Updated: Apr 14, 2021
One of the hardest parts of training for a 100-mile race is the fatigue management. Driving 5hrs after work to the mountains to get in a few days of training, 4am starts or running 50kms on a few hours sleep then driving 3.5hrs home. And I don’t even have to worry about kids waking me at night. 4:30 alarms before work to get it done- but then a lunch time session as well just to make sure you’re really stuffed. Throw in a 6:30pm Rotary meeting and your head doesn’t remember hitting the pillow at night.
Life becomes an endless scenario of “how can I fit my run around this” and you find yourself running 20kms to your friend’s place for a BBQ and meeting your husband there - having drinks and lunch and then considering running home. It’s commuting to work with a laptop in your running pack (when COVID19 allows it). It’s calling family whilst on a long run, so you don’t forget their birthday. It’s trying to stay awake for date night when you have already run 100kms for the week. It’s playing cricket on a Sunday afternoon when you have already run over 100kms just that weekend (oh and you’re the wicket keeper!).
It’s hard. Really hard. I was really looking forward to my taper this time.
Taper is the time pre-race that you have to start to slow down. Training has peaks and troughs, and a peak will be a tough week where you work really hard, a trough will be a week where it’s a bit easier on the body and it’s all about recovering ready to hit another peak. Taper will usually be a week, or 2 weeks before race day where there is no more physical work that you can do that makes a difference to the race. You are trained, now you need to make sure that the body, mind and spirit are aligned and ready. It means resting, slow and easy jogs and some cross training. It’s not the time to start a new gym class, it’s not the time to throw in some crazy new terrain. It’s not the time to buy new running gear.
I always look forward to taper in the hard weeks. Recently I did over 30hrs of training in one week, which included over 110km and over 5000m of elevation. I was exhausted and then backed it up with another week of running. All in the game for training for 100miles – I have trained harder than ever for this run to make up for Covid lockdown. The taper line has been looming, and I couldn’t wait for sleep-in’s and easy runs and time on the couch. Working full time, playing cricket, being on my Rotary board and finalising and releasing a book play into the exhaustion and taper was like a magic rainbow on the horizon. Then I threw in a new job and selling a house just to make that rainbow look even more magical!
My 2-week taper finally arrived and the taper tantrums came with it.
My husband terms it this because I am literally like a 2year old. I have so much energy and nothing to do with it. I cannot hit the trails all weekend but have to rest instead. I want to eat everything because my stomach hasn’t caught up to the fact that I am no longer training 30hrs a week. I request all my favourite meals from my husband (he cooks dinner) and then throw a tantrum if he doesn’t make it. I instead try and throw my energy into my book launch, selling a house and my final weeks at work. The body feels amazing; I feel fit and strong. Then I twist my ankle day one of taper and spend days with it elevated, iced, and taped. The stress of this injury has me in tears, cranky and snapping at everyone. In one month, I will launch my book, run 100miles and start a new job and the stress of that starts to compile when I finally stop training so much and take a breath.
I am still not sure if the ankle is psychosomatic but for days it was painful and I couldn’t weight bear properly. I have had to really focus on it to get it feeling good again, but I have everything crossed it’s back to normal now. In the midst of working, and arranging my book launch I realised I hadn’t received an email yet from the race director, which is unusual this close to race day. I checked my email address with him to find out I wasn’t even on the registration list. Thankfully, it was a minor glitch and because I had kept my registration email, we sorted it quickly. Not before I had given myself a minor panic attack though.
Running an ultra-marathon, particularly one as long as 100miles is not just about your fitness. Your body, mind and spirit must all align for an adventure this epic. If there is something on your mind, I can guarantee that 30+hrs of running alone will bring it the surface so you need to be on top of your shit before race day. Spiritually you need to know your why. Why are you going to put yourself through this? And of course, the body must be fit and healthy and well rested for the day.
Everything is off the cards now apart from the run. Although I guess I have to keep working the full-time job, because I also have to earn the cash to pay for this ‘hobby’! Dinners with friends is off the cards, coffee with mates gets pushed aside, the book launch is done and dusted, thinking about the new job is parked away until post-run. This week becomes about visualising a good run – literally seeing the fun and seeing myself get over the hurdles. It’s about organising gear, so I know I have everything and don’t feel rushed. It’s about feeling grateful for the opportunity to run and it’s about eating what my body craves – no more, no less.
The body is ready. The mind will spend the next few days emptying itself of stress and worry so it can be quiet on race day. This will include reading inspiring books, meditating, and playing with the dog. Hubby knows the meal plan; he knows his crewing role and damn I am going to owe him big when this is over!
The spiritual side. My why. That’s the bit I don’t need to work on. The fact that I am running this to support ending family violence will be in my mind the entire run. I will be running for those victims who are no longer with us and for those who we can still help. At my darkest points in the race when everything hurts my why will always be there.