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.
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.
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.
So here it is, my training plan for the 96 mile West Highland Way Race on 23-24th June! On the WHWrace podcast I mentioned how prior to this race I had never created an excel spreadsheet for my training. I am not good at schedules, fixed plans or fixed times to do things. With this in mind, and to take into account that my day-to-day and week-to-week life has little to no routine, I came up with a plan!
I went on my first Long Distance Walking Association walk a few weeks ago (for more info). The walk was 20 miles from Radlett to St. Albans Abbey, but by a very indirect route following, what I assume was, the Hertfordshire Way. The walk was great, I met some amazing people. One was a lady in her 70s and had represented GB in ultra walking! She has walked over 50 100mile races, several 200-300 mile races and a couple handfuls of other events, including winning the womens’ category of the Grand Union Canal race, despite it being a running race. She gave me some excellent advice on eating and reassured me that having walking as a large component of my 100mile training was not ridiculous, but essential. Nearly everyone in the group had walked 100miles at least once, and many do this distance every year. When you consider walking 100miles can take up to 48 hours, it is incredible and shifted my perspective of this distance from extraordinary to a sort of, sub-ordinary. It also gave me an insight into how much individual experiences vary, some people did not find sleep deprivation an issue at all, whereas others said this was the greatest challenge. I will not know know what will be hard for me, until I try myself, and I can only mentally prepare for the worst. My planned 96mile attempt was not seen as a drop in ocean amongst the seasoned ultra-distancers, or an impossible and pointless dream. Everyone was so excited about my goal and training and celebrated it. I appreciated this so much.