I’d never run the Ridgeway before but the appeal of running along a 5000 year old track way through the Chiltern Hills and North Wessex Downs (along Grim Ditch for several miles), with Barbury Castle, Liddington Castle (hill forts) en route
and ending up in the Stone at Avebury and not forgetting the 9,000 feet of ascent just drew me in two years ago. Last year I missed it due to injury so 2013 it had to be.
The hard part of race preparation had been done, training had gone well apart from one disastrous event in July – the Osmotherly Ultra, which had been my worse racing experience and had me questioning my physical & mental ability of running ultras and especially the fact that this was 85 miles, was I too old?, is this now a young persons game? and it just needed for me to spend the last two weeks focusing on the mental side of preparation.
I threw myself into intense studying and spent hours going over and re-looking at the complete route on the map and marking up all the check points, analysing the previous race results and researching the route profile.
We looked at my training over the last few months and worked out a detailed pacing strategy (which was adjusted & re-adjusted from time to time) from Check Point to Check Point and then finally set about working out a fuel strategy.
For the last five months I have been running purely on TORQ Fitness gels, bars & energy drinks and recovering with their recovery shakes and recovery plus drinks, so the whole fuelling strategy was based on their products. I am not “Sponsored” by them but I have to say I have seen a big impact on pacing, endurance and recovery times since using them and have recommended them on numerous occasions.
I bugged friends ( Ben from Trail Ferret & Adrian from Beacon Running) and asked them to look at my strategies.
I became obsessed with the British weather and monitored the long range forecast daily and re-adjusting the pacing and fuel strategies depending on the predicted weather conditions.
The last few days before were a nightmare of indecisions and I kept on reverting back to the Osmotherley experience and asking myself can I run 85 miles – Throughout the last few months in everyday life there are so many negatives to running long distances, family, friends and work associates question the validity and insanity of running Ultra distances. You’re insane! You’re mad, you can’t run those distances! What, 85miles in one day, don’t be silly! etc.
The tension kicked in on Wednesday afternoon as I was re-visiting the map and running through the entire route on Google Earth, and I have to say for the first time in 3 years I was really getting nervous about the race. In
the back of my mind I knew I could do it but it is human nature to put barriers up and question yourself, you just cannot help it. Thursday I had to force food down me as I was so nervous and I had a terrible night’s sleep.
Then on Friday five things happened that smoothed out and made everything negative clear away.
First of all I sat down quietly and just focused on all the support and sacrifice around me from my family and how much they have to put up my training regime.
Secondly, I dug out three inspirational running quotes and re-read them (I got this from talking to Stuart Mills –
UltraStu - so thanks Stu!!).
"I knew that will wasn't just a matter of strength but a matter of focus. The health of my body was critical to running an ultra. But to run it well. my mind was what mattered."
"An ultra runner's mind is what matters more than anything.
running ultra requires absolute confidence tempered with intense humility."
Kilian's outstanding messages:
"I realise finally that the threshold isn't in my body or in my legs, I see now that I could have gone faster along the whole course. Why had I put on the brakes? It was my mind, my mind had led to lose concentration and motivation, had placed difficulties and obstacles in my path and blurred the image of the finish line, disorientating me and making me lose sight of my goal and my determination to get there, made me think it wasn't possible."
Winning isn't about finishing in first place. It isn't about beating others. It is about overcoming yourself overcoming your body, your limitations, and your fears. Winning means surpassing yourself and turning your dreams into reality."
Thirdly, I received so much support from tweeter followers on Friday, but one tweet was sent to me at 7pm in rely to one of mine, from a mate I’d come to know through this thing called running, which clearly put everything into reality;
“Mate honestly! No more focused, trained, prepared entrant than the one in your mirror. Giving the event respect - smash it!!
Never underestimate the power of social networks in everyday life!!! – A huge thank you to those people who spend time out of their busy life’s to show interest in your own life.
The nerves started abating and calmness came over me when fourthly, my support crew turned up – my brother - on Friday night and we were able for the first time to sit down and run through the race and check point strategies. Looking back I think deep down I was also worried about him getting here.
Finally & most significantly before hitting the sack, I sat down with Jenny who just simply put – gave me positivity, calmness and strength – enough said.
I had a great night’s sleep and woke up on Saturday morning refreshed and just eagerly waiting for the start. No nerves just pure focus, nothing was going to affect my mood, not even the weather, which was horrible and was showing no signs of abating........