Did you really think I'd give it up after the MDS, and take up endurance knitting?
Do you think I've had my feet up, and got fat since the MDS?
Did you think the setbacks I suffered on day 4 of the MDS had put me off for life?
If you answered NO to all three then you know me well.
Since I got home
I took a grand total of 3 weeks off. To be honest I didn't really need that long off. I just felt as though I should. I took much more time off the gym, and still now I'm only going once per week.
I sat and thought about what went wrong in the MDS on day 4 (for those that don't know, I did sucessfully complete the MDS, but I lost a lot of time on day 4 feeling unwell. See my MDS blog for the story). I'm still none the wiser, but I think it was a combination of insufficient calories, lack of sleep, and also some confusion over electrolyte and salt intake. The heat wasn't a problem, neither was the distance. However, another observation I made was that I felt I could have gone faster. I think I trained too much quantity, and not enough quality. I'll explain this in a minute.
Fairly quickly I was back up to running a half marathon distance at weekend. I bought some road shoes and started to do more on the road. I had a vague goal of improving my speed, I think I'd like to enter a marathon again and test myself, but that'll have to wait for a while.
In the last couple of months I have rested on a Sunday, Monday and Friday. I've ran 10k intervals on a Tuesday; 10 minutes warm up, then alternate between 3 mins at 7min mile pace, then 2 mins at 9min mile pace, repeated over and over. On a Wednesday I have ran 10k easy pace; about 8:30 minute miles. On Thursday I go to the gym, warm up on a cross trainer for 10 minutes. I warm up quite hard, really raising my heart rate and working my lungs. Then I do a time trial. I run an out and back 1.5 route; so 3 miles total, as fast as I can. There is 200ft of ascent in the route, so it's not flat, but it's as flat as I can find. For weeks I hovered around the 7:20-7:30 minute mile pace. I've been suffering from a tight back and tight plantar fascia, both on my left side, for months. Well before and during the MDS. I felt as though my left foot was raised up too much. I took out my orthotics form my trainers, and swapped them for the less severe pair in my shoes. The pair from my shoes has 2mm less raise. The week after, I suffered a little with sore joints as I adjusted. The week after that the pain went away everywhere and I ran 7:15 minute mile pace for the 3 mile time trial. For the last 3 weeks it has come down again, currently at 6:58 minute mile pace. So in the space of a month I have knocked a minute and a half off my 3 mile time. That's a lot!
The orthotics were certainly causing me a problem, but all of the speed work is definitely helped too.
On Saturday's I would either run between 10 and 15 steady pace 8:-8:20 min miles, or do an LDWA event. I entered races that I had done in 2007 when training for the MDS. I updated my old blog with the 2008 times, if you were to look back at it now. Roughly, I have been knocking an hour to an hour and a half off the times for the events, which were between 22 and 30 miles. I've been running all but the steepest hills, and finishing well up the field of runners. I've been doing all of this off a weekly mileage of 25 ish miles (35+ if I do an LDWA that week).
I am without doubt a lot fitter now than I was for the MDS, off half the weekly mileage! Quality, not quantity. I was blinded by some need to run 70-80 miles, and I don't think it did me any favours. I also think running with a heavy backpack every weekend for over a year was a mistake. If I were training again, I would not train with a backpack until the last couple of months at the most. I lost speed training with the pack all the time, a big mistake.
For a while after I got back from the MDS, I was desperate to go back, to put right what went wrong and finish in the top half of the field where I belonged. Maybe I will one day, but a combination of the wait list (2011 is sold out!), the ever-increasing entry cost (over 3K), and the desire to do something new put me off.
I considered entering a new race http://www.runthemoose.com the longest (300km) multi day race in the world apparently, in Canada. However, because this year is the first event, I decided to let it play out and see what the feedback from the competitors was like. This was partially because of the disaster that was the RAW Africa event; also a first time event. I'm not going to get into the whole who was to blame on that one, because I wasn't there, but by all accounts the organisation got a lot of flack from the competitors.
Anyway, runthemoose is a different event, in a different country, with different organisers. Still I thought I'd see how the inaugural running went. The whole event has literally just finished as I speak. It was a small field of competitors, but from what I have read so far it sounds promising. The website is very professional, well maintained and updated. The live updates from the route and live runner tracking are impressive. The event certainly sounds tough, but the location looks fantastic. I look forward to hearing reports from the runners when they return. Assuming they are good reports, and the event takes place next year, it is one to watch for sure.
So, I realised I wanted to enter another multi-day race, quite badly. To test myself again, and try and make the demons of the MDS day 4 go away.
I thought about the Gobi. There are two events which run in the Gobi, I don't know which one I will choose, but I have no doubt I'll visit in 2010.
The other one which caught my imagination was the 4deserts Atacama Crossing. I have never been to South America, let alone Chile, so I looked into it. I thought about it for a few weeks, watched the videos on youtube and decided to enter. I posted off my deposit and entry form yesterday.
I was content. The event runs at the same time as the MDS in 2009, the end of March. I intended to stick around 25-30 miles and start to increase mileage to maximum of 50 miles (maybe less if I don't think it is doing me any good), starting around December.
Today, I saw a post on the http://www.themds.co.uk forum, advertising the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM) in South Africa. I had also read about this event, and it had taken my imagination too. However, it had slipped my mind until today. I've not been to South Africa either. I saw the photo's on the website, and then curiously checked out the price of the flights, as well as the event itself. The event is half the cost of the MDS, including the flight to SA. I flipped a coin, and I clicked submit on the flight purchase.
The event is in 7 weeks time. I fly out to SA on October 7th. The event starts on the 11th.
¨ Day 1 - 25km
¨ Day 2 - 36km
¨ Day 3 - 32km
¨ Day4/5 - 75km
¨ Day 6 - 39km
¨ Day 7 - 33km
It's similar format to the MDS, except the last day isn't a fun run like in the MDS. However, apart from the long stage, the distances are all slightly less than marathon, which somehow gives me a psychological boost. I've read reports, and everyone says it is tougher than the MDS because of the terrain as well as the heat. I suspect the wildlife might be a tad more interesting as well; I'm slightly nervous about that actually!
So I have entered 2 races in as many days, I must be going crazy.
I have hastily knocked up a 6 week training program to get me used to more mileage again. I'm stuck to the 10% maximum increase rule to avoid injury. I'm keeping speed work elements in too. It will be interesting to see how I fare with a totally different approach to training that for the MDS.
That's all for now; I'll post again soon.