I am just about to embark on ‘serious’ training for the Lakeland 50 at the end of July. This is the British Ultra Championships. Its a serious race with an elite field and over 9,000ft of climbing over 50 miles. I have spent the last few days creating horrendous training ideas to improve my strength both in ascending and descending. I am excited to get back in hard core, cant get legs to go upstairs, will just sleep on the sofa, kind of training. I learnt a lot from the SDW and am also really pleased that with my manic life I recovered quite quickly and am now back running fairly fluidly, just lacking a bit of bounce. You forget how fit you get in the few weeks leading up to a race and also how much damage and recovery time you need after smashing yourself for 50 miles. I ha vent pushed myself to run or train hard at all. I tend to use my energy/patience levels with the kids as a gauge, if I want to lock myself in the downstairs cupboard and hide by 7am I still need more rest!
So I want to get faster and I want to get stronger. I am a qualified running coach, triathlon coach and personal trainer. I have a sports degree, 12 years of teaching experience. I coach lots of people of different ages, abilities and dreams. But, when it comes to coaching myself, I am too often unrealistic, unrespectful of my own personal life and asking the absolute maximum of myself. One of the things I began to think about was my power to weight ratio, whether if I lost half a stone the uphills would be slightly easier and running faster off the top even quicker? I mentioned it to my husband who immediately scorned the idea. Your weight is not the issue. Your power and strength is your talent. You need to look at fuelling your machine better, rather than how you are going to deprive it. (Those were not his words, his reply was far too rude to type, but it was along those lines!). Over the SDW I took a total of 4 gels, a packet of shot bloks and a piece of fruit loaf. That is not enough to fuel any machine. I know that. But it does show that my body and mind has an amazing capacity to work on fumes, but that’s because I have trained it to work on fumes. This is going to be no use to me half way round the 50. I need to become in the words of James Elson ‘a human dustbin.’ So I’m working on it. Stuffing down more food when training, before training, after training. Teaching my gut to run whilst also digesting, rather than running till my gut cramps because it is hungry and empty.
I have had a love/hate relationship with my body all my life. My body has enabled me to do so many wonderful things, but so many times I have punished it for ‘failing’ me when things have not gone according to plan. At school I starved myself down to 6 stone from 9 stone in 4 months. I literally stopped eating when the pressure of being a high performing pupil and the demands placed upon me were too much. I was a shadow both physically and mentally of myself and it was only the distress I saw in my family that pulled me from the brink of what could have been life threatening. The determination I showed to make myself thin I then challenged into making myself better. I was appalled with the person I had become and didn’t want the rest of my life to be governed by food. I went to university, became a small fish in a big pond and had a blissful three years surrounded by like minded sporty people, drank a lot of beer, probably put on 8 stone, but I was truly happy both inside and out and that I realised was what mattered. It took me a long time to feel ‘normal’ again and to see food as fuel and something to be enjoyed not avoided. So why think of this now 15 years down the line? Because after what I classed as a bit of a disappointing race at SDW 50 the first thing I thought about doing was losing some weight before my next race. OF COURSE I know this is not the answer. The first thing I should have thought was how am I going to get stronger (and beat Paul). But our modern minds seem to be channelled into thinking that thin is strong, that womens body’s should show no ounce of muscle or fat. This is crazy, I know I should be proud of what my body is able to achieve. It has given me two wonderful (ahem) boys, endured hours and hours of training and racing. It rarely breaks down and asks for nothing. Yet I feel that I am somehow embarrassed by it shapes and wrinkles. That the scars from childbirth and nursing are somehow to be ashamed of. That the fact I cant fit my calves into any normal trousers or have any need for a bra should be hidden. So my first step to becoming a stronger and faster runner is to embrace my strength. Use my strengths to make me a more confident runner rather than someone who doubts their own ability.
So with my next 12 weeks of training my plan is based around lots of strength and power training. Running hills up and down, running slow, running fast, running technical terrain whilst simultaneously stuffing my mouth with cookies. Not listening to anyone or that little voice inside that tells me I am not good enough, but embracing what I have been given and loving running with a strong body and confident mind because no one must belief in yourself more than yourself.