Saturday, February 26, 2011

Find yourself whilst running an ultra

It’s funny that since my last post when I covered getting back on track with my training and the need to get out of my comfort zone, I have found myself in a period of disruption which made that incredibly difficult. I haven’t posted for a while as I have just moved house, and have also been through the unnecessarily challenging task of getting a reliable internet connection. This period of change has made it near impossible to maintain the normal training routine.

The major training plus of the move has been that it was an incredibly intense cross training session for a couple of days. To be honest after 2 days of hauling boxes, and furniture I felt a lot worse than after running 100miles! The only difference is that in a 100 I would stop to eat regularly and make sure I was on top of my hydration, I just didn’t have the time or inclination whilst moving.

So now it is time to get back into the habit, and that is exactly how effective training should be. A routine or habit, with structure to make sure that you are progressing your performance. Fortunately for me, I shall shortly be performing the first baseline study that I am doing with the University of the Sunshine Coast as part of my preparation for my 33 marathons run later this year.  For me, this formal external monitoring is a great motivator, as is being committed to the charities and those who are sponsoring me. 

People tend to be internally or externally motivated, and typically in a sport such as ultramarathon running, participants are internally motivated. This is apparent by the strong drive needed to put in the many hours of training to even get to the start line. This is why some people can stick to a diet independently and others need someone else checking on their progress.

So to be successful in this sport it can help to know which way you are mentally wired. When you consider this in association with your “why” of ultrarunning it can become crucial in managing your expectations for your goals. For example, if you are externally motivated and you have a goal to run a sub 24 hour 100 miler then it would be wise to have a personal trainer, or at least a friend to be accountable to for each mini goal in your training, as you may spend more time justifying excuses rather than getting the job done. Conversely, if you are internally driven, then you will need to be careful that you are not too rigid in your preparations, and choose not to listen to your body.

This principle applies during your event too. The internally motivated will push through with little input from others, while the externally driven could need a kick in the backside from their support crew!
Support crews will happily do it for free!

Without doubt running ultras is more mental than physical, and you only learn the mental side by putting on your shorts and going out to “find yourself” for a few hours!

Run Happy!

"If you think you can or think you can't, you're probably right" -  Henry Ford

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why your training is just like your race.

Aside from my running, I have spent a lot of time on personal development and am NLP trained to a level where I could coach.  One of the mantras which always stays with me is “How you do one thing is how you do everything”.  It is amazingly accurate as you observe the high achievers achieve in most areas of their life, and the under achievers do so in their lives.

This has particularly struck a chord with me recently as while out running I have been happy to ease off the gas when previously I would have pushed through. I thought this was partly down to recovering from previous hard races, and events such as my 12 hour treadmill session. But having been reminded of the mantra I have realised that I have been behaving the same way across all areas of my life, and this is something I need to change – fortunately this is quite easy – just decide to change and do it!! This is why I have dropped off on the frequency of my postings in the last couple of months, and my energy has instead been expended on excuses!

Always worth the effort
So on my latest run, when half way up and I was about to walk, I rewound mentally about 4 months to a time when I was easily running all the way to the top. I dug in, and made it to the next tree, then the false horizon, then the big rock, and before you know it I’m at the top enjoying the cooling breeze and a snack. 

Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t easy, but then it’s not supposed to be. After all I’m training to get stronger with better endurance, and that won’t happen if I stay in my comfort zone. My main focus this year is my 1400km run in August, and you can guarantee I will be spending a great deal of time outside my comfort zone so I may as well get used to it!

I said making this change in attitude and performance is quite easy, but it does take a lot of mental toughness and discipline.  It’s setting the early morning alarm and not hitting snooze, it’s going for that night run when your favourite TV show is on, and having a piece of fruit instead of a bar of chocolate.

Camera doesn't do justice to this view unfotunately
There is a great parallel in ultramarathon running. It’s easy to talk it up big when you enter a race, but you need to be disciplined in training, which takes mental strength and commitment – the same strength and commitment you will need to get to the finish line and reap the reward, whatever it may be for you.

When you really get to grips with the concept of “How you do one thing is how you do everything” and relate it to yourself, you can then either adapt your training to suit how you do things, or change the way you do things to meet you goals. 

For me sharing this with you guys is a declaraton of a commitment to get myself back on track focusing on what I can do, not on excuses of why I can’t.  And of course realising that you can do far more than you think you can!

Run Happy


“What counts in battle is what you do when the pain sets in” – John Short

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Running Pink!

This Thursday I was lucky enough to have the chance to run with a great Australian (recently awarded the Tasmanian Australian of the Year) and Ultra-runner who is one of the most passionate individuals I have had the pleasure to meet.  Deb De Williams is currently running around Australia to raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and is well on her way towards her $300,000 target. A breast cancer survivor herself, she is not afraid of a tough challenge, and this must be one of the toughest. This is her second attempt at the distance when broken bones in both feet stopped her in her tracks after 10,824kms of her previous attempt in 2008-9, which included 800kms of running with broken feet, before she finally listened to her doctor’s orders. This time she is right on track and hasn't had a single day off!

