Monthly Archives: March 2013

Really stretching myself now

Stretching into the distance?

Stretching into the distance?

I’m finally stretching myself to write this post, ark ark. But the poverty of the pun suggests my intellect is completely un-stretched. I’ll see if I can do better as we go along, but please don’t hold up your hopes too much.

So, here’s a whole another routine that’s part of running but not running. Seriously, where is one supposed to find the time for all these things – the running itself, the core work, the strength work, the cross training work, even resting is hard work. I feel I shouldn’t be resting, so I guess that’s exercising the mental muscle to keep me not active.  And this doesn’t include all my glute exercises that I’m quite plainly not managing to do three times daily. I’m already sleeping an hour and a half less a day (probably not so good), and spending much less time in front of t’telly (probably quite good), and there still doesn’t seem to be enough time to train and do the day job.

I received my first set of stretches with my first set of glute exercises from my physio. So focused was I on the exercises that I completely omitted to do any stretches. Which is not to say I wasn’t doing any stretches at all after my long runs; I was: calves, hams, quads. That was probably it though. The few classics, I guess. I did quite often forget to do them after my shorter runs, and not really at all after cross training.

Hmm. I’m not creating a conscientious, committed runner image here, am I?

My physio said there are lots of good stretches from yoga, so she gave some of those to do. This makes good sense to me. I used to do a lot of yoga, but probably not for a year now. Need to reintroduce it after the marathon.  My shoulders and posture, and indeed my general state of calm, were always much improved for a yoga session.

Anyway I now have hip extensions from downward dog. I have pigeons and bows and spinal twists. I do forward bend anyway. An adductor stretch seems to come from yoga too. I do know the warrior poses are good, but I haven’t been doing them. They’re good for balance and stability too. Plus I have hip flexor stretches and one for the lower back. Ones that I don’t know the names of what they’re stretching but my physio says to do them. And we know that what my physio says to do, I do.

I understand the importance of stretching the legs. But I’ve so taken on board the need to do hip stretches (and hip strength stuff too). It’s become all about the hips and pelvis for me. I’ve already got core into my head (shame I haven’t got it into my core yet).  It makes sense that you think the legs are doing all the work. And obviously they are. But I’m sure they wouldn’t be doing so much without the hips.  I’m not even sure that the legs need to be that strong – when I think about my swimming and how useless my legs are in the water, they can’t be that strong. Or am I missing something, do you think?

I’ve also recently re-twigged to the importance of the calf stretches. Need bouncy calves. I was remembering Xmas day and my first ascents of St Catherine’s Hill which resulted in brick-like calves and hobbling for a couple of days.

You may think (I may have thought) stretching is just a few exercises after the running, but all this takes time. Hold for 20. Repeat. Stretch a bit further. Etc.

Actually, you can multi-task a bit with some of the stretches. The dog has now got a handle on my exercising on the floor (see core strength post). She watches the core stuff from the side (too much movement for her to get involved). Then she moves in for cuddling when I’m stationary, and doing my stretches. She plonks herself near a hand, perfectly distanced for me to bend at the elbow to stroke her without interrupting the stretch. Also, I did in fact draft this post whilst doing a stretch routine. I so love my smart phone. And obviously if I’m stretching at an appropriate time of day, then a glass of decent wine is definitely in order.

I’ve even invested in a foam roller. Now, this makes me feel pretty running-nerdy. But … Ow. Ow. Ow. Especially my quads. Actually that’s all I’ve used it for so far. Mine seem to get very tight. The pain has put me off trying it anywhere else. But my physio says it’s good for calves. Sigh. So I need to add that in too.

It just never ends.

And that’s only the stretching.

Foot fanatic

I’ve never before spent so much time, attention, care, dedication and feigned affection on my feet.

I’ve always rather taken them for granted, considered them functional at best, rather lacking in attractive qualities, bony, and a little callused in places, if truth be told. Well, I suppose they are as old as I am.

Since I started on this marathon training thingy, so four months now, (seems longer somehow, is that just the toll it’s exacting, I wonder), my feet, I suspect, have become possibly the most attentively abraded and scrubbed (in a positive way), repaired, plastered, scraped, filed, buffed, polished, manicured, moisturised, pampered and generally massaged, part of my body.

