It’s 9:30am on another weekend morning, but I’ve been awake for more than three hours just like any other day. Instead of being at work for the last two hours I’ve been running, having quietly left my warm house in the dark and headed out of sleepy Stonehaven on to the back roads by myself once more. I’m tired, bored and hungry, and I’m still 6 miles from home.
I can’t remember the last time I had a lie-in, I can’t remember the last time I was in bed later than midnight, I can’t remember the last time I finished a bottle of wine and I’m SO BORED of eating pasta. I want to be at home having a leisurely brunch with Kynon, I want to be up at Redcloak watching the rugby, I want to go to the pub and get leathered and party with my friends, I want a day where at least one part of my body isn’t aching, blistering or chaffing.
Remind me…why do we do this again…?
Six weeks into my Highland Fling training and things are beginning to get a little gritty. The running is the easy part however, it’s fitting everything else in around it which is the biggest challenge. When you commit yourself to a training plan for a race this big, you end up having to make some sacrifices; some luxuries will disappear, stuff becomes impossible to do, and life’s priorities temporarily become reversed.
Unlike some I’m not a runner who is mad head-over-heels in love with the sport. Some people look forward to their long runs at the weekend, whereas for the most part I dread them. It’s fine once I’m out there running and I always feel like a rockstar when I’m finished, but Friday nights are usually peppered with the sinking feeling of knowing I’ll be up at the crack of dawn to go out and run in sub-zero temperatures, or driving rain and a cutting wind. Then rest, recover and repeat all over again on Sunday.
That’s the other thing about training in winter for a Spring race which does running no favours – every run is such a BATTLE. We’ve had some truly awful weather up here lately and the days of just putting on an outfit and trainers and hopping out the door to run are distant memories. Every run involves careful thought and multiple layers; it might be cold but what KIND of cold is it? Wet cold? Dry cold? Windy cold?! Running is no longer just running; it’s a combination of ice skating, skiing and swimming. Feet become waterlogged, running becomes mincing or wading, your face is screwed up against the wind and your ears froze and fell off two miles back, or at least that’s what it feels like.
Weather-related moans aside (I know, I know; tough Winters make for fast Springs etc etc) I have been dealing with more exhaustion than I have ever experienced before in a training cycle. Living in Stonehaven and commuting to Aberdeen now means that I’m getting up an hour earlier and getting home a hour later, work is busy right now and I have more commitments in the evening than ever before. Sleeping less and running more is never a good combination so it’s no surprise that eventually one day I just slept right through my alarm clock and woke up four and a half hours later. Thankfully it was a Saturday, but it was a bit of a kick up the backside that I’m maybe spreading myself too thinly.
Fed up of my constant moaning of being tired, Kynon wisely pointed out that my so-called recent ‘cut-back’ week was 43 miles including a half marathon race, compared to the 50-odd mile weeks I’ve been completing. Rather than beat myself up about sleeping in and missing my planned 15 miler, I didn’t run that day. Or the next day. I cut back PROPERLY to 22 miles last week and started back at the start of my running week on Tuesday feeling refreshed and ready to go. I’ve also been getting myself in bed with LIGHTS OUT by 10:30pm this week and I can report than sleeping more than 5 hours a night is really awesome.
I know that a successful ultra-training cycle is about finding balance and a happy medium between life and running. As previously mentioned above, I unfortunately am not someone who will feel great loss at not getting to do a set of back-to-back long runs on a weekend so I need to find a way to maximise my training benefits whilst still retaining my like (note: not love) of running. I do love running sometimes, but right now we’re just not great friends. It pisses me off when running keeps me from seeing my friends and socialising – and seeing friends and socialising whilst running DOESN’T COUNT. I want to be in the pub, swigging ale and eating chips at least once a week. It pisses me off when running stops me from hanging out properly with Kynon – I would like to spend some time together than doesn’t involve me having to leave early to go to bed or falling asleep in front of the TV because I’m so knackered.
I am learning that perhaps I need to loosen my grip on my ‘training plan’ this cycle – perhaps I need to play it by ear a little more and listen to my body. Lots of hay is already in the barn so to speak and I am pleased at how my body is coping with the long distance runs and back-to-backs. However I am doing myself no favours by running myself into the ground, literally, if the training plan says so and my race isn’t going to be over if I only run 4 days a week instead of 5 on some occasions. I have been following the 50 mile training plan in Relentless Forward Progress, but I think I am going to have to allow more flexibility or else I’m going to crack up before I reach the starting line. Sooner or later it is going to cause me to hate running and that is not the desired result, whether it means I get to cross the finish line of the Highland Fling or not.
I will be spending an hour flat on my back in the sun on this beach in Mallorca come May:
Two weeks to the day after I cross the finish line of the Fling, we’ll be off to South-east Mallorca for some serious R+R and I cannot wait. It shouldn’t surprise you, though, that I’ve already looked up running trails around the town. After all, it would be rude not to…