“Come on, have another drink, it’s your rest day!”
“I can’t”, I reply, “I’ve got a heavy weekend of training ahead, it’s just not worth the hangover”.
Cue befuddled eye-rolling.
Last Friday night, sitting in a bar amongst my friends, alcoholic drinks flowing (theirs, not mine), it suddenly dawned on me that ultra training is taking over my life. Supping on my non-alcoholic beer, my eyelids started to feel heavy and I longed for my bed. With a full day of work ahead of me on the Saturday and then a tough hill interval session in the evening, followed by a further two running sessions on the Sunday, I began to panic, knowing that if I didn’t soon make a move, I’d be running, quite literally, on less than 7 hours sleep.
7 hours of precious, restful, muscle-restoring sleep.
It gets worse.
Yesterday, my sister text me:
Sister: Hey, I haven’t seen you in ages, what have you been up to?
Me: Running. Lots.
She lives approximately 3 minutes away from my own house. There really is no excuse.
You know what?
Ultra marathon training is tough and time-consuming.
Forget overwhelmed, I’m ultrawhelmed.
My ultra-training incorporates 6 days of exercise each week. As well as 6 running sessions, I cycle to and from work on Mondays, and also incorporate 2-3 core strength/Pilates workouts. When I’m not running, cycling or rolling around on the floor attempting a side-plank-with-a combined-leg-lift-whilst-balancing-on-my-head, all in the name of improving my core, I’m stretching 4 times a day, or subjecting myself to the brutal barbarity of foam-rolling my IT bands. Or, you know, I’m eating, or thinking about eating or planning fuel and hydration strategies for my long Sunday run or shopping. For food. To eat.
It’s incredibly tiring yes, I hardly see my friends and family, and there’s already been several exhaustion-induced emotional outbursts, as well as two hill interval sessions that resulted in near-vomiting, but the challenge, oh the challenge! It is SO worth it.
Over the last two weeks, under the experienced guidance of my coach, Phoebe Thomas, I have really started to notice (and feel) a huge shift in my running fitness. Not only do I feel stronger (hello, single-leg squats and split lunges), but I’m running faster, and for longer.
Before being selected for Operation Ultra, I would create my own running training plans, and to be honest, although they definitely had structure, I didn’t really concentrate on interval/threshold sessions. Oh, and as for the hills? NO. They didn’t even make an appearance. I’d also tend to run a lot of ‘junk miles’, I believed that if I ran multiple 20 milers during my training, I’d be marathon ready. Or if I missed a run, or didn’t quite make the distance I set out to achieve, I would just add it to the next days run. WRONG.
In a nutshell, I’ve learnt that training for an endurance run is less about running a million miles a week, and more about concentrating on a solid structure of finely-tuned running sessions, as well as effective approaches to fuelling, hydration and rest, to really get the most out of each one (and me).
It’s tiring though.
And I’ve had to kiss goodbye to my social life.
Did I mention that?