A Racing the Reaper Man Year: October 2021

My Racing the Reaper Man Year October looked chaotic. After a fairly regimented eight months of success after success, with very few blips, I had just left the ninth, September, where such discipline was removed. I had done this for three reasons. First, I wanted to simulate those moments where rest is required and old, bad habits may creep in. Second, I was wanted to see how my trip to Alónnisos would affect the coming 50k. Would my ‘stored’ fitness see me through? Would the two-month break in routine, start to undo all my hard work? Finally, my body was starting to accumulate several aches that were difficult to shake off, so it needed a little less pressure: it needed to be allowed to rebuild a bit. To make my self-experiment authentic, I had to test it from every possible pressure anyone else may experience. It would be pointless to extol the virtues and efficacy of a change in lifestyle, if I could not show the value of it in those times where a human being feels fed up. To add to the unsettled nature of the previous 4 weeks, work pressure reached a maximum, so this also affected my discipline. The results were intriguing to me.

Pondering the possibilities of ‘stored fitness’ near Two Mile Oak

The first thing to creep up on me was fear of the scales! I was deliberately stopping regular weigh-ins on my ‘intelligent’ scales to remove a benchmark. My system would have to go blind for eight weeks or so. In the meantime, I would continue daily calorie management, daily running and, by the third week of October, a complete resumption of my more regimented lifestyle. By October 28th, I had become fearful of what the scales would reveal. But, I’m ahead of myself.

Daily running

Once home from Alónnisos, with only two weeks to go before the 50k, I had to compress some useable training into 7 days. I ran 36 miles, which included a 7 mile trail run, a 10, an 11 and a 9:22 min/mile 5.5 miler. The final week consisted of gentle daily jogs. I travelled with my Passepartout to the Spyglass and Kettle Inn at Southbourne, Bournemouth, the Friday before the ultra. I had no confidence, as I had not trained further than 12 miles in a single run since July. In the dark, with drizzly rain I parked and made my way to the waiting coaches at Hengistbury Head. It was with some trepidation that I looked at the dark, wet roads to the distant start. However, once at Moors Valley Country Park near Ringwood, it was dry, with a mist in the air – it was humid. After much faffing about, I started with the 07:45 wave…

My right hamstring had been tight behind my knee joint, so, even as I settled into 10:10 pace, I was far from happy. Yet, after the first feed stop, I had found my sustainable rhythm. Lots of people passed me for the first 15 miles, but then I held my position. At 16 miles I tripped on a root and rolled gymnastically, regaining my feet with not a scratch! I was applauded by a couple of chaps behind me, and carried on, giggling as I went… Hang on… by 18 miles I realised my hamstring was much better – the fall seemed to have cured it! As the trails gave way to proper paths and roads around Poole Harbour the sun was out and I was feeling hot. I was also passing more and more runners. I’d drank at each of the 3 feed stations, but relied on my caffeine gels to give me the occasional boost. I had 3. After 20 miles my 10:10 pace had dropped to just under 11s. The final 9 miles were run in warm sunshine against cliffs and built up sea defences, magnifying the heat.

A hot final 9 miles of the Bournemouth Run to the Sea 50k

I started to pass a lot of runners, many stretching out cramping calf muscles. My own right calf started to cramp in response to where I’d been favouring my hamstring, so my pace slowed again. At the 26 mile checkpoint, I made the error of drinking chilled water, set off running but immediately got stomach cramps… a 14 minute mile showed I had to walk a little to settle my innards and avoid vomiting. Off I set again running under 12s, but my calf locked solid several times, slowing up my progress. I managed to keep moving and crossed the line in exactly 5:54:00 which translated as 11:18 pace. I was 222 out of 532 and 6th over 60.

Run to the Sea 50k 5:54:00

I took it easy for the rest of the week, then threw in a 31 mile week to end the month with a 9:22 paced 4.5 miler to show I’d recovered. I was still running every day and still keeping my average daily calories under 2000. I weighed myself at the end of the month and was happy enough with 11st 12lbs (166lbs/75.3kg) as my body had rebuilt a bit. The ultra showed I could carry built-in fitness with me, and also that niggles need not become injuries. I continued with my core sessions and remained pleased with my strength and flexibility.

Enjoying a 31 mile week at the end of October

My Racing the Reaper Man Year had delivered a lot of self-knowledge and data. November was a month to rebuild my fitness level for a December 5k. Unbeknownst to me, it would be my most testing month so far.

How did I fare in October?

My weight remains fairly steady, but, as expected, drifted up 5.4lbs. I’ve marked some key points:

  • Still the most hydrated I’ve been, so still as heavy as I will be for a weigh in.
  • % body fat up a little at 21.3
  • % visceral fat up slightly at 12.0
  • Bone mass: level.
  • Muscle mass: level.
  • BMI: Down from the initial 27.6 to 23.7, now just up to 24.5
  • Avg kcal/day balance = 1720 – the highest average this year; a rise showing fewer longer runs and the introduction of alcohol back into the last 8 weeks.
  • Tummy: Up from the steady 30” up to September, to 31”

Weight progression:

  • Dec 31st: 13st 5lbs
  • End Jan: 13st 0lbs
  • End Feb: 12st 8.2lbs
  • End Mar: 12st 4.8lbs
  • End Apr: 12st 4lbs
  • End May: 11st 12.4lbs
  • End June: 11st 11lbs
  • End July: 11st 9lbs
  • End Aug: 11st 7lbs
  • End Sept: 11st 6.8lbs
  • End Oct: 11st 12.2lbs

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