Last year I entered the water on Hampstead Heath on a December dawn. I could not stand the 4-degree coldness, the pool spat me out. So, in September I decided to take to the water each weekend in attempt to soften my body to it. To open my arms, heart, stomach, liver – exposing my organs and my mind. To learn to accept the cold-water shock with complete calmness.
Written in the back of a ‘colour away stress’ book is a wish list. Words across a page of black and white waves written in the winter after our first West Highland Way in 2016. Written in a cold, damp and dark rental property in Cambridge, on that list is a van.
I came back to running about two weeks after the West Highland Way Race, racing for a sub 24min at the Cambridge parkrun and then the next day took part in a 2.5km river swim. Looking back on Strava, I came back to training far too quickly, despite 2 weeks off running I had been road cycling over 100km just 1 week post race. Open water swimming 2 weeks out from such a large ultramarthon was a huge mistake. My immune system would have taken an absolute beating from the race. Both Max and I caught a bug from the river and were subsequently ill for 2 weeks, all training stopped and I was wiped out.
From our own gardens to the remote highland mountains, from city parks and forest schools to the coasts, and beyond to the islands, Scotland’s nature is that of a national pride and international wonder. The Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) aims to further conserve, facilitate enjoyment and advise on sustainable management of Scotland’s nature and land. The SNH vision is to establish Scotland as a recognised world leader for looking after and improving nature by 2030.
I have never written on here about this, but in 2011 I had glandular fever, which in itself was not much of a big deal. Unfortunately, I was unaware at the time how close to burnout I was, which meant I never recovered from the post viral fatigue and developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E). I look back at this time in three parts, the acute post viral phase, the chronic M.E phase and the recovery phase. Recovery took me years, I would say I am recovered now, but the fear that should I forget myself, is ever present. I want to discuss a method I leant from my recovery that I still apply to daily life now as a healthy person. In particular, how to mitigate the risk of overtraining and injury through a holistic approach to viewing how we spend energy, pace ourselves and what stress is.
On my longest training run so far I had the distant and quiet thoughts of quitting. Dropping out of the WHWrace, for surely I could not succeed, or I would hurt myself trying. I cannot shut off these voices, they are natural for survival and as I get closer to the event, and deeper into the event itself, the negative voices telling me to stop will grow louder.
I need a clear motivation that is greater than the voices telling me to stop. My chances of success rely on this. I need to know why I am doing this race. What bigger reason to keep going despite pain, discomfort and fear. There are reassurances I can utter to myself like ‘it is only pain’ or ‘you are privileged to feel this pain,’ and I will not be alone in the latter stages of the race which will be an immense comfort, but these alone are not enough. I need to fully understand why I am running.
I have ended my 3 month base phase (I will post numbers in next blog entry) and I am using this first week of April as a time to reflect. This weekend I was at the Fling training camp and ran 34 miles on the course. I expected the 34miles to go well, to be a bit hard, but not too hard. It was a chance to recce the only part of the Way I did not know, the low road, to get time on the feet, try out nutrition and train on the technical Loch side terrain.
My legs were not the limiting factor. Despite hiking a mountain and running down it two days earlier and then a pretty speedy hilly 4 mile run the night before, my legs felt strong the entire way. However, my heart and lungs did not. This is not new, the feeling reminded me of when I was teen running for my school. It was always my lungs, not my legs that held me back. A tightness on my chest and what I can only describe as a tired heart made me afraid to push on through the rollerocaster forest and I walked quietly home grateful for the company of another WHWrace hopeful. I ended the run VERY tried and this left me worried about the WHWrace. However, I was very sleep deprived before this run and the next day I was fine enough to run again and my nutrition went well.