and pecan nuts with a cup of rasberry tea.
Lunch; (at work - no photo) a cheese and ham sandwich with side salad and hummus and a cup of tea.
Dinner; a pasta dish with garlic bread (preferably brown not white), a glass of water and a multi vitamin and an omega 3 capsule.
Supper; half a brown bread cheese sandwich with pumkin seeds and peanuts and a cup of rasberry tea.
Another tip; get 'waist disposal' by Dr John Bruffa. I paid less than a fiver for it from Amazon. Whilst it doesn't assist with ultra running, it might open your eyes to certain aspects of food as it did to me.
Until the next time folks.........