Not like putting a man on the moon……………..

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I have never run for 24 hours before and the thought of doing so excites me. It also means that I will be journeying into the unknown. Not in the same way that Neil Armstrong did when he travelled to the moon and went for a lil wander. That had never been done by anyone before. I will not get drawn into all the ins and outs of whether the whole thing was a conspiracy or not – that is a debate for an entirely different kind of blog all together. However, taking it all at face value – then it’s an incredible step into the unknownNor will my journey be on the scale of Columbus’ sail across the Atlantic Ocean and the  discovery of America (or was it actually a Norse called Leif Ericson – another argument for another entirely alternative blog). No, my venture into the unknown has in fact been achieved by many many people before. But not by me…………..not yet at least. Running for 24 hours could well be considered as being beyond the norms of conventional running. That fact makes me curios to see how I fare.

I have lost vital training time due to my recent but much overdue surgery. Now I am  not complaining about that. I needed to have the op, and now that I am fully recovered I am glad that I had it. But it did rob me of a few crucial months of training. I can’t make up for those lost sessions now and it would be fool hardy of me to attempt to do so. If I tried to leap frog and “catch up” with where I would of been –  then I would only end up over training and suffering with the associated overuse injuries, niggles, and ultimately……………… burning out. The only end result in that equation is one where I don’t even make it to the start line.

But there is an inner conflict that ensues. One between my internal push the panic button self and my more mature rational it will all work out in the end – somehow, someway – just be sensible self. Panic Button says “Ooh that’s a nice 100k that you can do. It’s a week after that 100 miler that you fancy. Do both. Do both. Do both. Hold up, I found this too – a 12 hour event on the same week. Do em all. Do em all. Do em all. You have some catching up to do if ya wanna get this done and not fall flat on ya face Neil”. Sensible then chips in with “No. Don’t be so bloody daft. You know better than that Neil. You have a plan – of sorts – stick to it.”……………….. Sensible is right of course.

My plan (of sorts) then. What does that entail. Well first and foremost it accepts that I have lost miles and there is absolutely nothing I can do about that. Nothing. I will still get “miles in my legs”. I have time. It won’t be as much as if I hadn’t had the op – but it will be what it will be.

Next is a bit of mental training.  This element has two parts to it which is underpinned by the fact, that in my event at least,  “miles” mean nothing. Most events are measured in distance, be that 5k, a half marathon, 50k, 100 miles,etc, etc. They all have a very specific distance orientated finish line. And most runners will at least have a rough idea of how long it will take them to complete that distance. Thus most  training plans use mileage as the primary measurement as well as a tool for preparing with.  I am preparing myself for 24 hours of sustained effort – not any pre set mileage that determines where the finish line is. So in order to train my head to think “time” not “miles” I am not recording how many miles I have ran. I am not even using my Garmin. The temptation to have a sneaky peek at how far I have done would invariably win – and I would look. No, I am leaving the Garmin at home and just running with a normal stopwatch. This has allowed me to change my thought process from “miles in legs” to “time on feet”.

The second part of my mental training is tied up with the first part. The Holy Grail in terms of 24 hour events is to achieve 100 miles and many ultra runners set this as their goal.  I thought long and hard before I even wrote that last sentence because the other half of my mental training is “Miles don’t matter”.  I am not setting myself a mileage to aim for which, should I not achieve, will leave me feeling like I failed. And even more importantly I also don’t want to give myself an early opt out option. I know when running an ultra that it can hurt, can be horrendous, painful, and tiring. Odd that. I also know that the pain and discomfort passes and is replaced with feeling good again. It is very much like a roller coaster – with highs of purple patch running and lows of “I can’t go on”. Now should I set myself a mileage that I would be happy to achieve then I could find myself at Silly O Clock in the morning, after 18 (or whatever) hours of running, feeling low, tired, sore, grumpy, sorry for myself, and in a slump of “I can’t go on”, when I hear myself saying in a narky, whinny, nasal voice ” I said before I started that I wanted to run at least XX miles. I’ve done that now. I can’t go on. I’m stopping. It’s over “.  So I have only 1 objective, there is only 1 target…………24 hours.

Finally (sighs of relief from those that have read this far) I am attempting to compensate for some of my lost miles (time on feet) by incorporating hills in as many training runs as possible. Each individual lap of Chapter 2 has a climb. The entire route is undulating but there are 2 particularly more predominant hills, one is a steady long climb, and the other is a short, very sharp incline. Over the course of 24 hours the cumulative effect of the elevation of each lap  will add up – in both the tiring effect it has on me and in the total overall ascend. Hills have therefore now become my friend.

So I am not going to the moon. I am stepping into my own unknown. And that is how I plan to get there. 🙂

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