Whilst taking a break from my ultra training and enjoying some time on my snowboard on some of the best back country snow that the French Alps had to offer last week, I stumbled upon a hidden rock. Or rather my knee cap found it first, followed by the full force of my body.
The day had started so well with numerous runs down the mountain surrounded by untracked snow which sparkled in the sun, which pushed us on to find new untracked ground, and finally after shimmy-ing along a narrow ledge behind my guide, and watching him stumble and fall, I followed suit and got up close and personal with the afore mentioned rock. It took a good moment to process the pain, but everything still seemed to work, and there was a 300 meter drop into a huge powder field waiting for me.
I made it off the mountain by myself that day, but my knee was probably 5 times the size it should have been. The knee still worked without pain (somehow?) unless I wanted to bend it all the way back or keep it totally straight. I couldn’t help thinking to myself, and slightly panicking about what it would be like to run on, if in fact I could still run!
After numerous ibuprofen and many more days snowboarding, the swelling reduced enough to be able to feel the rather large and strange dent in my patella from the rock impact. So, with less than 3 weeks to go before I should be heading out on a ’46 mile warm up’ race, I’m sat in the hospital waiting for an x-ray and mri scan. Oh joy!
Tapering, It’s a love, hate thing. The guilt of not running so many miles, balancing out the pleasure of an easy week running. It’s one of those times that is usually forced upon me before a race, the reward to my body for running all those hard miles just before I embark upon the big day.
But wait, this time it was different… this time I was tapering for a… holiday!?!
So, mad as it may seem, I was enjoying my guilty pleasure before hanging up the running shoes and saying goodbye to the road, and swopping them for snowboard boots and backcountry powder for the week.
Maybe I could consider it cross training, it was going to be hell of a work out whatever happened, or justify a week of not running another way? It wasn’t going to be good for my overall training plan, but it was going to be good for the soul. And at that moment, it’s what was needed.
Plus, it was training at altitude!
And that was it. In a second I’d committed to race half the distance of my target 100 miles, as a ‘training’ run. You know, just to see what it was like.
How bad can it be? I thought. It’s 2 months away and I knew I would have to run something of an ultra distance before the big day, and mentally this was only half way, just half. And nowhere near what I was planning on putting my body through at the end of the summer… no problem.
But as the miles and the hours have started to add up, and the date for just running ‘half’, gets closer, it just seems that little bit more daunting.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m an experienced runner, but this is new territory. Plus previous to this I’d been out of proper action for some time. My body isn’t what it was ten years ago, and whilst my mind wants to do it, my muscles aren’t so keen to go training again quite so quickly.
So, I’m sitting here, breaking the race down mentally into four ‘easy’ sections, and planning my nutrition for race day, and just wondering how much more it’s going to hurt than the last 50 meters of a high class 800m…
In fact, I don’t think I really want to know.
It all seemed to just start as small talk, passing the time at our sons football training session.
“How’s the running going?” my friend asked. “Ok” I replied, ‘and you?’.
The topic of conversation should have stopped there, it was just small talk, I should have known better. There was no need to discover or share our individual goals of athletic greatness for the next year, but there we were discussing what seemed to be a good idea. A challenge that neither of us had gone anywhere close to before, and a challenge that, ultimately, I was saying ‘yes’ to being part of, and probably not yet realising just how hard it was going to be.
And so began the thinking and the training to run a 24 hour race in which we’d try to cover 100 miles. If it was going to be easy there’d be nothing to write about… so, here’s how it going so far.