So there you have it. I managed to go back to The Wall and put my demons to rest. It felt great finishing. It also felt really good taking part (i.e. mentally so much better than last year). Now that I’ve had a few weeks to recover (back on the running this coming weekend) I’ve also had time to reflect, not just on the event itself, but on my own relationship with running and moving forward.
Now before I get started, if you are reading this a word of caution. I am no expert (perhaps the fact the word Pork Pie appears in one or two posts you may have already realised that) and the opinions reflected here are my own and I don’t necessarily endorse any of them for you. Perhaps though something will help in one way or another.
So first in regards to the specifics of the event;
Training – Despite putting in lots of miles in the first four months of 2013 I slackened a bit too much in the build up to the race itself. I had run a few long runs and almost used this as an excuse to stop my early morning runs over an extended period. I also had a business trip to Houston a mere 10 days before the event and so once again running took a back seat. Looking back I need to make sure that despite the longer runs I need to keep the mid week shorter runs going as well. (the data below is miles per month). On top of the miles I also realise that I need to change my training a bit to incorporate a few extra bits including;
- Mixing up my longer running with speed work, hill work (especially) and more back to backs to ensure I’m used to running on tired legs
- Include other elements including biking, swimming and cross training (that last one is going to be tough as I’ve never much been a fan)
- Core work and better stretching
Kit – I had changed my kit a bit since last year including a full change of clothes. I made use of most of this so not too much to tweak there. One thing I do run with is a waist belt where I can put water bottles in. This remains a bit of a love / hate relationship as while I can carry extra fluid I do find myself struggling with keeping it comfortable. Now in the UK I don’t think we are ever going to have to worry too much about dehydration, but I still take comfort in the fact that I have a few extra bottles on me.
Feet – Last year wasn’t pretty. This year, while a huge improvement, I still ended up with a few massive blisters. I need to continue to understand what is causing these. Taping up my feet worked well I think and Talc Powder in the socks and around the feet at various points. I’m sure the fact the course was much dryer helped as well. On top of this I invested in a number of pairs of really good running socks and this I’m sure was a major reason for the improvement. As I’ve said I still got blisters but perhaps this is just something that happens after 50 miles?
Fuel – Although I significantly reduced the amount of spare food I carried in my bag I still took too much. Over the past year I’ve been focused on my training runs to eat more sensibly. (sorry folks not a single pork pie was consumed in the making of this run). I need to find an energy gel that I can get on with – the ones I used on the run (I only could stomach 2 across the whole race) tasted like the inside of a 3 week dead badger … it almost made me vomit upon each and every drop. DISGUSTING ! They did help though so I know I need to do a bit more searching around and find something that works. For me what works still is focused on a few different types of food (something sweet, something savoury, salty etc … )
Technology – I carried 3 GPS watches in total and just about managed to get across the full event with at least some battery life left. I really wish they made these to last at least 24 hours. The course itself was very well marked out so I had not planned to import the GPS information although I really need to give that a go soon (I know a lot of Ultra runs expect you to navigate a lot yourself and I’m not that good at that). On that point I need to get better at map reading. Finally although I carried my shuffle I only listened to it for about 2 hours in the second half of the race. It was still a welcome break allowing my mind to wander.
And so what about just in general going forward;
My Weight – I’ve struggled with my weight for many years. Over the past 3 years I’ve lost close to 3 stone (currently sitting at 187 lbs) but I still look at myself (and others) at races and realise I’m still carrying too much meat. I’ve got 3 more races planned in 2013 ending with the Round Ripon in October and I’m setting myself a target to try and get under down to 175lbs. Tough going I know but the less of me to carry around the miles the better.
Beer – I’ve had a love affair with the hop for quite a few years and while I don’t batter it anywhere near as much as I used to I still find myself using the excuse “well I did a big run today so I owe myself a few beers or a bottle of red”. The more I get into the running (and just fitness in general) I realise that I need to seriously reevaluate my diet (read above) and that includes alcohol intake. I find when I make the bold statement “going dry for xx weeks” I immediately get myself craving a beer (even at times when I normally would not). While I don’t think I’ll ever tee-total (I actually love the taste of a really nice ale) I’m going to have a significant reduction in my in-take. That alone should also help with my weight plan.
Photography – for those who know me know that I love photography – it’s my number one passion in life. Now that Ultra Running is running it a close second I find myself in a constant battle to get enough time for photography and training while also fitting in a very demanding day job. Quite often I’ll be out running and wish I had my camera, while others when I’m out with the camera I can feel guilty that I’m not running. I typically run in the morning – perfect time for sunrise photography. I’m still struggling to balance this out but I’m getting better. Perhaps as Google Glass gets better I can have both 🙂
So there you have it … The Wall 2013. I remember listening to Ryan Giggs talk about winning medal after medal after medal. As I sit here and look at my medal from The Wall I find myself with a similar attitude to Ryan, that is the medal is now hung up with the rest of them and pretty much forgotten about. For me after completing a race (even half or full marathon) I find myself often turning my attention to the next event.
And for me that’s the 24 Hour Thunder Run ….. More on that in future blog posts ..