A week or so ago I passed a nice little landmark – 2013 miles ran in the year 2013. It was a goal I aspired to last year but didn’t make it falling short by some 400 miles in the end! It’s a pleasing landmark in a few ways really: Over the last 3 years I have been running “competitively” and I have been tracking my mileage over those years by way of a very complex spreadsheet that has grown the more I have run and got more fascinated by data. The 2013 version is a 19 sheet Excel Monster with training log, food log, lessons learnt from races log, split calculator, results graphs and any other type of running related data you care to mention. Its been great to see my weekly/monthly and yearly mileage/elevation and pace grow year on year and I think my ability and strength has grown as a side product of it. To be fit and healthy enough to have run that amount of miles is a blessing and I am grateful for this every day.
I guess one of my primary motivators to run is data – I am a data geek! The thrill I get from comparing speed work-outs from this time last year to this year and seeing that I have increased ¼ minute per mile is second only to high I get from that perfect run you get now and again, when body, heart, mind and legs all work in synch, you smash the uphills, glide down the downhills and picture yourself as Killian owning the Matterhorn or some such other appropriate mountainous landmark. This doesn’t happen every run – for every one of these types of runs there are a few where I am blowing out of my ears, running style resembling a carthorse, energy deficient and trying to hang on to the pack for dear life! But back to data, another part of my data pleasure is inputting the miles into my training log and seeing the miles tot up week after week, I like nothing more than updating my weekends runs after a hard weekend of back to back runs. I have found data so useful in my journey over the last 3 years, I remember after running my first marathon – London in 2011 and having used no Garmin I had no idea how I had paced myself and so the new dawn arrived.. I bought a Garmin, got used to the paces that I ran at and generally started training to a plan based on split times, predicted paces, tempo paces, cruisey run paces etc etc – time became my friend!
I think over this last year I have gone beyond time and started to run alot more on feel. I have however started to use Heart Rate data more and keep to an eye on pace during tempo runs, but feel that I have got to know how I feel and place more importance on running the best I can at any given moment; whether that be attacking the hill in the best way, descending well, recovering well and taking advantage off the hill and on the flat or whatever it may be as long as at the end of the session or race I can walk away knowing I gave the best for most of it I am happy. I have found running on feel liberating and its nice to not be glancing at the watch every few mins trying to stay on a pace schedule particularly during longer races, I always found pace predictions or aspirations could quite easily turn into a stick to beat yourself with if you don’t hit the splits and can be disheartening which is no good to anyone! Its good to have a plan however but its also good to be flexible should the wheels fall off.. And they will fall off sometimes!
Another pleasant side effect of focusing on running the best I can at any given moment is that I have begun to stop focussing on others during races; positions and rivalries are all external factors that I can’t control, and I recall a few scenarios this year where I was set on placing and had a bad day, then getting overtaken by some one gliding past and my head dropping even further to make an average day a bit of a nightmare as the negativity crept in. I think now that I am a little easier on myself, if it isn’t a good day then it isn’t a good day, but the great thing with Ultras is that things can turn around in a matter of miles so to always be in the game its important to always have a positive frame of mind and high spirits. In the races I have done this year I have seen apparently “slower starters” build through races and finish strongly at the higher end of the field, I’ve seen runners go out strong and fast and finish well, and I have also unfortunately seen people go out strong and blow up in spectacular style or even have to retire, the lesson of this being that nothing is set in stone at the start; anything can happen to me and to others in an ultra so being affected by the goings on around me is a fools errand and it is better to focus on the things I can control and doing the best I can at any given time.
In an earlier post I posted a photo of me where there was slightly more of me about 4 or 5 years ago. I think since then I have changed beyond recognition both physically and as a person. Running is my niche, before that I felt like I was a square peg in a round hole in general in life, always something missing which I desperately tried to fill by throwing myself into activities, eating lots of food and anything else I felt would help me unveil exactly where I fitted in this life..
|Another Blast From The Past! 🙂
The big catalyst for my change I guess was entering the MDS, before that I had done the London marathon and I kind of liked running, I liked the health gains and I definitely liked the weight management side of it, however I hadn’t discovered the “being at one with nature” hippy type stuff yet, or even the thrill of being able run 50 miles under your own power.. But all this was to come, after entering the MDS, my first ultra marathon followed, set here in Jersey “Round The Rock” in 2011 was my baptism of fire into this murky underworld, then ultra after ultra followed and slowly my life became entangled with the biggest fixation so far of my time on this planet.
2013 has been a massive year for me – 6 ultras completed so far with another one to go – my first Marathon Des Sables, my first 100 miler, my first DNF (did not finish in aforementioned 100 miler!) my first (joint) win in a race (technically not a race – the ITEX 48 miler here in Jersey- but I’m having it anyway! There were about 40 or so runners taking part and lots of walkers) and a few podium places in various shorter distance races. I am lucky enough to now be coached by Bruno Francisco – a great runner himself – I have found I have developed exponentially since we started working together. Each session now has a goal and each week is specific to where I am in the race calendar – taper, recovery, race, building phase so I feel alot more reassured in my build up to a race that I have done all the right work at the right time, another vital part of the race day confidence jigsaw. Not to mention the camaraderie that has developed here in Jersey over the last year, there is a real scene here now and this is shown by the willingness of perfectly normal, sane people to show up in dodgy car parks on the north coast of Jersey at ungodly hours to run obscene cliffpaths in sometimes obscene, sometimes sublime conditions.
Having just taken part in (17th Nov) the Jersey half marathon the weekend just gone, it wasn’t really the plan to do any road based races this year as I have been all about the ultra trail races. I was nice to have a change of tempo, to do a shorter race and the chance to measure where I am on the road against my previous time on the same course this time last year. My PB going into the race was 1:27:39 and I managed to knock a minute off that in the end. I was so pleased with this having done no road running or speed work to speak of this year. I sincerely believe the strength and miles in my legs have transpired to give me the ability to maintain higher speed over a longer distance, a real pleasing side effect for sure.
Next up after that is The Endurancelife CTS Dorset Ultra on December 7th. I did the marathon version of this in 2011 and the Ultra last year so its a bit of a regular race in the diary in one way or another. Another great chance to measure where I am this year compared to last year on the brutal climbs of the Dorset coastline, a great benchmark, and also it is great to be going over with another 9 Jersey runners to take part in various distances ranging from the 10km, the half marathon and the 34 mile ultra. It promises to be a great weekend of running and the start of a great tradition of Ultra Team Jersey runners going over to compete in races in the UK.
So out of the people who read this blog I am really interested to know people’s motivations for getting up and doing the training, doing races, doing ultras, are there any other “data geeks” out there? Please feel free to comment.
More to come after the Dorset Ultra