I guess I reckon the old feet are the only thing keeping me upright, and moving etc. The knees and hips may take some pounding too, and the lungs take a hit, but the feet must get it worst, per square inch. I went straight in for the top of the range running shoes. Even the most minimal risk assessment suggested getting the best gear possible. I can’t afford NOT to do the best by my poor, cranky feet.

The sock thing I’ve already done to death. I’m still trying new socks.  And I think the Hilly cushioned, one layer is still on top. Must remember to wear them on my next long run and focus on foot comfort/absence of foot discomfort during the run.

Outside of running I’m only wearing comfortable shoes.  Oh, I only ever wear comfy shoes, that’s not new.

I’ve ummed and aahhed about visiting a chiropodist. I’ve done the not-so prophylactic physio visit. What about a foot maestro? Actually, I’m already working with two separate toe issues. It looks like I’m in the process of losing one toenail (actually a tennis injury), and other issue is a bit more intractable, but I still have an iota of optimism remaining for a solution. Enough detail for here, I think. A modicum of discretion is not always a bad thing.

And frankly, that’s enough. It’s the most attention my feet have received my entire life. Have I learned to love them? Well, maybe appreciate them a little more, anyway. Respect them, even. Possibly. Maybe.

Mind over matter

Yup, walked up there (Pyrenees)

Yup, walked up there (Pyrenees)

Apart from being ill (!), I have been pretty impressed with what my body will do, and how my mind can motivate it.  I can run while blisters bloom and burst. I can run with a mildish headache.  I can run with discomfort in my joints and muscles. I can even run through stitch now, a landmark for me that suggested I’d moved from conscious amateur to unconscious amateur. I do of course continue to use the word ‘run’ under advisement. And I have amended my fuelling regime which has almost eliminated stitch, though I did have a small one the other day.

I had a big training day the other week (actually a month ago now), my biggest training day so far. And actually it may still hold that record by the time I run the marathon. I did a 20 mile run followed, after a couple of hours’ break and re-fuelling, by a 15 mile bike ride. This was the beginning of triathlon training with my mates.

Tough, it has to be said. I think I did a bit much.

The run wasn’t actually too bad, not hugely fast, but it never is despite me trying to improve my time. Normally after a 20 mile run I’d soak in the bath and not do much else for the rest of the day. A few chores; admin-y things etc etc. Nothing involving much movement. But I kept telling myself I had the cycle to do, like I needed to keep something in reserve for it. And it is a case of, if you don’t stretch yourself, you don’t know what you can achieve. So really my objective for the day was just to know how far I could get round on the bike.

As it happened I made the whole 15 miles – fantastic mind over matter stuff. But revenge of the matter may have had the last word that day.  My thighs survived. My lungs survived. These were the bits I thought might struggle. But as it happened my body definitely had the last word. Very sore indeed. Painful adductor on the left side, or that was my guess, as I begin to learn the names of muscle groups and other body bits on this journey. Anatomy – there’s something else I didn’t imagine I’d need to know.  There was slow limping and hobbling around for the rest of the day. But I guessed nothing strained. I even managed to go for a very slow ‘recovery’ jog the next morning. What a euphemism that is, eh?

Fortunately I was seeing my physio a couple of days after this. I was quickly reassured that I wasn’t proper-injured. However I hadn’t been doing all my exercises correctly, so I’ve been repositioned and re-briefed on most. And progressed on just one exercise.  She offered just enough praise to prevent me from falling into exercise despair, though I was left with the impression that I could have done better!

She also said I had guessed correctly, my adductor was tight. But so was my hamstring. Both on my left leg. Which I guess is not surprising as this is clearly my weak link.  Which I’m working on. I think I’m doing the exercises properly now.

It does all make be begin to wonder whether I must be rather blessed with my training.  I’m still in the probably very lucky position of being able to say “I’m NOT injured”. I do so hope that isn’t tempting fate. Maybe it was tempting fate. Now I know why injury and illness are always uttered in the same breath.

My summary of that big training day:
Mind over matter – 1 – I completed.
Matter over mind – 1 – I was jolly sore.
First conclusion – discomfort is a normal part of marathon training. But anything more than usual, get it checked out by a professional.

