Hello everyone. It’s been a while !
My last blog was on the 10th December so I’m long overdue an update.
When I blogged in December I was just easing back into running again after the slipped disc injury that had affected plans so dramatically since August. Thankfully my steady approach combined with a series of physio prescribed exercises seemed to work and I was able to slowly increase my mileage week my week without further injury.Patience paid off !
I ran steadily through December laying down a base of mileage to build up stamina and confidence again. Most runs were fitted in around a very busy work period and weren’t particularly inspiring but they were runs and the pain was diminishing rather than increasing so I was just thankful each time I returned to the house !
Our break up in the hills of Northumberland over New Year gave me the opportunity to test things on a new level. The Cape Wrath Ultra will be run over a route that’s has significant mileage of trackless sections, run over heather, bogland, tussocky grass and peaty moorland. Being up on the Cheviot gave me the chance to test my hip and back over miles of rugged terrain, tough ascents and fast uneven descents. I ran every day and over the course of a week things changed for me, things really changed for the better.
I began to connect with the activity of running again, feelings of freedom and exhilaration surfaced as I headed out across the empty hills with a rucksack , map and a bit of food and water. I took the dog with me and we covered pretty hard miles over incredibly remote upland. The feeling of self propulsion through the landscape is so liberating after weeks of city running along tried and tested routes, I gained a sense of the magic that awaits on the Cape Wrath train in May. My body started to respond too, back stronger, hip behaving, legs more comfortable and breathing getting more relaxed. I began to trust my running again, it had taken 5 months but I was beginning to feel like I was getting back on track at last.
Being out in the wilderness gave me time to think a bit more clearly about the mental and physical aspects of the CW challenge too. There is a big chance that the sheer scale of the challenge could provide a mental obstacle that appears too large to overcome. The fear of failing or not being able to complete the distance is a real and very genuine concern. 400km ( 250miles ) over very technical terrain and taking in over 11,000 metres of height gain can start to mess with your mind as a novice to this type of thing ! I checked out the participants list on the facebook page - perhaps a mistake ! I found out that there is a large percentage of very seasoned ultra runners taking part, people who’ve run distances like this many times, UTMB runners, Marathon Des Sables competitors, fit young athletes, photos of runners in expensive looking gear in exotic locations with running poles and hydration packs !. I got a bit of a reality check, just as I was gaining confidence and enjoying my 10 – 15 mile hill runs I got a slap in the face. I’m going to have to do 23 miles, 35 miles, 42 miles, 22 miles, 27 miles, 45 miles, 38miles and 16 miles back to back and I’m going to need to navigate !. Doubt started to creep in, in fact it didn’t just creep, it charged at me head on
That’s why I’ve laid low for a month. I needed to build up something on my own that I can rely on when I need it in four months time. I’ve stayed away from the social media stuff for a few weeks and instead concentrated on internal influences rather than external ones. I did a fair bit of reading and research. I liken it to being a bit like using these past weeks ( and the coming ones ) to building a boat on my own. I’m trying to single handedly construct a solid ship to help me through potentially rough seas that lie ahead. Its felt necessary to do this on my own as I know that I’ll need to be very self reliant and self sufficient when the time comes. Throughout January I’ve just kept my head down and built up miles while also developing a mindset that I’ll need perhaps more than the miles ! I’ve been quite a solitary figure during the last 5 weeks but its been an important part of getting my head round the job at hand and building some mental endurance.
My training plan over the coming weeks involves 3 midweek runs – typically 15, 5 and 10 miles and then runs measured in time rather than miles on Saturday and Sunday. So for example this week it’s a 2.5 hour run followed by a 4 hour run at the weekend. The amount of time running on the weekend days increases and peaks at 5 hours on Saturday followed by a Sunday of 8.5 hours ! The exact mileage covered isn’t so important although it is necessary to be running rather than walking for the majority. I’m learning to slow to a pace that I find comfortable and that I’m able to maintain for long periods without being breathless, this has been a difficult skill to learn after years of chasing the clock and concentrating on pushing constantly for a fast pace. Being out for long periods also requires a mental approach which is very different to that needed for running faster marathon training runs.
I’ve also got to look at kit , navigation and strategy in the build up too. I need to be absolutely confident that I have the right shoes, socks, blister prevention, nutrition, hydration, midge protection, course knowledge etc etc and these are all things that are beginning to take up my thoughts on a daily basis. Fail to prepare – prepare to fail !
So that’s me a bit more up to date, now that I feel a little bit more prepared I hope to drop in and blog each week on the 16 week countdown. Well done to all who’ve been out doing it over the difficult dark months, these are the sessions to look back upon and draw strength from when the time comes in the spring or summer. Anyone who throws a challenge into their path or sets a goal to achieve is doing something that most people don’t do, don’t forget that.
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