Training is hard, but oh so rewarding.
By Sheila Dawe
Isn’t it funny how when one first gets a new training program there is a wistful dream like quality to imagining conquering all those distances? Yet when the actual training days come there is the cold truth of fear and dread of facing the distance. During the workout, there can be moments of doubt, thoughts of quitting or questioning of one’s physical ability. After the workout there is a strong sense of accomplishment, and hope that the next workout will be even more successful.
This year I discovered a very unique training program for my 100 mile ultra. It is by Jeff Galloway and consists of doing 4 “runs” with no longer than 4 hours between each workout. The workouts are every 3-4 weeks with minimal miles in the weekends between, thus allowing for full recovery. In his book he often stresses to walk as much as necessary and on any given run it is still okay to walk the whole thing as you will still gain endurance.
Recently I attempted my greatest distance to date, 85 miles. Here is a little glimpse of an ultra-training weekend:
Friday, May 15th: 7:30 pm – I lay down dressed in my running outfit, hoping for a little sleep before I start my training at 10:45 tonight. I listen to the sound of kids playing, dogs barking and tell myself, any rest is good for my body, even if I don’t actually fall asleep. 10:00 pm. Perhaps I should get up. 10:30 pm. I am wakened by my alarm. Odd how sometimes the thought of getting up and not trying to sleep results in a release and sleep finally finding me.
Run 1 – 10:45 pm to 4:15 am. I am out the door. It is 16 C and I head off to a road which will take me above our town. As usual the start is tough, as it is so daunting the distance and time you will still have to cover. I reflect back to the beginning of my program when I only did 5 miles for the first run, today I am to go the farthest yet with 20 miles. I little bit of the adventurer in me is excited to see how far along Nanaimo Lakes Road this will take me. I pass through a small park where bats dart in and out of my vision when I look up, scanning the trees for fear of Cougars. Thankfully no cat eyes are reflected back and all I see are lots of killer bunny rabbits and hear various choruses of frogs.
Run 2 – 7:30 am to 1:30 pm. Saturday, May 16th. After a very brief lay down, I was up again and ready to go…sort of. My first run was with my mother, we did a gentle 4 mile route. Then she drove home and I ran the 14 mile route we had done together in her training for her half marathon. About half way I stopped at a rest area, sat at a picnic bench and laid down my head. I was so tired, I could go to sleep BUT that would not get me home or get my training done. I finished the route and then walked the 3 miles home for a total distance of 21 miles.
Run 3 – 5:00 pm to 12:10 am. It is still a lovely day but this would be a tricky one as the evening would be in full swing by the time I finish – tricky to dress for such changes in the temperature. I am now in full on walk mode but keeping myself motivated for this 24 mile adventure. I listened to several audible books and really enjoyed getting lost in the world of Science Fantasy. I visited 7-11 twice for refuelling. On the return walk I sat at a bus stop bench while I ate some food. I focused on how many miles left to get home, I translate this into time left which I find easier to mentally deal with when I am getting tired…so only 2 more hours. When I got up my shins tightened up so much it really hurt to walk. However after a few steps, they loosened up and I was fine, that is until I got home and had to face a flight of stairs. I set my alarm for 3:30 am and mentally was questioning whether I would be able to do the fourth run.
Run 4 – 4:10 am to 6:40 am Sunday, May 17th. Slow, slow as molasses, slow as a slug – is this really worth it. It is time for some serious self-talk. I was supposed to do 21 miles, perhaps if I could just go out 6 miles. As I continued on it then changed to “just get to 5 miles”. But at 4 miles, I thought “nope, this is all I got, I best turn around”. Funny thing happened on the return trip – I began to feel good. I even ran a slow single mile to keep my running streak days alive. I came up with all sorts of plans, as I wasn’t completing my scheduled distance – doing only 8 miles for my final run resulted in a total of 73 miles instead of 85 miles.
The next day I felt very good and recovered well. I questioned whether I pushed myself hard enough or whether I should have gone further. But I know that it is better to end feeling good versus having the wheels fall off or worst becoming injured. I have a new plan for the remaining training sessions. Yes, it will be hard but I am sure with all these struggles not only am I gaining physical endurance but I am also gaining mental endurance. I think that the more barriers I push through, the more I will gain come that day in September. With each and every training session, I think I always gain a little bit more knowledge of who I am and what I am capable of. Keep on keeping on.
Training is hard and yet can also be very gratifying. There are no race day photos, no bib, no expo, no aid stations, no cheering spectators, no start time, and no medal at the end. But if you put in the miles, embrace the workout; then you will be rewarded on race day.