The Road is Always Long

My journey through the world of ultra marathons.

Countdown to Croatia

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It’s no secret (I’ve blawed about it often enough) that I’ll be donning the red white and blue vest (and short, t-shirt, track suit, waterproofs, long shorts, polo shirt…..) of Great Britain in a little over 6 weeks time.  When I was a young teenager I took up athletics as I was alright at it and I was garbage at football.  Well actually, I made the senior team at high school as a 4th year (the only 4th year to do so despite there being at least another 11 lads far better than me) but that was more based on my running speed than silky skills with the ball.  Steve Cram had only been on the track scene for a couple of years, but was already taking down Coe and Ovett and that was it, he was my new idol. Quiet, fast and head to toe in Nike! What was not to idolise!!! And it was the 800m/1500m that I would try my luck at.  I was quick, but not the quickest over 100m or 200m, but when it got to 400m and above I was starting to hold my own.  I had some success over 800m (sub 2 minutes), 1500m (close to 4 minutes) and picked up a number of national, schools and county medals over the 2 or so years that I was training.  Like every kid I had dreams of GB representation, going to big events, and living the life of an athlete.  As a 17 year old boy a day is a lifetime and one day I was the athlete, the next I was getting involved in all manner of activities and behaviours that are not good for the body or soul.  That would last 15 years and my teenage dreams of pulling on a GB track suit faded like my substance lazed memories!!

Fast forward nearly 30 years, yes reader (I know there is at least one, thanks Mum), three zero years, and I don’t have the creativity in vocabulary to describe to you how monumental it feels to have been selected for the Great Britain team for the up coming World 100km Championships in Croatia.  Andy Milroy (author of the late Don Ritchie’s biography – The Stubborn Scotsman) calls the 100km ‘the blue ribband’ of the road ultras.   I don’t know if I agree with that statement, but I like it 😊.  This isn’t an event for “has beens” either, I am joined by England Commonwealth games marathon and Comrades podium runner Steve Way, Lee Grantham, former UK 100km champion (I stole that crown this year 😊 ) both of whom have sub 2:20 marathon PB’s.  And Anthony Clark, my friend and closest rival over some recent Anglo Celtic Plate 100kms.  In world standings we are half decent team.  The selection committee must satisfy themselves that any team put forward should be in with a chance of a world championship medal.  At the very least the selection committee believe in us.

I tried looking at the thesaurus for a word that amplifies the word excited, but I couldn’t pick one (answers on a postcard please). Since I got the call, I’ve been living the monastic life….again….which is harder than the training itself.  Training is fantastic, I love it, I love completing a hard session and quietly, to myself, saying, ‘you nailed that’.  Finishing a, not so easy, 50k race under coach @pyllon guidelines as to how to run it (i.e. DO NOT RACE THIS) and thinking, again quietly to myself, ‘you could have ran that much harder’.  That was the Run the Blades 50k event last Saturday (21st July).  What an event, superbly organised and a tough wee off road route around the Whiteless Wind Farm just outside Eaglesham.  Go do this race, it is brilliant.

Photo by Sandra Hunter

Photo by Sandra Hunter

Living like a monk is the hard bit that I really have to concentrate on it.  It is easy to pick up that chocolate bar, packet of crisps, (put your vice in here), they are ubiquitous, every shop, workplace, friend’s homes.  Booze is another vice, I love a beer, but this year I have really gotten into zero alcohol beers.  I seem to know more about these beers than I do the ones I would drink normally!! The great thing about the zero beers is that I can only ever drink one or two and then I go off the taste.  They don’t contain those chemicals that switch off my ‘only one or two’ switch.  The best one, in my opinion, is Warsteiner.

Y-U-M.  I think this one is the closest to the real thing.

Over eating in particular is a problem for me, particularly at the weekends.  There is probably a connection there with no work, relaxation, no real routine, but I can eat most people under the table!  A few years ago I started using an app Chronometer.  Mostly as I wanted to attempt to track the nutrients and vitamins I was getting from the food I was eating rather than anything else.  It was great at the time as I could see that I needed to supplement with iron and calcium as I was not getting enough from food.  Of course these things are never 100% accurate, I’m not going to get all evangelical about the app, but this time as well as looking after my nutrient status I’ve started taking note of my consumption levels and then writing down how I feel each day. I note physical things like fullness, general energy levels, sleep quality, training quality, levels of pain, levels of sluggishness when training, concentration levels and hunger levels.  An added benefit is weight loss.  I’ve dropped to just over 60kgs without trying and, more importantly, without compromise.  I also note mental aspects, among them mood.  The list goes on.  It’s allowing me to understand how I function as a human more clearly.   Will I continue to do it after the World Champs, I am not sure, it can be time consuming, but it’s all about marginal gains now.  I am not suddenly going to run 6:30 for 100k, but if monitoring my body like this gives me a 1% gain over my ACP time, then I’ll run 6:55 and this could be the difference between a medal or not.  It’s a small price to pay.

Six weeks tomorrow I will toe the line with the best 100k runners in the world.  I might never get the chance to do this again, I plan to be in the best shape of my life.

World 100km Championships Home Page

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