‘There is no place for arrogance or complacency in racing because you are up there one minute and on your backside the next’
The above quote by Jockey Tony McCoy, was directed at horse racing. However it applies equally to running too.
Back in 2013 I was in my best running form. I had ran personal bests at most distances and ran 13 marathons (including three ultras) in 12 months. However my performance through the year was not improving. In fact it was getting worse. At the Hardmoors 60 mile ultra in September that year I started to cramp at 20 miles, and found it difficult to eat and drink after 30 miles. I had a terrible race. It was only through my mental strength and cajoling from others that I finished the race. After that my performance didn’t improve any. Then in February 2014 I became injured and for one reason or another wasn’t able to run consistently for another 18 months.
I now realise that I was doing too much training and racing and not looking after my body. I was not preparing for my races or long training runs and was turning up at the start line already dehydrated and lacking in the correct nutrients to get me though the race. I had no strategy for fueling during the race.
reflecting on another ‘bad day’ at the London Marathon!
Last year I started to get fitter and built up to running a marathon each month. However I was still struggling with hydration and nutrition and was cramping up and feeling sick after about 13 miles of running. Bearing in mind how little energy I had stored and how fast I was running (for me!) it was no surprise that I was hitting the wall.
I decided to take action and booked a session with Renee McGregor, who is a performance and clinical dietician working regularly with top athletes. She analysed my food and drink intake relative to what I wanted to achieve. Basically I was falling short by a long way. She taught me how much of each nutrient (in terms of carbohydrates / proteins / fats etc) prior to, during and post race / training run and how to hydrate correctly. She prepared a plan for me which I put into practice straight away.
Another bad day at the Darkskies Marathon 2016
Along with the nutrition side, she also stated that I shouldn’t expect to run hard at every race I entered and should expect to run some of these races as training runs. After all, professional / elite athletes do not race hard every weekend.
Up to the Hardmoors 55, in March this year, I was focused on my training and nutrition for the event. I had no issues with cramping and some minor issues with feeling sick towards the end of the event. It was not as bad as I have had in the past and I know enough to realize what I should change to avoid that in the future.
However, after the Hardmoors 55, I feel like I am heading back down the complacency road. It is almost as though anything less than 55 miles is nothing and I don’t need to prepare; train; hydrate or eat ‘responsibly’. I realised this at the weekend when I was heading to the Dales Trail 20k race in the Yorkshire Dales. My diet the week before had been poor, not really planning my meals and eating a lot more junk food. I had cut back on the amount of water I drink during the day (not by choice, more down to lack of thought!) Fortunately the shorter duration of this race meant that I wasn’t compromised too much by this. Whilst running the race, though, I did start to think about my poor preparation and made a pact with myself to correct this before my next race.
Chatting to a few other Ultra runners, this complacency is not unique to me. A lot of Ultra runners tend to fill in the time between the bigger races with marathons, sometimes on a weekly basis. It is only two weeks since the Hardmoors 55, yet quite a few runners ran the Darkskies Marathon the week after, ran the Dales Trail 20 last weekend and have the Whitehorse Marathon next weekend………followed by the Hardmoors 110 mile Ultra early May! At least I had a weekend off after the 55!
As much as this is common, it is important not to be complacent with the preparation. You cannot expect to ‘race’ all these events (as Renee McGregor had said). Even so, you need to ensure that you focus on your pre and post race preparation and factor in some rest time during the year.
At least it is not too late to change before this weekends event!
Have any of you ever said to yourselves that it is only a 10k/half-marathon/marathon (delete which is not applicable!) and not prepared adequately?