Over the last few months I have been getting back into Bikram Yoga. I originally started doing this at the start of 2013 to help me to acclimatise to the heat for the Marathon Des Sables but quickly discovered the multitude of other benefits it gave me. I think the biggest thing was how after a big weekends mileage I could go to Bikram on a Monday and effectively wipe the slate clean with regards to the niggles and aches I would experience after some weekends where I would run 20+ miles on each day. It quickly became a big part of my pre MDS build up and as it was winter I looked forward to being in the warm as well as “getting my benefits” as my teacher Trisha says. Another aspect of the yoga practice that I enjoyed was the mental side; it enabled/enables me to take time out and focus on the here and now and push all other concerns to the side for the 90 mins I am in the room. Getting to grips with the nuances of the poses engages both mind and body and even once au fait with them there is the challenge of pushing yourself to your furthest stretches and poses. I remember doing 4 days in a row over the long weekend last Easter and feeling like I had had a mental holiday by the end of it.
So over the last few months I have been enjoying getting the benefits of yoga; looking back over last year I was in better shape injury wise when I was doing yoga and I sincerely feel that it has played a part recently in keeping me stretched, supple (er) and hopefully injury free. Since starting back to it in January I have made a mental shift as last year I was using it specifically to get ready for the desert and I now see it as a complementary session to my week of training. I think in the lead up to MDS I was almost “hard-core” in my approach to it; trying to get near the hottest part of the room, trying to push myself as hard as possible and almost being as competitive as I can be with my running sometimes. This year I have taken a step back and I now enjoy it so much more, I feel I have adopted the attitude to try and do as well as I can in each moment and to accept each session for what it is rather than thinking about the last session and how well I did a particular pose or even how badly I did one. This now means that sometimes I might be tired and not really up for the session but I suspend preconceptions and up til now I have always had good sessions..
So what has this to do with running?? Well over the last year or so I have been thinking a lot about living in the now a concept that was explored in “The Power of Now” a great book that I heartily recommend to people who worry about the future J. I read this book and it changed my perception of life and really encouraged me to start living in the now, not to dwell on the past and not to worry too much about the future. I won’t go into the full idea here suffice to say it’s an interesting read if nothing else. So lately I have been thinking a lot about my running and training, competitiveness and state of mind whilst running. In previous posts I have explored various concepts taking in competitiveness, injury, confidence, race strategy, motivation and I feel that having gone through a bit of a dare I say it “a downer” over the winter I have completed quite a rollercoaster journey over the last year. The result of this being that over the last few months I have done a lot of thinking and really re-connected with the reasons why I love to run, and subsequently have begun to enjoy training even more. In turn I have adopted good mental strategies to ensure I remain in the now when running and not distracted by how much it hurts, what the other runners are doing, my pace or where I am in position to other runners in a race for example and so I still feel competitive but it is a more healthy form in my opinion where I am trying to the best that I can do in every moment rather than comparing myself to external markers that I have no real control over. It is very liberating and for me now feels like the way I will get the most out of myself whilst still actually enjoying the sport. This draws a lot of parallels with the practice of yoga and I feel the running and yoga complement each other.
Next up for me is Transvulcania and training has been slowly ramping up for this. The race itself takes in over 14000 feet of elevation so the big thing for me on the training agenda has been hill work. A week or so ago I went out in Jersey with fellow Trans V entrant Simon and another running friend Lee to try and recreate at least 7000 feet of elevation here in Jersey. Jersey has got some great hills but 7000ft of elevation would call for some ingenuity! We mulled over a route which was roughly 6 to 7 miles over the tougher sections of the northern cliffpaths here and meant doing the steeper hills a few times and doing loops of the route. In the end the elevation came up to about 4,800 feet over 4 hours and 16 miles which was quite pleasing. It was a tough outing but it was good to have the company of others who were suffering and enjoying it in equal measure.
Transvulcania is looking like an amazing race. I have read up on it extensively, been watching YouTube videos of the previous races and now it’s just over a month away am looking forward to getting on the start line. Word is that the line-up of world class athletes taking part is most competitive field yet with the names of Sage Canaday, Killian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg, Timmy Olson and some great UK runners including Ricky Lightfoot and Robbie Britton taking part so should be a great event to do some star spotting. I am considering going to the front of the start line and eyeballing everyone mouthing “you’re going down” to everyone who looks at me. I will then proceed to 5:30 min mile off the start line for 100metres just to say I led the race for 10 secs before crashing in a blaze of glory, pulling a hamstring and spending the rest of the day in abject misery. J
And back to reality. Transvulcania is my first major race of the year, in fact so far my only scheduled ultra “race“ of the year. In August I plan to run Round the Rock x 7 which is 7 times around the island of Jersey in 7 days totalling around 330 miles of running for the week. Day one will see me taking part in Round the Rock the race, then when everyone else is able to head to the bar after their race is done I will be getting ready for day 2 which will see me heading around Jersey in the opposite direction to day one just to keep it interesting. I have decided to do this to raise funds for Jersey Hospice Care a local charity here that has touched or will touch the lives of nearly everyone who lives here with the fantastic work they do in the community for people suffering from cancer and motor neurone disease. I had a friend Natalie who was diagnosed with a brain tumour who spent the last 6 weeks of her life there in 2012 and they were amazing. I did the Marathon des Sables last year for Jersey Hospice and raised just under £15,000.00 I would love to try and beat this target but any amount raised would be awesome.
The big factor with the challenge is the sheer mileage that I will cover; anyone who has read my blogs know I have a bit of a dodgy knee and this is my biggest worry. I have been training well however, and the knee has become less and less of an issue as I have got stronger and I have iced it at every opportunity which has seemed to assist with the recovery. Another big factor is the mental aspect of getting up every day to run 48 miles. I am hoping that my new mind-set of living in the now will help with this, break it down into small steps, take it day by day and do my best in each moment being the order of the week!
I have now got the basis of a plan coming together re logistics; I have a few faithful friends who are willing to follow me around the island each day catering to my every whim like a pampered diva (only blue M&M’s, Crystal champagne, sandwiches with the crusts cut off – you get the idea!!) which is a big part of whether I will complete this challenge. Being able to eat and fuel during the day and not having to carry masses of food, moral support as I go round and having access to medical supplies and other things will be vital to set myself up for each following day and stay on the road. I am now in the process of organising events locally to both raise the profile of the challenge and also to raise funds, at the moment I have a few runs in the local M&S on a treadmill scheduled, a film quiz night and some work based events such as cake sales etc.
With the onset of British Summer time (!) and the clocks going forward I intend to be spending as much of my week on the trails as possible, I really love this time of year; the winter is nearly done, the weather starts to improve, the nights get longer and hopefully 6 months of summer to look forward to. Good times and hopefully lots to come!
The Marathon des Sables is just about to kick off and I remember myself this time last year just how nervous I was, but up for it at the same time. I am so jealous of the guys heading out there and particularly to the guys heading out there from Jersey: Cameron Purcell, James Manners, Neil Battrick, Jon Boleat, Simon Todd and James Carnegie I hope you have a good race and most of all enjoy the unique experience the race has to offer!
Happy running all!
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