Getting tested is certainly one of the better things I have done. The data generated has really given me food for thought. The next day I immediately looked to apply some of the lessons I had picked up and discovered I find it incredibly hard to get my heart rate into the zones I should be training at. For me this is a problem, but it’s a temporary one and like all problems, it presents one huge opportunity.
Just the knowledge of what is happening physiologically within me as I run has empowered me. Racing at Llantysilio at the weekend I used my heart rate to convince myself I could maintain the pace and even push harder in places – powerful stuff psychologically. The result had me ahead of Adair on the fells for the first time with ~500m to go. I had 100m on him and was set to record my first victory over him but took a wrong turn following a sign and had to backtrack. I was gutted in many respects, but extremely positive in others. I know Adair wasn’t on peak form, but a win would have been a win, and certainly a sign of progress.
The key for me is that all things are pointing in the right direction and I’m getting confirmation that what I am doing is paying off. Importantly I also know I still have got some distance to grow as a runner. I’m also building a stronger belief around what I can and can’t do – I find this exciting and empowering and can’t wait to get started on my 16 week programme.
So how does one run quicker? Well before my plan came through I had decided that the only way for me is to be somewhere where I can’t subconsciously ease back on the pace whilst my mind tells me I’m pushing hard. The only place for that is the dreaded treadmill!
For me the treadmill has represented everything that is wrong about modern attitudes to exercise. Running on a rubber band going nowhere in a gym when one could be running outside in the fresh air taking in the views and feeling free. However the test made me realise that I can’t fake a pace on a treadmill and that is the key to getting my legs used to higher speeds.
Treadmills are expensive though and having gone part time I just couldn’t afford one decent enough to make it worth while. Sure I could find one on ebay for £100 but it would be terrible and only any good as a clothes stand. Even reconditioned or ex-gym ones are over a grand so I approached my physio Mark Browse at the 10 Bridge clinic and he has generously said I can use his treadmill when he doesn’t have other clients in there. Perfect!
Mark has helped me a lot over the years, fixing my niggles and constantly repairing ankles! As the former head Physio at Liverpool FC he has a perfect balance of practicality and safety when it comes to getting you back out there. More than once has he said, “well, you won’t do any more damage… it’ll hurt, but you won’t do any more damage so it’s up to you” I guess all those years of getting handsomely paid people back out on the pitch before their value drops without risking long term and real value depreciation has enabled him to walk that line. To be fair Browsey also thinks I’m a loony but was only too happy to help me find where the limits are and to push for peak performance. Browsey, I salute you sir!
The next key in the puzzle is to understand how my test results can help me understand the nutrition I need whilst on my ultras. I’m intrigued to see if I can work out on the fly how much I need to consume based upon the heart rate I am running at – knowing from my RQ how much fat and how much carbs I am burning. Further research needed for sure, but in the mean time it’s on with pushing myself to find my limits in a different way; if I can combine an increase in speed with a rock solid psychology then who knows what is possible!