I feel slightly sick. I spent a chunk of today learning about nutrition strategies. TORQ Fitness, purveyors of fine nutrition products to the running and cycling classes invitied me along to an assessment day for their new trail running team. I spent a fascinating few hours learning about nutrition for exercise, psychological strategies for success and a little bit of injury prevention. I put all that to good use this evening by not stretching after my run this afternoon, driving home, getting cramp in my calves, eating pizza and half a family-sized tub of very nice Green & Black’s vanilla ice cream. With maple syrup. I’m pretty much every kind of awesome.
I’ve been thinking a lot about nutrition for performance of late. Julie Pashley at GCAN put together a couple of coach workshops on nutrition for beginner athletes and elite athletes respectively. They were excellent. There was lots of science I didn’t understand at the time. I’ve had to go away and do more reading on physiology and energy use in the body. I love that, I really do. I like it when one thing that you read leads you to another and another and then you find yourself reading and learning about things that you never expected. I haven’t done that since since I was at university and lost weeks because I tried to read Fleurs du Mal instead of getting on with Chekhov and the collections of really, really dull 19th Century Russian verse I was supposed to be reading. My French wasn’t up to Baudelaire but that didn’t stop me. I was enjoying the intellectual journey too much.
The nutrition session today was what originally attracted me to take part and it was excellent but the highlight for me was Stuart Mills’ talk on the psychology of success. Stuart is an ultrarunner, a Kiwi who has represented Great Britain in the ultradistance world championships. He is also an academic as in sports science and has a blog which I’m looking forward to reading immensely, If I remember what he said accurately – and I wasn’t taking notes so I may get things very wrong in places – his attitude to race preparation is to concentrate as much on mental preparation as on physical training. He might acknowledge negative thoughts and feelings but only to find positive strategies for dealing with them. Pain is a negative. Challenge is a positive. Live in the moment even if the moment is full of pain, or challenge as he would have it. Don’t count down the miles. For example, when you get to Mile 20 in a marathon don’t think “Great! Only 10k to go!” We run because we love it. Why would we want the run to end?
I try to turn that into a positive. I’ve reached 20 miles. How fucking incredible is that? I’ve been running for about three hours and I’m still going. For someone who didn’t run three years ago, that’s tremendous. I do get a huge kick out of movement, rapid movement. Well, rapid for me. There is joy in movement even when continuing that movement is a challenge. To answer the question about wanting the run to end, we have a goal in every race that we do. It’s usually a time goal, and one that’s tied to the end of the race: 26.2 miles and not our time at Mile 20.
Positivity can only carry you so far. You need the physical preparation, the long runs, the tempos and hill session and the run until you puke reps on the track. Confidence is good. I have my “Train hard. Rock up. Run like fuck.” thing going on. I think this is the common ground Stuart and I share. He notes that training hard gives you confidence which leads to an improved perfomance. It’s not the training which improves your performance so much as the confidence that training engenders. It’s an interesting idea. My performance at the Cambridge Half was all down to a couple of really good training sessions in the week before the race which gave me the confidence to rock up and run like fuck. I could have run 1:42 and change but I just sneaked under 1:39 because I was feeling incredible.
There’s a lot to think about and a lot to process. I really want to carry on with this process and having the support of the TORQ Trail Team would be a help. I might spend even more time training on the Roman Road. I’ve entered an 18 mile trail race in the Lake District in August as a way to relax after the stress of the Cambridge Triathlon. I’m contemplating another in October after the Great Barrow Challenge. I could do 25k reasonably easily but today has got me thinking about doing the 50k instead. I’ve said I’m not doing a marathon this year but I didn’t say anything about not doing an ultra.