Friday, 18 November 2011

Time for some perspective

My big day is looming; run, walk or shuffle I’m sure the West Highland Way will teach me a thing or two.

When I first started training 18 weeks ago this challenge wasn’t even on the radar. It was my original intention to train specifically and consistently until around the start of December this year when I would conclude it all with a medium length ultra (50 miles-ish) which would be run as hard as possible.

Even though I’ve been in the Army, have done a few mountain marathons and am a member of the Bob Graham 24 hour club, I’ve never trained like I have the past few months. And that’s not me saying I’ve been like a man possessed, ripping up the tarmac lately.

All’s I’m saying is, I have managed to run more often than at any time in the past. So in some respects I have achieved my first aim; to train specifically and consistently.

For me the WHW is now almost a side issue because I feel I have learnt so much recently. Of course I know it will teach me more, especially as I have never run for 95 miles before.

However, in terms (running) training, I have learnt that there is so much more which should be included within future training programmes. I reckon I’m a long way from where I’d ideally like to be in terms of ultra running and in some ways my run of the WHW will reinforce this. It will also benchmark my ability in the here and now i.e. 2011.

If I’ve confused anyone then what I’m trying to say is that I believe a person will get better at ultra running the more they do of it – until they peak. And as I have essentially just got into it I have much improvement to make. It is my hope that by the year 2020 I will have been in my peak for 2 or 3 years.

This can only happen with consistency in training.

Quite a few years ago, when I was training recruits, I was at the peak of my physical condition; I didn’t think it was possible to get any fitter. Nowadays, I may not be able to do 60 press-ups in a minute or 20 over-arm-wide-arm pull-ups anymore but my heart, lungs and legs have never been stronger.

Of course it hasn’t all been perfect. Has anyone embarked on a training regime where everything went to plan? I doubt it.

Less than 5 months ago I was told by an orthopaedic surgeon to give up running! In the 4 months I’ve been training since I’ve notched up a virus, a sprained ankle, a strained lateral knee ligament, a thigh strain, some weird shoulder pain when running and the occasional stomach complaint. I was also thoroughly stressed in the early stages of this training programme due to juggling family life with training, work and a distance learning honours degree. After my exams in September things gradually clicked into place.

I’m now two weeks into what is termed ‘taper’. It’s an odd one this because there really is no defined way to taper. You can choose to train all the way up until your day of reckoning but the general consensus is that it would be unwise to do so, especially for an ultra. I just don’t know. I have a feeling that I lose fitness gains pretty quickly – especially any speedwork gains. Part of becoming a consistent and hopefully one day competitive ultra runner is the practice and trial and error within the early years of training.

So as part of my new training-smart ethos I decided I’d reintroduce some high intensity plyometrics sessions to within my taper. With 6 days to go to my run I’m still in pain! Both times I’ve done the plyo’s I’ve been in pain for 4-5 days afterwards. Talk about a schoolboy error.

Anyway I can turn this around and deem it as a good thing; any running that I have done in the last 2 weeks has been with heavy and painful legs i.e. the type of pain that will be associated with (hopefully) the latter stages of my challenge.

As well as that I have a full 6 days rest coming up. I will go out for 2 lung busters but both will last no more than 20 minutes so in essence I will get some freshness into the legs in any case and hopefully retain a bit of the high end stuff.

Another aspect of tapering is the constant worry and self doubt. I’d much rather be running to be honest but with my legs being in the state they have been lately maybe it’s been a blessing.

This is the reason for my post. There’s so much worry in my head.
·         Have I done enough training?
·         What sort of time can I expect?
·         What if the weather turns nasty?
·         What if the support crew get held up somewhere?
·         What if my stomach plays up?
·         What if I’m having a great run and my mate is having a terrible time of it, or vice versa?

And so, some perspective comes into my head in attempt to rationalise everything. The truth of the matter is that I’m not as fit as I would like to be though I am fitter (as a long distance runner) than I’ve ever been, something will happen that I did not expect to happen and in the end I can definitely count on one thing – that I will have to fight to achieve my goal. Thankfully, this is something I relish so in reality the outlook has to be positive.

I think the following extract sums up where I’m at right now (taken from Rocky IV);

Adrian - Before there were reasons to fight. I could understand but I don't understand this. Even if you win, what have you won. Apollo's still gone. Why can't you change your thinking? Everybody else does!
Rocky - Because I'm a fighter. That's the way I'm made Adrian. That's what you married. We can't change what we are.
Adrian - Yes you can.
Rocky - You can't change anything Adrian. All we can do is go with what we are.
Adrian - You can't go with what you are. Haven't you read the papers? Do you know what everybody says? It's suicide! You've seen him. You know how strong he is. You can't win!
Rocky - Adrian. Adrian always tells the truth. Ya know maybe I can't win. Maybe the only thing I can do is just take everything he's got. But to beat me...He's gonna have to kill me. And to kill me he's gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that he's gotta be willing to die himself. I don't know if he's ready to do that. I don't know...

I'm also doing this to help out a charity that many people should know about;


  1. Hope the final preparations go well! Debs :-)

  2. Inspirational! Hope it all goes well.

  3. If all else fails, quote Rocky. class