Cows, interrupting.

This last week has been a dedicated study in patience and resolve. In my endeavor to become an ultra runner I have endured a roller coaster of emotions and physical states, Winter training, Summer training and then, surprisingly, Winter training once more – and this in the last seven days alone – and finally I have come face to face with the dread spectre that is Over-Training and his evil sidekick, Fatigue.
In my resolve to go straight from traditional Marathon distance to 100K I have steadily increased my overall weekly mileage at a rate that I thought I could easily manage. Yes the training period was a little light on time but I felt confident that I could make the transition and, though it would no doubt be painful, the satisfaction of completing my first 100K would make up for the sacrifices in home and social life.
Silly me.
It isn’t the time spent at home preparing dinner with my wife or the coffees or beers in town with my friends that would determine my success – it is the sole decision of my body whether I would have the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Over the last few weeks I have been clocking morning and evening runs most days and letting my body decide if and when to run. Simple enough system when the only tempting demons are an extra hour in bed in the mornings or the chance to put my feet up – and keep them up – after a day studying Finnish. However, this last week saw me hitting the pavement in Sotkamo where I venture on occasion to work on a friend’s organic farm, and where the road runs are a little in the way of spectacular.
I figured I could just apply the same system, listen to my legs, see how we go. What I hadn’t figured, or hadn’t figured correctly, was the impact that early starts to run, followed by a day of physical labour, followed by another run would do to my system.
Now the work isn’t all that physical: feeding animals – or chasing when they escape (more on that later), mending fences, some renovation work, maybe some baking – but it’s time spent on your feet, burning calories and energy reserves that you don’t necessarily feel depleting. So when I headed out to run on Saturday I felt good, a little tired but I figured that fighting gentle fatigue is the start of the battle. Surely I’ll meet that stranger on the road many times during the race. No sooner had I passed a familiar house on the road marking the first 2K of my run when I was seized by a sense of nausea followed in turn by wrenching and, to my surprise, vomiting.
And then I was fine.
So fine in fact that after a moment taken to compose myself and wonder if that actually had happened I was off again, though at a somewhat chastened pace.
Now I have heard that vomiting is a hazard of ultra running but in my pride I always felt that my stomach was made of sterner stuff and though many runners wear spewing up last night’s meal as a badge of honour I hold firmly to the belief that if you are puking, something has gone awry.
I wish that was the only bizarre incident on that run however, as I made my way back to the farm I noticed a familiar car heading right for me. My wife, the farmer’s wife and our French housemates (visiting the farm with us that weekend) pulled up in our red Ford Focus and informed me that some cows had escaped from their enclosure in a nearby pasture and were chewing up the neighbour’s garden. I quickly jumped in and we made are way over to find the errant animals contentedly munching in bovine oblivion. The neighbour wasn’t too put out as nature had yet to call among the herd and we were able to, rather quickly, usher the animals to their side of the fence (which we electrified the following day).
On the route home my wife jokingly asked if I would like to finish the last leg of my run and was a little taken aback when I said yes. So over she pulled and out I jumped.
Later that evening, after gorging on home made pizza and a few beers I suddenly felt an overwhelming need to sleep take hold. Usually I am among the last standing (and usually the last talking) but I couldn’t keep my focus; I was just too tired.
The next day saw me struggle to wake, struggle to drink my morning coffee, my feet were made of lead and we had a long hike planned for later in the day. The thought began to slowly dawn, as the coffee hadn’t taken hold, that maybe I was doing too much.
Later, while looking out over the lake that surrounds Sotkamo from one of the hill peaks in the nearby countryside I realised I hadn’t it in me to do the 100K. Not enough prep time, not enough training, just not enough!
I was a little heartbroken at the realisation but from the outset I said I would do what my body told me and my body was saying no!
So sadly, for now at least I will not be doing the 100K and must console myself with the 60K.
Still, not a bad way to begin my Ultra Running adventure as long as I can keep my training from being interrupted by fugitive cows.

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Innocent as grass

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