Hello everyone! I’m a bit late posting this week. I initially wrote a race recap of the Cornish marathon which I ran two weeks ago. The general idea was that I would quickly touch upon the three days of endurance running I had done in the Lake District the week before, and that I had then run a full road marathon on the next Sunday over a hilly course on tired legs. The intention was that you would all be filled with admiration and awe for my athletic prowess.
However. What the post didn’t really touch upon was that my legs decided to go into full meltdown after the marathon. I mean, they were seriously pissed off with me. I had decided to walk the couple of miles to work the next day to get the blood flowing and each step took a dedicated focus in not letting passers-by overhear my involuntary whimpering. At the end of the working day I got up from my desk to find that my legs had seized up from being sat down all day and so, to the amusement of my colleagues, I began the long and arduous journey of hobbling back home again. Walking up hill was fine but going downhill I had no strength to brake against gravity. As I was walking down Station Hill I couldn’t lock my knees against the incline so, despite the increasing pain, I found I was getting faster and faster. I tried to lessen the jolts of agony shooting up my legs by taking shorter steps but of course this just meant that there was more opportunity to squeal alarmingly every time a foot touched the ground. You know how the Scarecrow was when Dorothy let him down off that post in the Wizard Of Oz? Imagine him walking down a hill, knees and legs flying out in all directions, but he has my face and is stifling yelps of pain. Towards the bottom of the hill there is a relatively busy road that I needed to cross. I was slightly alarmed that I wouldn’t be able to stop when I got there and instead would be flattened by oncoming traffic. Fortunately for me a little, hunched over old lady was just ahead and the traffic stopped to let her cross. I hurried up into a shambling run so that I would reach the road while she was still crossing, and that way the cars would have to let me cross as well.
I made it- just. As her foot was stepping onto the kerb on the other side I burst onto the road with a gleeful wave of thanks to the drivers who had stopped to let her pass. As I did so I met the gaze of a lady driving a post van. She was stony faced, like she was judging me somehow. With a rare flash of insight it occurred to me that maybe she thought I was taking the piss in some way, delaying her and all the other drivers from getting home after a long day at work. I don’t think it really needed it but to explain the situation I exaggerated my limp even more, dragging one leg behind me for full effect so that she would realize that actually I was an invalid and she shouldn’t resent me for holding her up. I made my face all grimace like ‘ooh this hurts so bad’ (which it did, so that wasn’t even lying). I don’t know if she noticed. Anyway the upshot is I crossed the road safely and when I got round the corner I was able to lessen my limp and just go back to staggering zombie like through the town back to my house. It took me nearly an hour and a half. To walk 2 miles.
So I have spent two weeks wearing a lot of compression wear, resting, stretching and, of course, the dreaded foam rollering. We all know about that the agony that foam rollers incur so I won’t talk about it, except to say that I have bitten through my own tongue twice. And finally, two weeks later I am feeling able to plan my next multi day training event. Woohoo!
Apart from the incessant babbling that has made up this post so far I have decided to make today’s piece a bit more constructive than usual. Specifically about fuelling on endurance events. Over the last month or so I have been feeling slightly smug about fuelling on endurance runs because I think I’m close to cracking it. I’m aware that just by saying this I will jinx myself horribly. Probably my stomach will explode through my eyeballs or something next time I run. Don’t worry, if it does I’ll try to get photos. It wasn’t my intention to think like this, but I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more and more anti gels and gloopy stuff etc etc and all the normal things that people take on marathons and ultras.
I use to take them. But then I realised that a few hours in I would start to feel sick at the thought of eating more sweets, more gels, more syrupy drinks and although I knew I needed food I would end up avoiding it because I just couldn’t mentally face it. It occurred to me that I was only eating these things because that’s what you are told you should eat. And yeah, I suppose it works for lots and lots of people, otherwise the market wouldn’t be there. The thing is, I just don’t like them, and I think on the longer ultras (i.e. 10 hours plus) you have to look forward to what you’re going to eat. God knows you’re struggling enough with all kinds of mental challenges without thinking ‘…and now I have to eat something foul that will slide slimily down my throat and turn my stomach. Yay!’
There’s another part to this as well. Way back in the days of yore, human beings were nomadic and travelled huge distances on foot, following the seasons and migrating herds. I’m sure as hell they didn’t have access to gels and energy drinks. Our bodies were designed to cover ground and distance, and we did this eating what nature provided to us…fruit, nuts, meat. Now, I’m not going to be all OCD about this because I just can’t maintain any kind of severe paleo diet but in the recent long runs and multi day training I have done, and these were all days ranging from 10 hours to 19 hours long, I have always done better with real food: dried fruit, mixed nuts, oranges, bananas. These I eat pretty much from the outset but I eat ‘meals’ as well: banana loaf, chocolate stuffed crepes, sandwiches. I don’t stop to eat these but walk and eat at the same time. In my bladder I carry water with electrolyte and I normally carry a bottle of orange or apple juice as well.
On the other end of the scale I will eat a few sweets right towards the end, specifically haribo and jelly babies, so I think there’s room for anything in moderation. The only change I’ve made recently is giving up caffeine. I found that a few hours into a run I started to feel really sleepy, even if the rest of my body felt fine. Finally, after many months, I put two and two together and realized it was probably because I wasn’t getting my standard 7 or 8 cups of coffee a day. Considering the race I’m training for is going to be 30 hours + I can’ t risk caffeine withdrawal having that much of an impact on me so it’s gone from my life. Sob. On the upside though I have re-discovered hot chocolate. Please no one tell me anything bad about hot chocolate! Let me live in ignorance.
I have multi day training this week… a ten hour coast run on Tuesday and then possibly 8 hours on Wednesday depending on how my legs hold up. I have included a photo of the food I’ll be taking. Embarrassingly it includes some Clif Bloks which just demonstrates how much of a hyprocrite I can be even within the same post. Ha ha. Still I like the Clif energy bars (no weird stuff in there) and the bloks are my version of sweets. I’ll only eat them in an emergency. So back off, OK?! I may swap the electrolyte for a small container of sea salt which I’ll take as and when I feel I need it. I’ll be interested to see what everyone else thinks about fuelling during endurance runs. Am I the only one who is turning back to real food? Or is everyone into the gels?