Second conclusion – mind muscle is a flipping marvel.

Salt in the wound

As if to rub salt into the wound, the post has arrived and in it, my running number: 41527.

Now, my new mate Z said I can be followed in real time, on the day, via my runner number. Not sure how, maybe on the so-called interactive course on the marathon website.

This is a good number.

Floored by an ignoble infection

Well there’s exactly a month to go, so I am compelled to post. I feel I should be at the peak of my condition, thinking about beginning the ‘taper’ (doing less exercise as far as I can gather) before the big event.

I’m miserable.

And inactive.

And playing unwilling and unwitting host to some sort of nameless, random, occupying virus.

I was resoundingly chastised yesterday by one of the doctors at my GP’s. I think it was more the tone of her voice that got through my dense skull rather than her words. She said she’d seen too many incidences of people who’d ended up in hospital after training hard while they have a virus. Apparently the training drives the virus deeper into the chest (not my words) and can cause serious issues. Hospital. Bloods. Oxygen. Complications. Death.

In the doctor’s defence I did ask her to detail how serious, because I know how obdurate I can be on occasion (and I’m not always the best at listening to advice). Do you know that spells BOCHD (sounds like ‘botched’).  Hmmm. That’s a bit like how I feel just now. Ooh I’ve just looked up botch. Inept. Ooh, that definitely just about sums me up right now.  Thrice ooh, do you suppose I’m channelling my inactivity into a self-criticism phase, I can’t quite tell.

Anyway, yesterday was day nine into a head-y, cough-y type lurgy.  I’d seen the nurse practitioner after 48 hours. She listened to my chest and said it was clear so of course I did my long run 36 hours after that. It did wipe me out a bit. I did very little for the rest of the day. But that’s exactly my normal pattern after a long run. I take it easy. Didn’t think much of it.

But I’ve done no running since. I’d done a bit of non-aerobic gym work and core work, and the like, but no running. By day nine I was still a bit cough-y etc, so thought I’d check in with a medico.  Wasn’t expecting to get quite such a b*llo*king.

Now, of course I trust the good doctor knows her stuff. But there’s still this thing on my shoulder saying don’t be such a wimp. Get out there. Run through it. There’s only a month to go, I can’t let up on my training regime (which of course I’ve already let up on). Etc. Etc.

For the record, I’ve stopped all exercise (for the moment).

With only a month to go. Bug**r.

Utter, utter, bug**r.

Training / routines

Day job training (tough one)

Day job training (tough one); never routine

NOW I’m beginning to understand why all those proper sporty folk on the telly talk about their routine as being an important part of their overall training programme.

It’s amazing to me how one almost falls unwittingly into a routine. OK, there’s all the ‘fuelling’ stuff before the long run that I know I have to force myself to do. Nonetheless I’m playing around with my ‘breakfast’ routine.  My normal breakfast – home made granola because I don’t eat wheat – just more of it, with extra milk because that’s got to be good for bone strength, hasn’t it? But not so much that I might need the loo half way round. Though so far that has only once been an issue, way back in the early days.

And way back in the early days (four to five months ago!) when I hadn’t eaten for more three hours before running, I used to get stitch. Fuelling seems to have largely sorted out that one too. Eating within and hour and a half to two hours of running really works, I rarely get stitch now. Maybe those training schedules know what they’re talking about after all!

Anyway back to routine.

1. Prepping the route, printing the map, trying to memorise it because I don’t want to lose internal focus having to look at it, and don’t want to be carrying my reading specs anyway.

2. Fuelling regime. Hate it. Hate it. Has to be done.

3. Setting up the hydration rucksack, and my bumbag.  After my very first use of rucksack I knew I’d need a bumbag too. There was no way I was ever going to stop to take off my rucksack, find jelly babies or map, then reload the rucksack and start running again. Gotta have access on the run.

4. Drinking probably three quarters to a litre of water in the 90 minutes before setting off. No idea if that’s a good or bad idea, it’s just what I’ve fallen into.

5. Phone, in bum bag, obviously. In poo bags (previously unused, obviously) in case it rains later, or is raining now.

6. Hat. I’ve been loving wearing my blue beanie hat. Made me feel quite the part. Actually I relinquished the hat the other day. It was a surprising wrench. I’d really got used to running in it over the winter. I even felt a little underdressed without it. Though temperature control was a bit more manageable. If the temperature ever warms I’m sure I won’t miss it.

