Those are the 2 words that describe me at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT complaining, not one bit. Part of the reason I love training for these challenges are these 2 feelings. Tired is the simple word to explain how I feel, but I think Kristen Armstrong explained it best with these words: “I think I get addicted to the feeling associated with the end of a long run. I love feeling empty, clean, worn out, and sweat-purged. I love that good ache of muscles that have done me proud” And for me, the deep, dreamless sleep that only comes to me after many months of long runs in a row.
Hungry. At the moment I am pretty much eating anything that isn’t actually bolted down. This morning I ate a bowl of cold, plain pasta. I am allowing ruffles into the house, and I am the one eating the entire bag. I have a pretty big appetite when I am not running / hiking / walking / crawling somewhere close to 100km a week, so when I can consume guilt-free I am quite happy with it. And it is a pretty good feeling to re-fuel after a long run.
Sahara Race (Namibia) is just around the corner, 21 days to go. This is about the time in my training when I start to doubt everything from my training over the last 4 + months, to my equipment choices and my nutrition plan. Everything! The last couple of training runs have been very difficult to get through, and as hard as it is, I need to listen to my body and start tapering. As my wise ultra-running buddy Allen Kerton reminded me of yesterday on our run – at this point there is nothing more I can do that will make stronger for the race, other than tapering. Squeezing in last minute long runs may help me mentally, but in the end will probably cause more damage than good, so time to lay off and trust that what I have done so far is going to carry me through 250 kilometres the week starting April 29!
*Photo above - when you find a nice patch of shady grass and your backpack works as a perfect lounge chair for a 10 min break on a long slog....
The next 2 weekends (OMG) I have left will be focused on shorter runs and putting the finishing touches on my equipment.
*Getting Velcro sewed onto my shoes for gaiters
*Put together the final version of my calorie spreadsheet, and divvy them up with a proper daily plan
*Go through the equipment list and make sure I am not missing any of the items (Antibac hand gel, the full blister kit, flashing red light, poncho, ect…)
*Getting patches sewn on or silkscreened on the necessary tops
*Enjoy the taper!!
After spending a blissful 3 weeks running around in the humidity free Washington State with my sister, brother in law and their very cute American fox hound Willy Boy to motivate me, getting back into the hot and humid training in Singapore was like a slap in the face and a punch in the stomach….
But as I always say, if you can survive the humidity in Singapore you will be gold in the desert, dry heat (well, here is hoping anyways). Things are starting to ramp up with the long runs taking up most of my weekends. Try as I might, for some odd reason, I cannot get my husband to join me on my long runs, but he has been joining me on the second run of the weekend, when I am well and truly knackered after hauling my back pack up and down the beach of the East Coast!!!
While the running / walking / crawling / stumbling is taking over my weekends, I am also starting to trial out different nutrition and hydration options. I think this is probably the most fun of the planning, figuring out what I’m going to eat and drink for a week in the desert. Here is my plan and I will be trial’ing over the next few weeks.
I am a firm believer of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. My nutrition plan has worked well for me the last few long races. The main rules I live by are variety is the spice of life, and I am a savory person when I am forcing down the calories, sweet gels don’t do it for me. Here is a sample day of how I allocate my 2000 calories
Breakfast at Camp
1 Instant Starbucks Coffee stick
450 calorie savory Expedition Meal – my favorite for breakfast is Macaroni and Cheese
CP 1 – mix up 1x 260 calorie packet of Hammer Perpeteum in one 750 ml bottle and sip this throughout the day, finishing it before I arrive to Camp
From CP 2 onwards, munch on my allocated snacks for the day which will be some combination of salted nuts (almonds, cashews and / or macadamia), beef jerky, dried mango, or sour worms – apprx 300 calories worth of snacks.
As soon as I arrive at Camp, I mix up my 170 calories Recoverite drink and shoot it back right away, as soon as I step into Camp.
For my first course I will enjoy some sort of soup, usually 32 calorie Miso, followed by an 800 calorie Expedition Meal – another favorite is Spaghetti Carbonara or Thai Green Curry
Very very important in the desert….
Recently my training in Singapore has been followed by a very nauseous stomach which I was not experiencing when I was training in the nice, cool weather of the USA. My normal consumption of Salt Sticks does not seem to be doing the trick. There fore I am now trial’ing “TailWind”, which I have heard many positive things about. This will add to the overall weight of my pack, as it is heavier than Salt Sticks, but if it works, this will become my electrolyte plan. Nuun’s and other fizzy tablets don’t do it for me, and after a few hours just make my tummy hurt. However, I do carry 5 Nuun Cola tablets with caffeine as a ‘treat’, but not part of my plan.
