Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Best Thing About Training To Breaking Point

It was a beautiful day for the Round Rotherham 50 miler, perfect conditions, and as I watched the two runners I'd been hanging on to for the last few miles disappear into the distance I decided that was it. I retired at the 25 mile checkpoint, legs feeling like someone had poured concrete into them, and decided that was my last ultra of the year.

This guy passed me in Round Rotherham

I've been stalked by the fatigue demon for the last few races and on Saturday he finally got me. He had introduced himself to me during the Devil O' the Highlands race in August and when I refused to heed his warnings he turned up at the TDS and punched me in the stomach causing me to throw up for the last hour of the race. At Keswick he decided to get serious, he wasn't going to let me eat anything and if I tried to drink, well that was going to re-appear on the pavement, causing me to grind to a halt. He even had the lap counters in on the deal!

As I approached the line to make 100 miles my lap counter appeared and said "listen mate, you've made 100 miles, look at the state of you, why not call it a day at that? There's no point in putting yourself through all that just for a few more miles!" I wasn't having that though, I had more resurrections than anything else at Keswick, by the end I think they were calling me Mandelson.
The thing is, the way to kick the fatigue demon's butt is not to fight him tooth and nail, gritting your teeth and taking the pain of race after race. The way to do it is to take a break, fool him into thinking you've given up all this knee-crippling nonsense and he'll go off and bother some other race junkie instead.

It's all in the training diary, the mistakes. Two weeks after WHW race and back into racing with the Dollar Hill Race just to mash the quads up again, then the next week I put in a 130 mile week and 30 000 feet of climbing on the UTMB route. Then next up, 7 days later, was the Ben Rinnes race on top of a 50 mile week, then the week after a 45 mile run from Linn o Dee to Aviemore and back rounded off a 90 mile week, and a week later the 42 mile Devil o the Highlands (still training through the week, remember!). Then 3 weeks later the TDS (65m +20 000 feet) and 19 days later Keswick (106m). Since I felt completely knackered by this point I had a weeks rest, then, since I'd had a weeks rest I rattled in a 90 mile week just to make sure I hadn't lost it and was fit for Rotherham! ( Just to illustrate how fatigue affects the brain, I had been on to the race organiser for the Tooting 24 hour race to try to get an entry since I hadn't performed at Keswick... just as well the race was full!!)

Every cloud has a silver lining as they say. The best thing about training to breaking point is the biscuits. A full pack of chocolate digestives in one sitting? No problem. A four pack of Kit Kat Chunkys in a oner? Easy. But, when the appetite went that's when I knew it was serious. After Rotherham's 25 miles I wasn't very hungry, didn't fancy any biscuits, in fact came home with a full packet of choccy diggies. I knew then that it all had to change (and I don't mean to those orange flavour ones, that's sacrilege).

For the next few weeks I'm not going to do much running, maybe a couple of club sessions in the week but keep them easy. The odd short race at weekends but at an enjoyable pace, and just rest up so I'm fresh for the next round of training.

I was hoping to complete 11 ultras this year, the same as last year, or even try for 12 to make it one a month on average but I'll settle for 9 and call it quits at that. That last sentence tells a story, doesn't it? I've improved a bit this year and have even been competing at the front end in races so I need to move forward and start to try competing in specific races instead of doing too many and not running as well as I'm capable. I'll still be running plenty races though, but I'll have my targets and the others will be part of the training.

So, what's next?

Three races for next year:- Athens 24 hour in March. West Highland Way in June and UTMB in September.

This time I'm going to train for the 24 hour so I've a few races planned as part of that, The Thames Trot, The Country to Capital and Draycote Water. So the adventures continue and it's going to be lots of tarmac and lots of flat running, training starts on 16th November, but for now where's those choccy diggies...??


John Kynaston said...

You've had an amazing year Richie.

Besides the races you've done just think of the miles in training. I remember the 170 miles you did on the whw up and down over 4 days in March!

When you reflect on this year all you have to do is think back to the whw race and finishing in that amazing time of 16hrs 24mins!!!

Plus you have the Adventure Show to remind you of the race!

That was the key one and you achieved far beyond your wildest dreams.

Enjoy your rest and don't eat too many choccy biccies.


Ian said...

My goodness, am I reading correctly? A sensible post from Richie, recognising that 9 ultras in a year might be enough?

As John has said - what a great year you have had Richie. It's time for a decent rest. In fact, it would be a good time for someone to organise a night out where all of us who are resting can partake in a few whiskies...

Davie said...

As a mere mortal can I make a suggestion?
Many athletes use races as training. When you are training as much as that between races you may be doing the old body a bit of damage that may be avoided if you had an active rest, either swimming, biking or very easy running. (Join me on a hard run?)
The addiction of running is such that you may have to control your efforts and very easy training at a speed or effort well below your normal level may help. That goes for my previously quoted friends too!!!

Keith Hughes said...

Richie - reckon I should get you my "training schedule " the complete end of the scale to yours.. Sure I am never going to break 16 hrs in the WHW, but it could be a good change for you, and there is no way it will not let you recover. What a year you have had.. Take it easy mate - cheers CB

kate said...

i knew it, you are human!! what a brilliant year you've had. not just running but actually competing at ultras. enjoy the biccies :)

Tim said...

Richie, I am full of admiration for a man who dares to push the envelope to the limit and beyond. I'm a firm believer that most of us have little idea of our true potentials and will never know what we could have done if only we had tried harder.

You've tried harder, and yes, you've probably tried too hard but you had the guts to do it, something most of us lack. Well done on a brilliant year!

Tim said...

Or, as rather more succinctly put by T S Eliot:
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

Anonymous said...

Enjoy the break.
Draycote is always a good start to the year.

Andy Cole said...

Great year Richie! Looking forward to some fireworks next year if you can really bring yourself to concentrate on just three races...

lesleyh said...

What's this, the new improved Richie complete with sensible head? Most people couldn't even contemplate that number of marathons, but to do 9 ultras in one year is truly breathtaking and what great results too.
You've clearly been giving yourself a talking to and what's important is you've listened.
Rest up, take it easy and enjoy life for a while.

The Sunday Adventure Club said...

thanks everyone for the comments, advive taken

JK that weekend seems such a long time ago!

Ian a night out on the whisky might be dangerous with all this pent up energy

Tim thats spot on you only know your limits when you exceed them