7. Check the time of departure. For some reason (creeping superstition?) I don’t like to look at my watch when I’m running. Just the start and finish time. I don’t want to know how long I’ve been out and how long it’s taking me while I’m running.  I did the other day when I was really struggling (see ‘Shock … and in shock’) and it’s not good to look. It’s gonna be ‘I’ve been running THAT long and I’ve still got all these miles to go’, or ‘I’ve ONLY been running for that long…’, or ‘Blimey I’m going SO slowly’ etc etc.

8.  Smile, breathe deeply to my core to centre myself. Run.

I can so see how easy it might be to become superstitious, and maybe needing to perform routines and rituals before running.  Don’t let me get there (although I have just thought I could add two more pre-run routine things to make it a nice, round ten). I want to be nonchalant, relaxed, unperturbed. But just focused enough to make sure I’ve got the relevant gear. Put on the right pair of shoes, got some water, that sort of fundamental stuff.

What I have decided is that with only a few more long runs to go before the big day it’s probably about time to train at the same time as the race. I’ve decided the dog has to make some temporary sacrifices.  She’ll have to get used to a perfunctory hour at Farley Mount rather than the 2 hours in the New Forest she normally enjoys. And I’m going to start my remaining long runs at 0930/1000. I’m assuming it may take 30 mins plus to get to the start line.

I’m warming up/breaking in my race day shoes. I have what I’m anticipating is my kit. So I’m wearing that in too. I have all my colours (more creeping superstition?)

Funny thing though.  I still struggle to describe myself as a runner, (‘though I hope you’ve noted my consistent use of ‘run’ recently), let alone as a marathon runner – but how cool is that going be? Probably dangerously, and foolhardily, I’m beginning to allow myself to imagine finishing next month. If I call it visualisation will that make proper, allowable sports-speak, rather than just dreaming? I reckon finishing will raise the inner smile, and pride-puffed chest that I experienced when I passed my MW.  Maybe even the tiniest nano-nod of approbation from myself (I’m not known for patting myself on the back).

On the other hand, I have no problem describing what I do as ‘training’. I’ll happily call my all my exercise training. “I’m in training”. No problem. All my glute work, my core work, my stretches, swimming, cycling. Oh yes, and the running, too. It’s all training. No problem. Weird. But it is good having an end goal in mind. Though I am already beginning to look forward to reallocating those hours back to sleep-potential and vegging a bit more in front of the telly again.

I was going through hideous Heathrow the other day. As I was down to virtually my undies, the security person raised their eyebrows over the x-ray conveyor in a “what have you got on your feet question”.  I straight-leg, whizzed up my foot to rest on the edge of the conveyor. ‘Impressive flexibility’, they said.  It hadn’t occurred to me that might be considered a tricky manoeuvre.  ‘I’m in training’ I said. I didn’t say what for. But, actually, I probably couldn’t have done that six months ago. Training must be doing something good.

Milestone

I’ve finally done the marathon distance in training. I know, I know, the training schedules don’t have more than a 20-mile run during training. I can’t follow those things, they all just look too messy, too rigid, too missing the point of having a personal and work life to fit in to 24 hours as well.

If I only ever did a maximum of 20 miles in training, how would I know I could run 26.2 on the day? It’s my inner demons I have to fight. I’m not so stupid to know that a marathon is as much the mental muscle as the physical fortitude.

I have taken on board the bits that make sense (to me), as with everything I’ve been reading.  But I’ve always known that I was going to need to run the distance in training before the real thing.

I’ve done it. I ‘ran’ 26.4 miles (have to do that tiny bit extra too, proving to myself I can do more than is required). I didn’t stop for a breather. I didn’t walk any of it. It felt like I was crawling quite a lot of it, and it felt like I was proper ‘running’ only for 1.25 miles of it (level and slightly downhill, into Headbourne Worthy on Down Farm Lane, for any local readers). But now I know.

I CAN do it. I CAN go the distance. I have proof. (New mantra, I’m thinking, maybe the one I really need). This is SUCH a weight off my tiny brain. My head feels lighter, airier. I have a little half-smile of achievement, of knowledge that despite discomfort, bleeding blister (sorry for the detail, I need to write it so I can re-read this on April 20th), nagging near-pain, monotony (I’m not entirely convinced I can describe it as boredom in its purest sense rather than mere ennui), but monotony, oh yes, and sloth-like pace for much of it – but I didn’t stop. And hilly, which London won’t be, apparently. I must, surely, have the advantage, (over myself)?

There is something about the monotony though. I was thinking about it, sporadically, on the run. I need to create a dead zone in my head – a mindless space where I can go while grinding through those long middle miles. I did have ‘empty head’ syndrome for the first couple of long runs I did. That was clearly beginners’ luck. I don’t know where it came from or how to re-create it but I haven’t had it since. I’m told it’s impossible for the human mind to think of nothing. Damn, I need to find a way around that. Anyone got any ideas, please?

Two people in two days (only one of them knowing I’ve covered the requisite distance) have called me marathon runner. That’s also brought a fleeting smile of pride to my face, but it’s only pretend. It won’t be real, it can’t be real, until I do the proper race on April 21st.  Until I complete. There’s a word I’m using a lot recently. Gotta complete (another mantra – I will line them all up in a single post at some point. Always a good learning to recap).

Now my next big question is how to deal with the crowds. More help required please. ALL my running so far has been in solitary, solitudinous, lone isolation. I can’t say actively lonely (and so can make no tangential reference to the film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner), though the conversation is severely restricted, and almost entirely imaginary. But it’s only been the physical me, the mental me and the environment. Pretty limited. How am I going to deal with 35, 000 other runners? I can’t even conceptualise that number. Tips?

Update to sock fetishism? Obviously I bought another pair of running shoes. Under physio advice. I knew I was going to have to; I was merely postponing the inevitable.

Only five more long runs to go …

Cross training

Better than swimming

Better than swimming

This is absolutely nothing to do with going running when you’re really angry (though it makes me smile inwardly at the acuity – ahem – of my wordplay wit).

Cross training is basically any sporty activity that’s not your main activity, so you use muscles differently. Given that I’m doing a triathlon three weeks after the marathon, cross training for me means swimming or cycling. Both these alternatives are good for runners (is that me?) because they are no-impact sports, no jarring as pavements are pounded.

Swimming is the nemesis.

Years of swimming lessons in my single figures didn’t assuage me of the conviction that I may drown, or probably more likely, the conviction of not being able to breathe, and sinking … thus drowning.  I remember when I was 10 or 11 a classmate taking me under their wing to teach me to swim.  I didn’t drown; I may have managed a length or two of a short outdoor pool. But I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’d been swimming since then  … until last October.

I may have mentioned I rather naively agreed to join my friend J in a sprint triathlon (400m swim, 24km cycle, 4km run). In fact the triathlon came before the marathon, although it happens three weeks afterwards. At that time I didn’t own a bicycle, and couldn’t swim. Well the last time I’d been in the water was in 2007, in Sicily. And I couldn’t actually say that was swimming, more trying to float in the sea, wondering if water angels exist (the equivalent of snow angels) and trying to make some. Can you see them if they’ve floated away? As in, how do know the fridge light actually goes off when you shut the door?

Anyway, back to swimming. I have no problem putting my head in the water. I can breathe out under water. I just panic that I can’t breathe, panic that I’ll drown, panic that I’ll swallow lots of water and drown that way rather than just sinking, panic that I’ll sink and won’t be able to get back to the surface. So not really a great starting point.

The thing about running, and cycling (though I’ve yet to do much of the latter in the miserable, dark winter from which we’re only just emerging), is that I control when I breathe. I’m right next to the atmosphere so any time I need an extra deep breath in, or out, it’s all hunky dory.  Water’s just that little bit different. And I don’t have huge lung capacity, said the worker blaming her tools … actually, I do know that’s not the issue.

Anyway, I’ve had a few lessons from the marvellous M, who’s also drawn up a programme. I think he had to work hard to stop himself laughing about the uselessness of my legs. They just weren’t doing anything he said. I’ve subsequently blamed my glum glutes, see earlier post, (said the worker blaming her tools again). So I have lots of lengths of kicking legwork, no arms, with and without floats. Of course the more I exert, the more I need air and deeper air. But there’s just not enough time when you’re in the water. There’s like a nano-second where you’re supposed to engorge your lungs ‘til the next time. I do lots of gulping, it’s a bit of a leap of faith that I gulp air not water.  I’ve read I’m supposed to create a Popeye mouth and breathe in the bow wave my superlative speed (?) creates (which of course it doesn’t). But linking the brain to the body whilst trying to override the heart  – both the emotional one and the heftily pumping, oxygen-demanding one – is a stroke or two too far (and obviously hopefully no stroke at all).

Well, five months since I started (three times a week, on days when I don’t run), I am panicking less, so progress, limited though it is, has been measured. It’s still a HUGE exertion, which of course means my oxygen demand is high; and there still isn’t enough time to get enough air at the times that I need it rather than when the stroke permits me to breathe.

And I haven’t sunk either, even on my back just kicking, with arms on chest and no float. That was quite revelatory.

Has anyone else noticed that some days of the month are floatier than others? No days are really sinky (which is a huge relief all round), but some days are definitely floatier.

UPDATE to Sock Fetishism?  Tried another new pair of socks the other day. Balega. Cushioned. Not ergonomic. No Coolmax, but with an “air-conditioning fabric system”. They don’t work. Sweaty, slippery, soggy feet by mile 12. Blister in new location. Running socks they are not – at least not in conjunction with top of the range asics running shoes and my feet. Sorry guys, serious vote of no confidence.

Shock and … in shock

I’d like to insert an image

of Edvard Munch’s The Scream,

but I suspect it is copyrighted.

I think you can imagine it.

OMG, only six more long runs to go before race day. I so don’t feel anywhere near prepared. In fact, a bit concerned I’ve picked up a bit of a niggle. In technical language this is, my physio says, hamstring and adductor.  I have (more) stretches to do. In addition to the ones she gave me last time and that I’d omitted to include in the glute exercise regime I was given. Will that come back to haunt me? I do hope not. Told you there’d be a stretching post (and this isn’t it).

It doesn’t really help that my run over the weekend was as tough as anything. Or maybe I’ve just been really lucky up ‘til now. I looked at my watch – during a run – for the first time. I haven’t done that before. Normally I run then see how long it’s taken. I was so struggling. And in pain. More than discomfort anyway, which I kind of gather gets to be a long-run companion after a while.

I’ve been planning my long run routes around Winky, sort of creating the spokes of a wheel, so that I’m always close-ish to home in case anything unplanned happens. At the weekend, I came into Winky on one of the spokes with virtually nothing left in the tank; and hurting. I thought I’d done about 13 miles, of the 23 I’d got planned. I decided I was going home. My watch said 2hrs 25mins. It was enough. And, do you know, it must have been because I haven’t beaten myself up in the slightest for not finishing my targeted 23-miler. Flipping exhausted. Fell asleep in the bath. Fell asleep out of the bath. Haven’t done either of those for a bit. Managed to fuel up (eat) within 2 hrs 20 mins. Close enough frankly. I’m doing my best.

Anyway. OMG. That is all.

Apart from I always think of OMD when I say/write OMG. (70s/80s pop reference if you’re unsure).

Fuelling

Honey and peanut butter booster bars

Honey and peanut butter booster bars

My image is of jets being re-fuelled mid flight. Not anything to do with speed, it just doesn’t seem natural (whereas flying of course, no problem).

I’m so still struggling with my long run fuelling strategy. I can’t bring myself to call it nutrition, because that sounds kind of healthy and positive, and I don’t feel there’s anything vaguely nice about long run nutrition requirements. My challenge is that it all makes very good and sensible sense, which is my main criterion for adoption of anything I’m reading/hearing/being told (whether I want to hear it or not) during my marathon journey.

Before I go on to the gore, there is a glimmer of good news in the fuelling strategy. On training runs I don’t have to use gels, or cannibalise jelly babies. Under the “my physio said” banner sits one of the rationales of the long run:  to train the body to metabolise fat rather than carbohydrates.  Ergo, if one consumes gels/jelly babies when training, one is not training the body to switch metabolism routes. This was the best news I heard all that day: gels are banned.  Though on race day, munch away to gain as much advantage as possible. And of course, practise a bit in training to avoid the vomit reflex on race day. No polite way of saying that really.

