I’m typing this post a few days after the Ultramarathon (sorry gave it away a bit) so apologies for not posting for a while & trying to remember the last 8-10 weeks of training.
So from Brighton Marathon, I had to find out what I had done to my right knee as it was worrying me. There were a few aggravations, mainly the swing phase of walking which did give me lots of concern. I managed to get an assessment with Greg Bailey at West Wickham Chiropractic (where I’m based) and the first Special Test was for what I suspected, Lateral meniscus damage, (McMurray’s test was performed). As soon as the test was done I threw my hands in the air as I felt no pain what so ever, big sigh of relief! But still had to find what the issue was. Greg noticed I had a slight dip on my tendon of my hamstring, Biceps Femoris. So this slight strain, coupled with my poor flexibility in my hamstrings caused the pain. My lateral Collateral ligament (LCL) was extremely painful upon palpation & ITB was sensitive. Very, very sensitive. I remember saying to myself ‘What and why the hell am I doing to myself?!’.
Now that I knew what was wrong, I gave myself a week off from running and had to think about my plan of action for the Ultra. I had to be sensible and not do too much to force a setback, but I also had to be strong enough & fit enough to complete the challenge. Original plan was:
Tuesday 9 miles at either 1/2 marathon pace (8:15min/mile) or marathon pace (9:00-9:15min/mile)
Wednesday easy 5 Mile jog or Strength & prehab in the gym
Thursday 9 miles at either 1/2 marathon pace (8:15min/mile) or marathon pace (9:00-9:15min/mile)
Saturday 2-4hrs of running at Ultra pace, 10-10:30min/mile
Sunday 2.5-5hrs of running at Ultra pace, 10-10:30min/mile
This was flexible due to my work commitments. But the plan would not be feasible, not only because of my injury but work commitments. So I decided to do the most important runs, the 2 long distance runs back to back and a quick run earlier in the week with rehab/prehab. This didn’t even work for week 1. Week 1 Monday I did strength & prehab, Tuesday 5 miles, Thursday 2hrs then Friday I could only do 30 mins when the pain returned. Week 2, I just did strength and prehab on Monday, and ran Thursday and Friday, this time it worked and I didn’t do too badly from what I remember.
Over the next few weeks, I found it incredibly hard to juggle work, training & the events that were planned way before I thought about the Ultra. I had a Stag do, a wedding (both not mine), tickets to watch Arctic Monkeys in Finsbury Park & a trip to Twickenham. Focussing all my energy into 2 long runs a week to mimic the Ultra was the best option. I had many speed bumps along the way where something always came up whether it was work, friends or just unable to get good sleep. It had a major affect on my quality and duration of the runs. I even had a phonecall to diagnose an injury at 10:45pm the night before I was due to run 6.5hrs in 2 days, 2.5hrs then a 4hr run. Instead, I had to sleep in longer to get my 8hrs sleep, ran 2hrs on the Thursday & 4.5 hrs on Friday, managing to run 35 miles. I obviously wasn’t happy. Don’t mind giving free advice, but not at 10:45pm!
I got bored very quickly with the usual routes I would normally run. Most of the Ultra is road with a mixture of trail and tarmac path, I needed to get time on all three surfaces. Thursdays would be my shorter run which would be local. Friday I would venture elsewhere so I could get the time to do the run & help keep me interested mentally. Every Thursday & Friday morning was a race to beat the traffic so I can time the run well, this didn’t happen often. But my decision to run different routes really did help. I constantly ran in Joydens Wood, the terrain and scenery there was perfect and I could get lost and somehow find me way back to a recogniseable area. The location was just perfect for me, tough physically but mentally stimulating with stunning scenery.
My longest run, both distance and duration was 23 miles/4hrs 23mins. I started at Blake Park in West Wickham. Ran through Coney Hall, West Wickham Common & Keston Common. Ventured past Keston Mark towards Biggin Hill and towards Westerham Hill. I got to Tatsfield Lane at about 2hrs 45mins and thought I should turn back otherwise I’ll be running longer than the fuel I had on me. Was a good choice despite being annoyed that I couldn’t get to Westerham Hill.
This route was great and I did it a couple more times. I also ran from West Wickham to Keston, Locksbottom, past Farnborough, all the way down the A21 to Pol Hill and back. This run was interesting & worrying. I had to run 2hrs on the Monday or Sunday (can’t remember which) just to let some steam off. I did 2hrs on the Thursday, then went for the run to Pol Hill. I got to West Wickham Common and my left calf (medial head of gastrocnemius) got extremely tight and may have been slightly strained. I thought I’d see how it would go. Managed to run 20 miles on it before slipping in Keston Common and it gave me a nice warning to stop. So I did. Conditions were relatively hot but had a nice breeze so I was confident of pushing myself in tough conditions just in case the event conditions were the same. This was the first run I had run where I listened to music, felt like a new person!
Did another 2hr run on the Sunday, loads of hills and mud again, this took me past the 50 mile mark for the week. Feeling a bit more confident but would have preferred to get a 5hr run done, but had to be more sensible than stupid. The next few weeks were tapering weeks, where I put on 6 lbs while I was carb loading. I didn’t want to get bored of the food so I chopped and changed a lot but ensured I got the essentials in. I did force myself to eat at times, and I did go hours without food for whatever reason. But I did try and eat at least 3,500 calories every single day. Food preparation was so important, and looking back now, staying up late and waking up early in the morning to cook has paid off.
The last 2 weeks before the Ultra, I still worked with my Injury Rehab & Personal Training client, and did the Rugby Munchkins classes on Sundays which kept me active. But I only managed to run 8 miles in the last 2 weeks. Big reason behinds this were the planning of the ultra, and trying to do as much work as possible before I get my week off after the ultra. It was a very intense fortnight. Both runs were intense in pace, but one was flat and the other hilly. Both were needed and definitely beneficial as I really had started to feel fat from carb loading.
About 10 days before the event, I was getting nervous about it. Going from 26.2 miles to 69 iss an enormous jump, let alone the terrain and running in places which I’ve never heard of. I stumbled across a Facebook group, Rat Race The Wall 2014 which really did help with me pre-race nerves. Lots of runners posting on there, both experienced or new and it was humbling to know that I wasn’t the only person to be going through the same emotions. Lots of useful and useless but funny posts were shared, it was perfect to calm my nerves down. But I was on the fence between being excited about the event and nervous about going into the unknown. I found out that The Wall is the longest Ultramarathon in the UK & is regarded as one of the hardest courses. Having this knowledge made me feel buzzing for the event & meeting new people, but I kept my feet on the floor by mentally preparing myself hours of pain in very tough conditions & embracing difficult situations.
Moving onto the event, it was a mad rush to get things sorted. Every time I went on the PC I did work for my clients just so I could concentrate on packing for the event towards the end of the week. My To Do list was growing quicker than the list of Luis Suarez jokes & my brain was in overdrive with regards to the things I had to do with work and the event. Thursday night was my last client for the week, I decided to go to a friends house and watch the England v Uruguay match rather than rush home and cook food. I wanted a good night’s sleep and wake up at 6am Friday so I could have time and space to prepare everything.
I conclude this post by stating that the past 10 weeks were arguably one of the hardest in terms of planning, juggling & organising both for work and the event. At times I was as stressed as I was in my final year at uni, which was a cause for concern. My next post will describe what happened from 6am Friday morning until Tuesday 24th June. My friends know me well enough to know that I’m unable to shorten long stories, I just don’t have that skill! Unfortunately I can’t shorten the description of the event, and I will try and piece things together in sequence about the course.