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.
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.
Now I am less than 3 weeks out from the the West Highland Way Race. The work, however much I managed, is done.
I have been thinking about this race for about a year, it has been in my mind daily since then. I started ‘pre-training’ in mid October, 1 month after the Ring of Steall Skyrace, and began 100 mile training the first week of January 2018.
I had a huge wobble. I had an amazing March where training was going perfectly to plan, then in April work and travel caused havoc for my schedule. In hindsight, Max being injured was also a factor. Without my running buddy I was skimping unintentionally on my long runs and back to backs. I missed spending time with him. The Fling had gone great, but I had tapered so lost out on WHW training. Then a brief injury post Fling meant the following 3 weeks were sub par seeing two thirds less running than was planned. I never completed a peak phase in my training as I was wiped out.
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.
I had not intended to enter the 2018 Fling, with the West Highland Way race in the same year. Back in 2016 it took me 6 weeks to recover enough to even want to run again. I was scared I could not recover in time for the WHWrace, just 8 weeks later. Neil my Chief Crewman, however, advised I run the Fling as my longest training run for the WHWrace. Against my better judgment, I entered and got a ballot place. So the race was not a race, but a dress rehearsal for June 23rd. I am so glad I listened to Neil.
My longest training run will be the Highland Fling on Saturday at 53miles (eep!). I will use the race to practise my WHW race pacing so it will not be a PB (must put my ego away and not race!!). Racing at WHWrace pace will allow me to estimate realistically my splits for my crew to meet me and work out what I will need from them at different stages and know where my low points might come. So now just about to pack and already seen the amazing Liz Bennet of Body Balance Sport massage who supporting me this year and has massaged my legs which now feel awesome and ready for fast hiking/slow running across Scotland!
The Fling is an unsupported race so here is my race plan!
A couple months ago Robbie Britton caused a stir on the ultra-running facebook group with his article on Fast Running blog ‘Should female runners get double lottery chances in male dominated races?’ A lot of people, all of whom were ultra-runners and the majority of which were men, gave their opinion on both, why women were not entering and how and should this be solved. Anyway, I thought we should just ask women why they were not entering! So I posted the text below onto the Adventure Queens all women outdoor adventure group to find some answers, and hopefully solutions.
‘There is a debate happening on the ultra-running FB group at the moment about helping get more women into ultra-running. I thought we could actually ask some women instead of guessing. Can I ask any runners, especially those who have ran half and full marathons; What stops you from entering an ultra-marathon? And do you have any ideas what may inspire or help more women get into the sport? Thanks!’
One assumption made by the ultra-runners, was that women in general, do not want to run an ultra and that is why they do not enter. However, the majority of the responses we received (around 40 women commented) began with ‘I would love to do an ultra, but….’
Below I have grouped the responses into to four categories in order of frequency mentioned.
- Lack of knowledge of races.
Running on the Way this weekend another runner came up to me and told me she reads my blog. I replied that it cannot be my blog as no-one really reads it. But she insisted, it was my blog! She said she liked that I put all my milage up and it was not huge milage weeks which reassured her. So, just for Nicky, here is my weekly milage (in Strava weeks) since my last podcast in mid Feb. Also, here is the food I ate and estimated calorie content from my longest run so far (34miles/~9hours) on the course and the kit I use.
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.
Firstly, that whole excel spreadsheet training plan thing I tried, well that did not last! But hey, I gave it a go and it was not for me. I even tried having Max prescribe my training from his very complex and clever spreadsheet (he cites three athletes in its creation, it is a pretty amazing spreadsheet if anyone is interested in a training plan from him!). That said, he is injured, and I am not (smug face).
The last 2 months or so of training has gone ok, I am not as tired as I expected I would be from training around 10hours a week. This is because I do 80% of the training at a really low intensity, in fact 50% of my training is simply brisk walking.
The benefits of the walking is paying off, my mindless amble on the flat is now at 6.1km per hour. I am aiming to get it to 6.5km per hour. Also my ‘slow’ running is now at a 6.10min/km pace, where it was at 6.30min/km.