Saturday provided me another opportunity for a long run, and it was a 15-mile session with a decent amount of off-road terrain. I’m enjoying the long runs, even more so when they are off-road. The long runs are providing me that opportunity to test out kit (this week was my new trail running shoes – perfect) and nutrition (again worked well, combination of energy drink, gels, and salt-chews to make sure my electrolytes are in balance).
Another way that the long runs help is with focus and this week I found that to be a lot sharper. I’d done some work for my external study (more on that in a bit) on mindfulness and ‘being in the moment’. I had a rough idea of the distance I wanted to cover on Saturday and the route. I just focused on what was in front of me there and then. I didn’t focus on the miles I’d just done or the miles ahead of me either (neither of which I can have any amount of influence over). Instead, I just concentrated on the there and then, nothing else.
I think that it is vitally important to put this type of training into practice in the build up to the ultra. Like the physical aspect, like getting my nutrition spot on, and like using the correct kit if my head and focus are in the right place that is going to count for a lot.
I’ve watched a few documentaries recently on ultra-distancing running and one of the things that is constantly mentioned is the mental aspect – having your head in the right place throughout. And these athletes are racing some very tough events (Badwater 135, Barkley Marathons, Hardrock 100, and Western States 100), much tougher than the 50k ultra I’m training for but that mental aspect is of the same importance.
The more I can focus, in training, on 'being in the moment,' the more beneficial it is going to be on the day. I’m covering the miles I need to do in training but if my focus and belief is not there then those miles count for nothing because when the going gets tough the focus will not be 'in the moment,' the 'there and then,' it will be on the miles I have ahead of me (and I can’t do a thing about that), it will be on things I can’t control, it will be those niggling little doubts.
There was another plus point that happened in the week as well – 12 week review with my tutor for my external study. I’d submitted around 6 pieces of work which hadn’t been marked or signed off just prior to the meeting. I was a slightly concerned and didn’t fancy the prospect of spending a few evenings making changes, rewriting parts and having to resubmit the work. There were also some doubts around whether I was good enough to be doing the study in the first place (again the imposter syndrome rearing its head to put those doubts in my mind once more).
The meeting went well. I’m ahead of schedule, the quality of my work is outstanding, I am showing a great understanding of the subject matter and how I am applying it. If anything, I’m doing work that I’m not evidencing, and I was told to include this as well. It was quite a relief but also highlighted that those self-doubts are still there but more importantly when I knuckle down what I can achieve.
I don’t always give myself enough credit for what I have and do achieve (I tend to focus more on what else I can do, what more needs to be done, or my personal favourite of what more I could have done – and this is almost belittling my achievements).
This was highlighted during the week when I was giving someone some advice on different aspects of run training – I didn’t think a great deal about it in the grand scheme of things and gave some advice based on personal experience over the years, what has worked well and what hasn’t, and a few other observations. I also wondered why they were asking me – and someone told me (because I don’t see it myself). I have a wealth of knowledge and experience of training for and competing in endurance events. Most people would be happy with finishing one marathon, I’ve finished 9 (and am planning to do a few more), most people would be happy to finish one triathlon, I’ve finished more than I care to remember including 4 Ironman distance and also raced for Great Britain. I don’t tend to place on a lot of emphasis on what I have achieved, the emphasis seems to be what I want to achieve or what I could have done better.
I remember over the years seeking advice from people with much more experience and knowledge of training and racing and being in awe of what they had achieved. Maybe, just maybe I’m now in that position myself?
Richard Guy, 47 years of age, born and grew up in London and have lived in Portsmouth since 2017.