SDW50: ringing the bell

The conclusion of my SDW50 2019 training has been brought forward. A lot has occurred since my last post. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster 5 weeks for me in terms of life/work stress and struggling with motivation and tiredness because of it.

I haven’t hit my weekly distance targets within my +/- 10km range for the last 5 weeks and that has made me doubt my ability to achieve what I originally intended at the South Downs Way 50 which is rapidly approaching – at the time of writing it is less than 48 hours away.

Week 9:Planned 104km / Completed: 51.1km (+961m)

Week 10:Planned 83.6km / Completed: 51.8km (+713m)

Week 11: Planned 90.1km / Completed: 46.3km (+476m)

Week 12: Planned 0km / Completed: 50.9km (+521m)

Week 13: Planned 0km / Completed at time of writing: 24.6km (+273m)

I have wavered with my decision making about whether or not to run a lot over the past two weeks, switching between two mindsets.

The first mindset is ‘It is what it is’ with a view to lining up on the day with no expectations and no goal other than to finish – if I beat my 2015 time or run a 50 mile PR, great. If I don’t, well, that doesn’t matter because I will have still covered 50 miles on foot, under my own steam and for me that is still an achievement in itself and particularly so considering how I have been feeling these past few weeks.

The second mindset, and the one which has won over, is ‘You know yourself, and you know if you line up, you’ll blow up and if you blow up and DNF you’ll beat yourself up’. The ‘It is what it is’ mindset works for some people but it’s just not me. I only really enjoy racing when I’m at or near my physical and mental best and right now I’m feeling physically mediocre and mentally shot! I think my training probably peaked somewhere around Week 8 or 9 and if the race had fallen then I would have been up for it. But it didn’t fall then, it’s falling now and right now I know that if I lined up I wouldn’t be able to control myself for long enough early on and the inevitable physical decline would be rapid and upsetting, likely falling between the 25 and 35km mark – not even half way through. I know that with the my current frame of mind I would drop out and DNF the minute I knew I had fallen out of the 8.5 to 9 hour finishing bracket – but not before a long, painful bout of mental self-flagellation. In essence if I lined up I would be setting myself up for a pretty long and shit day, and probably a month or more of the same afterwards. I hate DNFing because my head wasn’t in the game.

The best thing I can do for myself right now is to take a deep breath, relax, have confidence in my underlying base of fitness and faith and belief in my ability to get through hard times. It’s all good. In terms of my life stress I am already feeling better having made this decision and having spent the last two weeks working together with the wife-to-be to ensure our wedding day is memorably, exciting and fun for everyone. In terms of work stress, I have taken a step back from some extra duties that I had taken on outside of where my professional passion lies and refocused on what is important to me at work, and what I enjoy – providing excellent, innovative, trauma informed complex and multiple needs mental health support in a community setting.

It hasn’t all been bad these past five weeks! I have had some decent runs and enjoyed a few decent swimming and strength sessions too. I ran a great race at the Ashridge Boundary Run 16 miler, finishing with an 8 minute course PR and in 17th place – it was hard early on as I suffered with my mental game, but once my mind quietened down I felt great.

So what’s next? Well, over the next two weeks I’m going to take it easy and plan no training in at all. I’m going to run when I feel like it, swim when I feel like, pick up and put down heavy stuff when I feel like and do nothing when I feel like it. I am going to recharge my body and regain my positive mindset. After my reset I plan to run the Three Forts Challenge Marathon which runs on part of the South Downs Way on May 5th, and then after that I will run the North Downs Way 50 on May 18th. From there I’m getting married on June 15th and then heading into a summer of running a few 10k races and a half marathon.

As ever, my rock of a wife-to-be has been at my side throughout which has made the last few weeks much easier than they might have been had I been facing them alone. All in all, I am a fortunate and lucky man and I do well to remind myself of that every day.

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