I caught up (literally) with Deb in Cooroy on her day 314 and ran with her to Eumundi, and had the pleasure of spending 2 hours with this extraordinary individual.  How someone can be so generous with their time and energy, whilst in the middle of such a challenge is amazing.  We talked pretty much nonstop whilst running, which was impressive in itself as it was a 33C sunny, humid day with no significant shade.
I think Deb was trying to get away from me so she could stop talking!
What impressed on me most was her dedication to her cause, it is certainly not about the running, but the running is a means to promote the cause for which she has such passion. She said to me that she “wouldn’t wish what she went through on her worst enemy” although I can’t imagine she has any! So now the focus of her life is on raising sufficient funds to make a difference to the lives of women already suffering from breast cancer, and to hopefully prevent this indiscriminate killer from taking any more lives. She was a fit and healthy ultra runner herself when she was first diagnosed, which just demonstrates that no matter how you live your life you are still at risk.

I am amazed that she and her family have funded the entire event themselves, outside some product sponsors. This is an awe inspiring achievement and demonstration of sacrifice and commitment as basically she has been on the road since 2008!

She is supported by Glyn and her parents (who I didn’t have the chance to meet). Glyn leap frogs Deb’s progress every few Kms to log the distances, offer food and drink, provide medical back up and of course the essential psychological support. Her parents move ahead to the next town and set up fundraising events to be underway for Deb’s arrival, at which point she joins in shaking tins for donations, or speaking at a school, council, or other public group to promote her cause. I’ve got to be honest after a day of running there is no way I’d want to be performing a public speaking event, again a demonstration of her devotion to the cause.

Whilst there is no doubt over the Deb’s role in the challenge, her parents and partner are equally responsible for its success, they too are heroes!

Given my own charity ultra challenge I have set for later this year, the entire route of which has been covered by Deb and her team, I picked up some valuable tips for myself and my crew. It really makes you appreciate that this may be a solo sport, but it is certainly a team event (I will cover crewing in a separate post as it is another great topic).
Thanks for a great day :-)

So I want to put a big thankyou out to Deb and the team for allowing me to tag along, share in the experience and pick their brains. It was an opportunity to good to miss to meet with them, even worth flogging myself in the heat 2 days after my 12 hour treadmill run to get back the car in time after I had to leave Deb on her journey South.

Please support Deb through her event website - RunningPink and you can follow and contact the team daily through their Facebook page

Run Happy!

Friday, February 4, 2011

12 Hours on a Treadmill - Did I keep my sanity?

You don't often think of a treadmill when you think about ultramarathon running. I had an interesting time during my 12 hours on a treadmill this Tuesday, some of which went to plan and others which did not.

For the full 12 hours I set the incline to 2%, and ran for 1 hour at a time with 5 minute breaks in between (for the first 6 hours anyway).

Keeping mentally sane during the run was one of my main concerns. Daytime TV and music videos are bearable for a 30 min session, but not 12 hours.  I did find ways to entertain myself though...

I was lucky enough through the day to have my wife, Angie, call in with fresh supplies and to take a few photos, which provided a nice distraction.  I also had the company of Tylana, my training partner, for a couple of hours and Colin, from the local university who called in to discuss what monitoring they want to do in the build up and throughout my 33 marathons run later this August.

I actually found it quite easy to switch off, and get into a bit of a trance like state as there was no need to concentrate on where I put my feet as would be normal when trail running. Interestingly when I was running like this my heart rate would drop by maybe 5-8 bpm.

Throughout the 12 hours my heart rate was remarkably stable, ticking over at 135-140 when running at 10kmh. This dropped back to about 120 when I walked.

The frustrating component of the day was my nutrition. Early on I was eating and drinking well and felt very good.  After about 6 hours I began to start getting some gut discomfort and did not feel like eating anything. This to me is a sign of dehydration as the blood supply drops off to the gut and digestion slows. The trouble was I was drinking at over 1litre per hour, which isn’t far off my limit.

At Tylana’s suggestion I eased back for a good half hour by walking and then drank a 1.25l bottle of coke, had a gel, and ate a couple of sandwiches. The coke was great for the caffeine hit, as I was pretty tired at this point.  This certainly helped, as did a nice large coffee an hour or so later.  Basically though I know that this is an area I need to work on. Colin (an ultrarunner himself) offered a couple of suggestions to settle the stomach, Ginger and Liquorice. So that’s something else I’ll need to test run in the coming months.

So the last few hours were not that enjoyable, with much of the time counting down the minutes to the next break. It’s so different to a race where you can push hard to get to the next checkpoint and a rest, as no matter how fast you run on the mill the time doesn’t pass any quicker!
The cape was the kids idea, and only lasted 2 hours, too hot and sweaty, I don't know how Clark Kent does it!
At the end physically I felt quite good, muscles were not sore and not tired (I wore full length compression tights for the first time and think they may have been a factor, and will post on these another time when I have given them a longer trial). Heart and lungs were fine. Stomach wasn’t too comfy, and I did have a few nasty areas of chaffing which made the shower after and sleeping uncomfortable.
My boys "lending a hand" to make the full 12 hours!
I ended up completing 94.5kms and having burnt off 9600calories (if you can believe the machine). I drank over 12litres of fluid, and my weight had dropped by 4.7kgs (about 10lbs) by the end of the 12 hours.  So by my calculations, including weight of food consumed, my body sweated out about 18 litres of fluid, no wonder my feet were pickled by the end of it.

Run Happy!