There are times in a run, though sadly not in every run, when we feel free of effort, or concentration, and movement becomes as easy as rest. At those times, which are often only fleeting in nature, we are beyond tiredness. and motion, the elements, the landscape and our body seem to work together. I relish those times, often, for me, only found on longer distance runs as I feel I can keep running for ever. This feeling is capture in the book ‘Bone Games’ by Rob Schultheis. Though the following passage is about his descent from a mountain following injury, it could so easily be the feeling of ‘flow’ during an Ultra:
“I hung there for I don’t know how long: thirty seconds, two minutes, half an hour. I couldn’t climb back up the overhanging rock, and I could not descend…”.
“Something happened on that descent, something I have tried to figure out ever since, so inexplicable and powerful it was. I found myself very simply doing impossible things…”.
“I know my limitations, and I was climbing way, way beyond them. One small part of me trembled with fear and fatigue, cried out to be rescued, to be whisked away to any place other then this bleak precipice. The rest, confident, full of an unsane joy, revelled in the animal dance of survival, admired the brilliant crystals in the granite, the drunken calligraphy of ice crystals… was totally possessed by the act of mountaineering, rejoiced in the immense vertigo of the place. It was like certain dreams I have had…”. “The person I became on Neva was the best possible version of myself, the person I should have been throughout my life…”.
Enjoying running in the hills of the algarve, whilst reading Scott Jurek’s book on ultra running and diet. He is without a doubt someone who really understands why he, and others like him, run. Not only one of the most successful US ultrarunners, he follows a strict vegan diet – keen to align with the needs of his body whilst keeping true to his wider views. Well worth a read. Especially with a glass of wine beside the pool on holiday.
I’ve been running for some years now, and I know that at many times my running has not progressed, but I’ve been happy with the knowledge that my speed and stamina have at least not become any worse. As the years go by, and time becomes more precious, I am better aware that I need to make every session count. It is important to remember, that most of us run our fast sessions too slow, and our slow sessions too fast. In fact, we tend to find a nice comfortable pace and fill the time we have available with the distance this pace covers. I’ve taken part in a number of events this year in Northern Ireland and beyond: some fell running, ultrarunning, a triathlon, and in a few weeks the Ben Nevis Race in Scotland, and am trying to use quality more than quantity. This can mean in a 45 minute lunch time session, performing multiple intervals as fast as I can, with a slow paced recovery, or spending 30 minutes at the fastest tempo I can manager, whilst still completing my once a weeek long run at an easier, more relaxed, pace. Its key to not become too formulaic, and to lose the passion, but I feel great knowing that I’m pushing my boundaries a little further.
I often ponder exactly what it is that makes us, especially those of us in our late 30’s and 40’s, take up, almost religously, running, cycling or triathlons.Firstly, and undoubtedly there is the wonder of getting out there in all weathers, training and racing, and getting the feeling of being alive when doing it. But, I believe more importantly, there is the sense of simplicity and completeness. As we get older our lives become increasingly more complex – with so many subtleties to consider, it is incredibly easy to do the wrong thing. I know from work alone, that I am often judged on my success without ever really knowing the expectations, and requirements – a task completed can be perceived as a success or a failure purely based on someones undisclosed expectations. The advantantage of running a race, or taking part in a triathlon, or going out for a lunch time run, is clear: the expectations are our own, if there are any rules, such as no drafting in a triathlon, they are clearly explained and understood. If only all of our lives were lived in such clarity. So enjoy your next training run, or the race you took part in. It doesn’t matter whether you were running a five minute mile, or able take the swimmer at the first buoy, but rather that for the time you were out, you were truly free.
Occasionally you find a product that just works, and is readily available – in this case, from Tescos. The Mule energy bar tastes surprisingly good, and supplies 29g of carbohydrate, per 40g bar – its 100% natural ingredients, and Fairtrade where possible. Its also great to see that the makers of Mulebar genuinely seem to believe in their product, and tested it on themselves and their mates, out on adventures. Is it too good to be true? So far, so good, its passed the test on training runs, I will update next week how it works on a 52 mile ultra.
Caffeine is a well known stimulant to get you started in the morning, or see you through those post lunch meetings at work. However, it also has benefits when it comes to exercise. When taken before, and during, exercise the onset of fatigue is delayed and, especially key on longer endurance events, fat is more readily burnt and available for energy. Due to such obvious benefits, it is only relatively recently (2004) that restrictions regarding caffeine usage were removed from the Olympic games. So enjoy that double expresso, and there will be no excuses as you head out to train, or race.
Firstly I must point out that I have no medical training, and that asthma is an extremely serious condition with an average of 3 people dying a day. I can only talk as someone who has had asthma since childhood, and now regularly runs. I have worked with Asthma UK in the past and they provide some extremely useful information on their website. I would suggest discussing your condition with your doctor before changing your lifestyle drastically i.e moving from a sedentary life to something more active.
Having said that, I found my own way of handling asthma, and with no guidance available moved towards a life where I can now complete triathlons and marathons. I’ve had asthma all my life and from a young age found myself wheezing either as a result of coming into contact with allergens, exercise or even cold air temperatures. Previously when I had tried running I always assumed I was just too unfit to move beyond 20 minutes of troubled breathing. 10 years ago I began using my inhalor before each run, and that was really the beginning of the change. By building my running up gradually, and including cycling and swimming and the lessening usage of my inhalor I became more able to push myself. I don’t need my inhalor as much now, having completed a number of endurace events (biking, swiming and running), and an ultra marathon just round the corner, but I always keep it close by, and use it when I feel I need it. There are still ‘dangers’ I watch out for, such as high pollen count, situations where objects I am allergic to are nearby (for example animals) and extremely cold temperatures, but I have so far been able to manage them through use of antihistamines (in certain situations), using my inhalor before setting off, and perhaps most importantly warming up. I am convinced that for an asthmatic warming the lungs up before increasing intensity is key. A reasonable jog before a fast race, is a worthwhile investment.
As a final note remember that there are a number of high profile athletes (Paula Radcliffe and Mark Spitz are just two) with asthma, so we can be confident that in many situations it can be managed, and even reduce the impact of the condition on the suffers lives.