I have been back from the MDS for 8 weeks now and one thing I can truly say is that it has certainly left its mark on me! I remember the last couple of days in the desert just wanting the whole thing to be over, but as soon as the race had finished my initial thought was “I could have done better..”
I have my sights firmly set on coming back in 2015 and I hope that by having learnt so much in my first outing I can come back stronger, faster and more prepared to hopefully achieve the things I wanted to in my first attempt.
So what have I been upto in the last 8 weeks or so? Well, here in Jersey I have turned into somewhat of a local celebrity! I had a great interview with the local newspaper and also an appearance on the local news and a local kids TV show “Puffins Plaice” The local media appearances have helped to boost my fundraising attempts and I am now over the £13,000 mark raised for Jersey Hospice Care.
Initially I was very tired and lethargic after getting back from Morocco, and for about 3 weeks I could not stop eating with sugary snacks and stuff that generally wasnt very good for me being what my body craved. This seems to have calmed down now thank god, as I would have been rolling around my next race otherwise!
I think after the focus of the last years building to the MDS upon completing it I was in a bit of an in-between place for a week or so. I had set myself goals for after the MDS but nothing major so it was important for me to get a few things set up to give me that reassuring goal to be heading towards. So… I am confirmed on the Spine Race in January, entitled “Britains most brutal race” it is a 270 mile in 7 days jaunt across the Pennine Way in the middle of winter! I must admit to being very tentative about this race as I have read blogs of people who have taken part in the race, which will be in its third year this year and it seems brutal, as promised! To get me ready however I have set up training weekends over the coming year every 6 weeks to 2 months apart in various mountainous areas in the UK to try and get experience of the mountains, navigation, hill climbing and the route. I view this is essential to be in with a shot of being both safe in the mountains and to give the event my best shot. My first experience of the Pennine Way being a few weekends ago with one of my MDS buddies Graeme. We did the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge which is a 26 mile route taking in 3 Mountains – Pen Y Ghent, Whernside & Ingleborough. I have to say it was beautiful up there, we were blessed with an amazing day, the weather was amazing and the scenery stunning. A great introduction to the Pennine Way, although I figure it might be a little colder when I am back there in January!
I have recovered well after the MDS, with a few long challenging runs having been done. I did 40 miles of the South Downs way back at the start of May which again was another part of the country I have not visited and was another great day out with one of my Jersey running buddies Simon. It felt nice to get a long run like that under the belt and it confirmed that the recovery was going well, plus I implemented alot of the lessons I learnt at the MDS about nutrition and pacing.
I now feel I have hit a new level with my running, and have been training well for my next race, Jersey’s Round The Rock Ultra Marathon being held here on July 3rd. I have been working with a local endurance coach here Bruno who has been giving me great advice about periodisation and differing levels of intensity of training which I think is a big aspect of my training where I can improve. I am really looking forward to RtR this year, this being the 3rd year I have run it. I hope to break the 7hr 30 mark this year, last year I completed it in 8 hours 25 and the previous year in 9 hours 25 (my first ultra!) I see RtR as a real bench mark to see how I have prgoressed over the previous year and I count myself so lucky to have this Ultra Marathon on my front doorstep in Jersey. For those of you not from Jersey, we are lucky to have some of the most amazing coastal paths, beaches and trails that you could wish for, I highly recommend the Round The Rock Ultra, a truly friendly, small, challenging ultra!
This year will then see me take part in my first 100 miler – The Cotswolds 100 in September. I am using Round The Rock as a stepping stone in terms of training, my goal being to complete the 100 miler and nothing more! I have discovered alot about running with no expectations in the last 4 or so months and find I enjoy the race alot better if I have multiple goals within a race, the goals are achievable so that i dont start to beat myself up too much if it all goes a bit wrong on the day, and that primarily I do enjoy the day, finish the race, and then worry about the other goals!
And I think this sums up the allure of Ultra Running for me – mind over matter on the day. There are so many variables in a long race that can affect your day both negatively and positively, and lately I have started to think alot about how I react when things start to go wrong in a race and really try to be mindful of this so that I dont beat myself up too much and get too downhearted. A classic example of this for me was during the 3rd day of the MDS, when I saw alot of people going past me and the voice in my head was saying “You’ve Blown This!” I think having been in the top 200 the previous 2 days and having finished fairly well both I was waiting for the crash rather than having confidence to believe that I could still do well even if I did have a hiccup on day 3. I got in at the end of that stage, not even bothering to check the stage result, which as it turned wasnt as bad as I feared and then made the decision to take it really easy on the long day as I doubted in my ability to get through. If only I had gone and checked out the facts by seeing the results I could have then made a better decision based in reality rather than what I thought was going on. This then altered my race and I lost quite a bit of time on the long day. I now see this as one of the most valuable lessons I have learnt and it has meant that I am now actively trying to “big myself up” on the long runs when the familiar demons start to chatter away! It seems to be working so far and I have been finishing longer runs alot more strongly due to my revised in run nutrition plan and just nipping negative thoughts in the bud before they are able to take a hold over me.
So overall the MDS was a massive learning experience, and has been a catalyst for me to try and get the very best out of myself for the upcoming races I have planned. I am looking forward to the running trips I have planned over the coming months; Snowdon with the guys from my tent in the MDS in July, The Peak District with Paul from the MDS in August, The Snowdon Marathon in October and then who knows what in the latter part of the year. Lots to look forward to and I am sure the running in the UK will do nothing but improve my running and also increase my love of it.
Call for comments – I am really interested to know the reasons you guys run? What is the allure of running for you? Whether it be ultra, road, trail, 10k or round the block! What do you get out of running?