Lakeland Reflections 2012

I had a dream last night that I was at the start line of the 2013 Lakeland 100 and that I hadn’t trained and wasn’t prepared. I set off anyway and went quite quickly, reasoning that I had nothing to lose and it might be the only time I’d get ahead of Terry Conway. I couldn’t remember the course (an account of being asleep) and then remembered that I hadn’t sorted my PF or ITB issues out and had forgotten my rucksack. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t have one of those “and then I realised I was naked moments too”.

The oddest thing about the dream is that I haven’t entered the race next year. I’m not even doing the 50.

I started writing this post back in August but never got around to posting it, so it’s a bit late. It’s probably for the best as I’ve now got a bit more distance from the race and some more perspective. I’ve moved on from the race – I’ve “done” the Lakeland 100, beaten it, got the medal and the t-shirt and went from a DNF in 2011 to race finisher in 2012 – and I’m focussing on new challenges, new goals. So why write this now? Because I learned a lot about myself and my training and I feel I should share that in case it helps someone else.

Here is the one single reason that, above all else, I credit with completing the race this year: I knew I would. There was absolutely not a single shred of doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t get to the end and claim my finishers medal.

If that sounds remarkably arrogant and glib then I apologise but, for me, it really was that simple. I DNF’d in 2011 because I didn’t have the mental fortitude to go on – I let the doubts and the distractions and the worries build and then I simply gave up. This year, as evidenced by the last post I wrote before the event, I put aside all those doubts before the race. I focussed on what I needed to do, I focussed on what might happen and how I might feel and how to deal with it – and it paid off.

So that was mental approach, but what about the physical side? What was my training like? How many reccies did I do? How many times did I run a week? How far was my longest run? These are the practical things that a lot of people on the Lakeland 100 Facebook page want to know. Here are some numbers:

In the four months (17 weeks) leading up to the race I ran a total of 335 miles, averaging 20 miles a week (if you round up). My longest run was 30 miles. My monthly breakdown was:

April: 67 miles
May: 84 miles
June: 104 miles
July: 80 miles

This doesn’t tell the whole story, of course. Looking back over my training diary, I’m not sure I could class any of the runs as junk miles. I did a lot of tempo runs a lot of interval training (mostly on a treadmill) and even my 30 mile run averaged out at 6mph which was faster than I planned to do the race at. I also included a lot of circuit sessions and weights sessions that focussed mostly on leg strength. One session, for example, involved 300 (6×50) barbell squats and 300 (6×50) bench step-ups. That ached for a couple of days!

The thing is, these numbers are pretty much meaningless and totally irrelevant for anyone other than me. Sure there’s a lot of conventional wisdom that says that the mileage I did wasn’t anywhere near enough to run 26.2 miles let alone 100+ and there are people who swear that if you’re not doing 80 miles a week then you’re never going to finish the Lakeland because you haven’t put enough work in.

But I did finish and I finished in a time of 32 hours and 45 minutes. Could I have finished faster if I’d trained more? I don’t know – but I can tell you with absolute confidence that I would have finished faster if I hadn’t dawdled around at checkpoints or spent 20 minutes dicking around trying to sleep under road bridges or attempted the race without an ITB niggle or changed my socks at Ambleside or a plethora of other little details which would have shaved minutes off my time – all without having to run an extra step in training.

The thing is that the training I did was the training that I needed to do. I did exactly the right amount of training that I needed to do to finish the race. How did I know it was exactly the right amount? Because I believed it was.

If this sounds at all familiar then I’ll have to admit that I’ve based a lot of my approach on the writing of both Matt Fitzgerald (who wrote the books Brain Training for Runners and Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running By Feel) and Stuart Mills. Stuart gave a presentation at one of the reccies last year where he said

What weekly mileage is required in order to achieve your goals, was simply being, the weekly mileage that YOU BELIEVE is necessary. If you believe 30 miles is sufficient, then it is. If you believe that 100 miles is needed, then you need to do 100 miles. It all comes down to what you believe is required.

Even Terry Conway – a man who confesses he has absolutely no idea how many miles he runs each week – hinted at something similar in his post-race review, albeit with a much more spiritual take on it:

There are no facts, figures or charts that will guide one in the right direction. It is a personal journey that one must undertake. There is nothing that I can say that will provide you with the answers. You have to take this journey yourself and discover your bare soul.

It all comes back to that other 90%, to the mental approach, to belief, to having no doubt, to being confident. That was one part of my dream I had last night that prompted me to right this – even though I hadn’t trained and prepared, I told myself to run it anyway because I knew I could do it (well, right up until the point where the purple octopus outside the pub told me I’d be disqualified for not having the right gear!) I’m not running the Lakeland 100 next year but intend to go back in 2014 and aim to beat my time and, preferably, break the 30 hour mark. This year is about building up the belief that I can do it.

Faith may well move mountains but I just need it to get me over them.