I've been looking forward to this. For the last three weeks of training, which I entered a few days ago, I am in 'the taper'. It's a commonly (but not universally) accepted way to prepare yourself for the big run, counter intuitively by doing less. It’s not a sudden stop of training, but a gradual reduction over the three weeks until for the last 4 or 5 days you actually do no running at all. The thinking is that you have time to let your body recover after the many months beforehand, repair any minor injuries and niggles that might have been building up and get properly rested for the big day. There’s also something about eating lots of the right kind of food, but I have to look into that.
So I’ve made it to the taper, but it was the weekend before it that I was worried about. This was planned as my peak training weekend and it’s been looming almost as large as the ultra itself – especially after getting heat stroke on the Coniston marathon the week before.
|Smiling but nervous in Glenridding at the start of Saturday's run|
My main concern wasn’t physical though, but mental. Ever since I started this I’ve been reading and getting advice about how completing an ultra marathon relies as much on your mind as your body, something that I couldn’t really believe at first but that has become increasingly apparent. It’s back to my big spreadsheet, with the whole training programme mapped out. I know that I’d have struggled with the last nine months if it wasn’t for that and as the date has approached it has become more and more important to me that I stick to it.
|The last bit of the course I'd not run, up the valley towards Grisedale Tarn|
If I’d have been so weakened by my few days of illness after the marathon that I was unable to complete this last big weekend of training, it would have been a great psychological blow that would have knocked my confidence right down. And it’s not particularly up anyway …..
|Murky conditions at Grisedale tarn|
So it was with some considerable trepidation that I set off on Saturday morning for my planned 7 hour run, following the final 30 miles of the course. And it was with some considerable pleasure that I found myself meeting Janet in Ambleside at the end of this (admittedly 8 hours later rather than 7, but I did stop for a cup of tea in Watendlath) and still functioning. Even better was heading out on Sunday and running a further 20 miles over 5 hours and actually feeling better when I finished than when I started.
|A very welcome break in Watendlath|
I’ve still got no real idea if I can complete the 68 miles, but getting past this day and starting on the taper at least makes me feel I’ve done all I can and if I fail then it won’t be because I ducked out of things or didn’t take it seriously. That’s very important to me as this is something I’m doing to remember my sister and I’d feel I’d let her down as well if I’d not put the work in. All these questions will be answered in a few week’s time though. Then I can have a proper rest.