Monday, August 29, 2011


    The number one reaction I get when mentioning endurance running is, 'Are you mad?' I usually laugh but I suppose I should give a proper answer to this repeated question. Its basically quite simple; if you are mad you're in for a shock. Most people I have met are very calm and very sane, the reason is obvious:- When embarking on a 50 or 100 or 200 k race through extremely difficult mountains and deserts  as well as scary temperatures and weather conditions  and at night, you have got to know what you are doing..........because if you don't you are going to get into an awful lot of trouble. Your preparation starts with the training and the maintenance of your body and your overall health and fitness. If you lie to yourself or pretend about your abilities or fitness, the trails can be very unforgiving places. The fact that you train mostly alone and in the middle of nowhere can add or detract from the problem. On the one hand it makes you self sufficient and able to cope but on the other there is very little objective analysis of your strength and weaknesses. I personally find this latter point the problem as I have very few people to bounce ideas of , save for the internet and Jamie but he lives in Shanghai. Is my training correct, my diet, style of running etc? Its all self taught and trial and error.
         The UTMB race in the Alps has just finished,(172 kilometres) this is pretty much the biggest race in the world (2,500 competitors) and, as in most races in France , very well organized. You have to run qualifying races to  be selected and be super fit both mentally and physically. Its tough and this year of 2500 starters just about 50% finished. When you watch the videos of what they climb and the conditions it does, admittedly, look crazy but on the ground its deadly serious. (Check out the link)  Everyone will have done unbelievable preparation  and training and yet still only 50% managed to complete it. Its not for the feint hearted or weak willed and I believe thats the challenge. I am one week away from my first 60 K endurance race and to me its a scary distance. At present I have a fever/virus and so am constantly assessing should I, shouldn't I. Its  not a cop out or excuse because I not only want to do this , I need to, its a burning desire  to achieve and to push my personal fact I think this is what drives most endurance athletes.......its stepping outside your comfort zone and pushing out your envelope.
       But, I have to consider the facts; do I run with a cold, fever, etc or pull out ? and if I do run am I bound to fail because my body is not 100% ? These are very sane questions that I am asking myself and I take them very seriously. To do this you have to be fully committed and make proper balanced judgements. Its already affected my tapering this week. I should have done atleast 20 k's by now including sprints and strength excersizes....I have done nothing. Its a worry and that only makes it worse. I am swallowing every known remedy and health superfood on the planet because if I am not fully fit, 40 'ks into the race I will be suffering.......alot! The irony of all this is that I haven't been ill in probably 18 months.......unbelievbable.
           This may all sound a bit heavy but its real stuff  and even in my limited experience I have had quite a few hairy moments where I have thought to myself  'This is dangerous'. However, the other side of the coin is the freedom, the peace and just running through the beauty of nature and testing yourself in the process. Its fun and rewarding as well as painful and exhausting which probably explains why endurance running is growing in popularity together with Ironmans and other similar events.
         My race,  the 'Trail de Haut Clunysois' will give me 1 qualifying point towards the 5 points needed to enter the UTMB so its all carefully worked out. To get 5 points is very demanding in itself in that you have to train for and succeed in several qualifying races just to have the 'pleasure' of attempting the UTMB.
        I have read somewhere that ultra running is always primarily a race against yourself.....and that must surely be the ultimate challenge............we shall see.

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