Thursday, April 10, 2014

Viking Way Ultra - take 2

Right, lets get this blog started again!

Next weekend, I will stand on the start line of the Viking Way Ultra; 147 miles from Hull to Oakham with a cut off of 40 hours. This will be my second attempt at this tough event, and yes, it does pass very close to my home in Lincoln!

This time 2 years ago, I competed in the first Viking Way Ultra. Note the lack of an 'L' between the 'P' and the 'E' in the word 'competed'.From memory, I had to pester and beg race organiser, Mark Cockbain, to give me a place. I had a good run, met some great people, but ultimately DNF’d at 113 miles.

On Facebook I posted, “So 113 miles in 27 hrs continuous running - I was a broken man when I stopped. Disappointed to score a DNF but still proud. Not a failure - failure, for me, would be not being prepared to give it a go and put body & mind on the line”.

Many people sent me messages. “Well done……A valiant effort……Proud of you

Yet the more I thought about it, the more it niggled at me.

I also received this message from a runner that I rate as one of the absolute mentally toughest I know.

Just read your last post. Grrrrr

I'm sure you have loads of friends who give you soft, cuddly feedback.

Good mileage but that wasn't what the race was about. It was to finish a 150 mile race.

And you fucked it.

A lot of average peeps can do 110 miles in 24hrs.  So why are you piling in after your shift?

Lesson 1: Know your enemy.  What does it take to finish the race?  Were you disabled? Visible or physical injury? I say this because it’s the only thing that could have stopped me finishing. A MIND SET! What was the cut off that stopped you?  Mentally you had less than 30 miles to go.  Even at a slow walking pace you.should have finished in 12 hours? These are just numbers.  I know this is very different from doing the distance in any discipline. Know thine enemy.

Take a breath, and build up with successes and finishes..  And from there you can build into longer  and longer ultras.  I think from your shape you have huge potential in long distance ultras. Give you self a chance”.

And that was the truth. It was harsh but it was the truth.

I was tired, very tired but I wasn't disabled. I was hurting but I wasn't injured. Ultimately my head had stopped me. The internal conversation went something like this:

“113 miles done, only 30 to go. Definitely getting there”
“Bloody hell, another 30 miles! That’s more than a marathon……that’s another ultra”
“Just 30 – I can walk that if necessary. Lots of time to spare”
“But I’m really tired. Really, really tired. And it hurts”
“Think of all the ice cream in the freezer. So much better if you finish”
”Ha……if you finish now, you can get home for tea and have a curry and have the ice cream tonight!”

And there you have it.

I stopped so that I could be home for tea.

Since then I have become much tougher mentally. At least I have when it comes to running ultras! I have finished the Spine, the MdS, Hardmoors 110, Lakes 10 Peaks. I now know what it takes to finish these biggies – physically and mentally. I know the places they take you. The highs and the lows.

I know that similar thoughts will go through my mind in this year’s race, and probably some new demons, but I will be ready for them. I know that these thoughts are usually transient – each event has it bad spells and each has its good spells. Enjoy the good, deal with the bad. I also know to cut it up into manageable chunks – not 30 miles to go, but 10 to the next checkpoint.

So, I am ready to put this baby to bed. It’s been in the back of my mind for 2 years because I really should have finished it the first time. Physically I feel in great shape and mentally I am as good as I have been for a while.

I’m ready to get on that Highway to Hull

One further message after the race, from someone rather close to me, also stands out:

“One day, my darling you will realise that you have nothing to prove. You run because you enjoy it, and you are good at it, and you are very fit as a result of it. We all love you just as you are; you don't have to run 150 miles to be worthy of that love”

Food for thought indeed.

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