Treats provide great mental motivation to get you through to the next Check Point! Just make sure your treats don’t take up too much space and weigh in your pack. Some of my treats are:
Nuun Cola tabs
Another important part of the planning is making sure your key equipment items are tested our well ahead of you stepping up to the start line. The main items to focus on are your shoes and your back pack. You will need to very close, familiar and comfortable with these items.
I hate figuring out shoes, I have flat feet, weird knees, bad hips, one leg longer than the other, anything and everything that is a physio’s nightmare or dream come true – I can’t decide yet if the physio’s I’ve gone to love or hate me….
I’ve tried Brooks and really wanted them to work for me so I could represent Seattle. But they didn’t. I tried Salmon because they are good for most feet – except mine. I tried Hokas because all the cool kids are wearing Hokas, they did not work for me. I am now going off of a podiatrist tip and back to basics Asics. I am still getting a bit of pain in one of my arches, so they are not perfect, and I had my first blister after my long, sandy run. Sigh…..
I am using the Ultimate Direction Fast Pack 30, and I like it. It’s a long enough frame for me and doesn’t wiggle too much. The bottle holders are a little wonky, but I can work with that. It worked for me in a previous race and I will stick with it for this race.
That's it' for now. Better get back to my training!
Mind your step….
I am the type of person who needs this warning everywhere they go. There is no part of me that is naturally athletically inclined, I lack coordination. I do not gracefully float along trails, or roads, or sidewalks, or really anywhere for that matter, in fact my mother used to call me her elephant because I was so heavy footed (at least I think that is why she called me that…hmmm)
Tripping and falling on the trails is cool though, I wear my bruised and scarred knees with pride, as well as any black toenails – means I’ve done good ! (As long as I haven’t twisted an ankle, because I do that a lot to, unfortunately) However, it is not so cool when at the tender age of 22(!) you try to get on a bike for the first time and your college roommate cannot stop laughing because it takes you about 10 minutes of awkwardness to figure out how to get your leg to the other side. It is also not very cool (and rather embarrassing) when you trip and fall in the middle of the office with all your new colleagues there wondering: “How is she going to go in the desert as a 4 Deserts Event Manager…?”
I think this is why I am drawn to running, specifically long distance running, because there isn’t much involved, one foot in front of the other, repeat, for many many hours. Sometimes I fall, and so far, have gotten back up every single time, even when there were tears involved.
Given my lack of athletic inclination and natural running form, I need to make sure I have a schedule in place that makes me stick to my training and doesn’t allow for too much thinking about what my work outs will be for the week. I find that keeping it simple, with workouts I can do either by starting directly from my front door, my little at home gym, or the outdoor bootcamp which is a 5 minute walk away, is the best way to keep me motivated. This second blog edition will give you a look at what my training has been and will be for the few weeks.
The countdown has officially started, 102 days until the start, 15 weeks of training
The last few weeks have been spent building up my distance and having a major reality check on where I am with my fitness. Running in Singapore is hard work with the humidity, but great training when you can eventually stomach it. Having the support of people around who will go for a training run, and keep me going, even when I feel like poop on stick, is very important. When Allen, 4 Desert Grand Slam alumni 2016, is in town, we used to go for beers, now we go for runs, and the last few we have been on were a shameful display of my lack of fitness and would have been cut short if he didn’t keep me going!! I hope the next time we hit the trails I can redeem myself.
Finally this last weekend, I felt somewhat OK and accomplished just under 30km. No need to stop and spew. I followed that up with a walk / run / trot on Sunday of about 13km. This means I have now entered the ‘targeted’ training before the race.
My Plan – training wise
One of my training buddies and 4 Deserts Almuni, the beautiful Shri, advised so eloquently, the best training plan for you, is the one you can stick to. What I have cobbled together below is ambitious and I will do my best to stick with my plan, keeping in mind, that life happens, and I will need to work around it.
In addition to what I have listed above, I need to make sure I keep my supporting muscles strong to try and avoid any additional pain to my knee. As with most runners, it is important to focus on core, glutes, hamstrings and quads. I have a set of exercises that take me about 30 minutes to complete and try to get these done every other day.
So there you have it, my training goals for the next chunk of time. It will be challenging and has been challenging, but I just remind myself that I have been granted this amazing opportunity to be able to push my body, travel to some of the most STUNNING and REMOTE places in the world, and the excitement that in just a few months I will be back in AFRICA – the most AMAZING continent in the world. Sahara Race (Namibia) 2018 – here I come!!
Above - The beautiful colors of the Namib Desert I will get to experience
Above- What we call team building at 4 Deserts, I look forward to Riitta pouring my water :)
Above - Running buddies at the top of the highest natural point in Singapore (L-R: Azlan, Zeana, Allen, Shri)