When training goes wrong

Hi all (well to my few followers!) it has been a while since I’ve posted anything again and apologies for that, I have had a manic couple of weeks attending one of my best mate’s wedding two weekends ago (discussed briefly in my blog about the seaside!) and then a wedding reception for the same friends on the weekend just gone!

This has slightly affected my ultra marathon training though for obvious reasons. For those who are coming into this post and me in general new, I am doing the Pembrokeshire 100 mile marathon in April next year. This is a huge step up for me from my previous longest run of the London Marathon 2015 which subsequently broke me bodywise with a damaged hip flexor which took until multiple physio treatments and over a year to recover (I hope!) and back in the running game at all this year.

It was a spur of the moment decision, much of my life seems to be spur of the moment things, but one which I am strangely enough really looking forward to. I want to be part of a group of people who can say they’ve done an ultra, the prestige if you like, and I want to see how far I can push my body, taking it to th extreme. These may seem like strange reasons, but one thing you find when you become a runner is that you slowly become consumed by a passion that takes over. Each runner is different, I’m not saying if you’re a new runner that once you do a few jogs that you’ll automatically want to do an ultra marathon (don’t let me discourage you! But at the same time it’s important to realise undertaking an ultra is not something to be taken lightly, even now I’m probably being a bit daft myself! But it will take a lot of practise runs and training to get yourself mentally prepared for an undertaking as big as this! There are numerous books out there on the market done by experienced fell and trail runners to get a feel for it. Don’t be intimidated by what they say in the books, they can be both inspiring and daunting but will give you an indication on how far you want to take this running malarky!).

As to me, well I’m very much aware I’m a novice in the ultra runners world! I’m not going into the challenge with my eyes shut either though, but I’m hoping with nearly 8 months ahead of me, that with a suitable training plan I should be able to complete this run. Thankfully, even though I have only started running again this year, my training for the London Marathon actually left me with a base level of fitness to come back to. I’m no longer running the pace I was at my peak, but I’m already determined not to let that get me down. When it comes to ultra running unless you are part of the elites (which I’m definitely not!), I know from speaking to experienced ultra runners that it is better to take the tortoise method rather than the hare! So even though there have been a number of times this year where I’ve been really frustrated with myself at not being able to run at 7minute to 8.5minute miles like I used to be able to do, I’m now determined to try and view this slower pace as an advantage. Having a slower pace means I will have to stick to a slower pace, vital for a novice like me and many more experienced runners actually if you’re going to be able to actually run for such large distances. Even the elites probably wouldn’t find themselves pushing for 6 minute miles for 100 miles! No matter how much training you undertake and how much you condition yourself, our bodies are simply not evolved for that!

Having said that, even though some people say I will just need to do a bit more running in my training than I did in the marathon, I don’t want to leave it to chance. It is quite a bit of money to enter, and I will end up cursing myself if I become a DNF (Did Not Finish) because I was blase about the whole training issue. This is why I’m undergoing a training plan as recommended by Krissy Moehl, an american ultra marathon runner. As mentioned above, there are lots of books out in the market, but her Running Your First Ultra to me seems to be quite an accessible book with easy to understand jargon (as a runner you’ll come across a whole ream of jargen that makes you sound like you are talking gibberish to the uninitiated, “split times, PR, long slow distance, recovery run, intervals, hill reps” and my favourite which always makes my childish mind giggle; “fartleks” – and just so you know, this means intervals of fast sprints during a steady run).

Utilising the training plan, and looking at the time of my Ultra run next year, I had decided that last week was to be my first official week of the training, but as always, or always seems to be for me, sod’s law got in the way! The first two training runs went well, better than I thought actually. They are only short to begin with, but on a more regular basis than the original 1-2 runs a fortnight I had previously been doing, so it was nice to feel the old tiredness in the leg muscles again, a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time. However, the week before at the wedding I attended, I had a long day walking barefoot on the beach. Now for those who have never visited the beach, walking on sand is a lot different to tarmac or even trails and fells! It is a weird sensation, walking on something which appears solid to the eyes, but which gives way under pressure. It is a real muscle worker put it this way! But this long walking day in some bizarre way had bruised the sole of my left foot. I think it must have simply been a muscle that became tender through unusual usage, but it did mean come the Friday and Saturday when I was to undertake day 3 and 4 of my training plan, my foot pain had increased significantly. Now the old me would have panicked about missing a training day, and even though I was obviously injured in some way, I would have pushed myself to doing a run regardless. However, Krissy acknowledges within her book that at some point (me..week 1, unbelievable I know!!) you are likely to get injured and you have to listen to your body and at times rest it. The new me, remembering just how much I suffered after pushing myself too much with my London Marathon training agrees with this advice. And even though it was annoying, I realise that I am only in week one, going onto week two and that I still have 8 months to go. As such I trusted my ability and determination in following the plan after recovery and decided to have a few days rest before trying it out on a run.

This leads to last night in which I ran with my friend (you can read her amazing posts here) on a hot muggy evening in Derbyshire! With the lengthening evenings drawing in, I wanted to get a trail run in as part of my training plan while it is still possible to. I suppose it would be possible to run with a headtorch, but I feel this is too risky and inviting too many opportunities for injuries! Ruth decided to join me and in fact lead me on a lovely local route which incorporated a number of deceptively steep hills! I hope to utilise her for as many runs as I can! I always enjoy running on my own, using the time for reflection, but there are times when having a running buddy will be of so much help. They’ll ensure you get your arse in gear and actually get out for a run for one thing on those days you feel tired and just want to slob on the sofa for the night! And with Ruth, well she has an amazing pace, I love running with someone who is faster. I realise this can sometimes be psychologically damaging for a runner, as there are times you feel “God, I just can’t keep up, I’m never going to be able to catch up and I’m rubbish!” (been there many a time trust me!) and it can get you feeling like you should give up running altogether. But I’m getting into my runner’s inner peace these days! I realise there will always be runners better than me, and even though I still do moan and gripe every so often if I feel I’ve had a bad run, I look at these faster runners as inspiration! And so it was last night hill training with my mate. I had planned a similar route, but on my own I definitely wouldn’t have done that many hills! And even though I was much slower than my mate, I’m happy with myself that I managed to keep her in sight for most of the time! See running with a quicker running buddy has its positive side too, and one which I recognise I need. It’s the process of pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, the only process I think in which you can truly become a better runner. Don’t get me wrong, the whole process of going out running at whatever speed you can do will invariably be healthy! But for me personally, I want to ensure I am going to get the maximum benefits of training for the ultra next year, and that is going to mean pushing myself beyond my normal speeds in order to strengthen up my muscles, and help my overall fitness and stamina for the main race.

It’s just important that I keep this running inner peace I have right now, and remember that there may be other times when I become injured, and that I mustn’t dwell on it, instead I will listen to my body and advice from any doctors or physio’s as required! Which would ultimately be my advice for anyone in the running game. Yes you may get injured, and yes, it will be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that your recovery must come first. If you rush too soon you are likely just to compound whatever problems you have and just increase the amount of time you are injured and therefore the amount of time you are not able to train. Look at the bigger picture, if you are training for a race and it goes wrong, the worse that can happen is that you’ll be unable to compete but there will always be other races. There is no point risking permanent damage to your joints for the sake of a training plan and being unable to do any running at all (which nearly happened to me a year ago!). I’ve learnt my lesson now that’s for sure!

In the mean time, I shall be keeping my fingers and toe’s crossed that with the right preparation that these moments for me will be few and far between and that I will be ready for the ultra!

Happy running guys!

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