And talking of gag reflex, this is my major point of struggle with long run fuelling.  I’ve taken on board the need to eat two hours before a long run. If it’s longer than this previous recent knowledge suggests I’ll get cramp. I have done shorter than this – 90 minutes is OK. But it’s the regimented, force-feeding aspect I find a real problem.  I didn’t sign up (obviously I did, I just didn’t know it) to force-feeding myself to do running.

I needed to start a long run at 7am the other day, so I had to get up at 5am to eat stuff (I don’t mind the alarm at 5am, in comparison to what follows this is entirely acceptable). I can’t eat anything at that hour, so I have fight to the gag reflex while I’m forcing down food that I really don’t want, doesn’t taste nice (what does at that hour), but that I know I need to eat.  Intellect over nausea (nous over nausea for some alliteration?) – never thought I’d need to use mind over matter to overcome that gag reflex. Anyway, job done. Eventually. This is how I know 90 minutes, even less is OK. It can take that long to eat stuff, even so-called, normally tasty stuff. Is this what those ducks and geese feel like? But I love foie gras, it’s one of the few non-PC things in my otherwise quite PC lifestyle. It’d be quite funny (not ha, ha though) if running turns me against foie gras. Will I be vilified for publically owning my appreciation of foie gras? At least I own it as a shortcoming.

The saving grace of all this … I guess … is that at least I’ve found a food I will force myself to eat. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s energy bars (River Cottage Everyday). They seem to pack a lot of energy into a small physical volume of food (importatn) – lots of honey, oats, butter, peanut butter, dried fruits, seeds, sugar – so a combo of quicker release and slower release energy.

I’ve already decided Hugh’s energy bars are going to be what I eat on the morning of the big day. I might even have learnt by then how to make a batch that isn’t burnt. In my oven, they need notably less time than suggested in the recipe. Washed down with cup of nice tea, they are tolerable. Under other circumstances I’d definitely like the flavour. They’re great longer-distance walking ballast, too, if anyone is interested.

Now we come on to the post long run nutrition. “My physio says” I need to eat a snack within 20 minutes of finishing a long run, and then a proper meal within two hours. At least if I run with my wolf I can pretend I’m snacking when I’m actually feeding the dog-bag (if I’m supposed to refuel, clearly she has to too). But it’s purgatory having to eat so soon. I’m exhausted. All I want to do is collapse in the bath (and not fall asleep). And not move. I’m nauseous and I have no energy to eat. BUT … I know have to eat to aid and accelerate recovery. It all makes sense. Ergo I have to do it. Mind over matter (I’m feeling a consolidated mind over matter post coming on). I can drink no problem. Just to clarify, fruit juice and water, not the old vino, as most of my mates might surmise.

I have found I can cope with a few nuts as a post-run snack. And I’ve just bought some apricots for the same purpose, which I’m sure will be fine.

I never thought I’d spend so much time thinking about food. What I should eat, what I should no longer eat. How much? When? What to eat on long run days, what to do after the long runs, how soon after and then what? Do I do my stretches first or eat first, or drink first?

It’s all been doing my head in a little bit (can you tell?), but probably only because I realise it is quite an important topic and one to which I need, and clearly want, to pay heed.

Big running really isn’t just about running is it? Ooh, there’s still such a big learning to be done. Core strength last time. Fuelling this time.  Ahhh, stretching may be to come in the near future. None of these are actually running.

If I knew then what I know now, would I have started on this journey? Well, it’s amazing what one can absorb and deal with on a drip, drip basis, even if the drips are quite fast, plump and frequent. My point of comparison is the MW. I’m sure that knowing everything that one has to go through at the beginning of that would deter quite a few people. Yet we climb aboard. I guess that’s the power of envisioning, or dreaming, or aspiring, or whatever you want to call it. You see the finish line and know there’ll likely be some hurdles, but you can only cross them when you get to them, even though you don’t know what they look like yet. Start with the end in mind, as Steven Covey says in his book “The seven habits of highly effective people”.  Oooh, a proper cultural reference!