The definition of insanity
Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. He may not be on everybody's list of motivational gurus for runners, but for my second attempt at the Sandstone Trail Challenge, Al set the tone for my build up and approach to the event. Last year I didn't do enough long runs, drank too much water on the day and carried too much stuff. The result was cramp from about halfway and a time below what I felt capable of.
Roll on to this year, so what was I going to do differently to get a different result? The first place for to start was to define my goal - what did I want to achieve? Very simply, to finish in a better time than last year. OK. So how was I going to do that? Start with the build up. I spent a couple of hours in January putting together a training plan, based on doing an offroad marathon in March, with the SST a couple of months later (the plan builds to the Lakeland 50 in July too). It's based loosely on a trail marathon plan, Mark Hartell's plan for a 40 miler, and Marc Laithwaite's L100 plan, tuned back a bit! Training plans have to be personalised and practical, so I used at as a framework rather than hard and fast rules. It still had the essential elements of overload, adaptation, recovery and specificity, and didn't increase more than one of either frequency, intensity or time each week. Compared with last year, I managed more overall miles and more long runs - good for the head as well as the legs.
I also took confidence from reflecting on the tips we've had from Stuart Mills and Andy Mouncey - how many other clubs can say they've had coaching days from two of the leading ultra runners on the UK? I decided that Andy's approach and advice on keeping a consistent pace were more in line with my goal than Millsy's mantra of run as fast as you can while you can.
The big day arrived, and the atmosphere was amazing. It was pretty clear there were going to be some great Spartan results. The forecast wasn't great but I again thought of Mr Mouncey's tip to focus on what you can control, accept the environment and what it throws at you, accept your ability, relax and enjoy your day! And that's exactly what I did. Nice steady pace, most of it with the Spartan phalanx of Rob, Steve D and Alan, great conditions and the physical and mental dials were in the green all day. I drank less (2 x 500ml bottles with Nuun electrolytes), carried less, ate more at the CPs and less of the few bits of food I carried (three gels and a few jelly babies). But boy was I ready for that pie and peas at the end, and the hog roast and beer at the party were pretty welcome too (note: pork crackling is the ultimate recovery food).
Because my goal wasn't time-dependent, I didn't wear a watch or GPS either, instead checking with my fellow Spartans at the CPs how we were trucking. Despite feeling like we were going a lot slower for the first half of the race than last year, my splits were 55 min at CP1, 1 hour 50 at CP2 and about 2 hours 50 at CP3 - exactly the same as last year, but feeling loads fresher. Maybe Millsy's theory of positive race energy was right after all. I was expecting to slow down in the second half of the run (which is why Millsy's "fast as you can while you can" can work) and so it proved, but I made the marathon point at BBG in 4 hours 50ish, about half an hour quicker than last year. The phalanx split up at this point so it was just me and the iPod for the final 7 miles. Finish time was 6 hours 26 and no cramp, so goal achieved. In the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing in the right way. I did things differently and got a different result, so can't be insane. The final word goes to Einstein: "learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow."