Sunday, 30 December 2012

Five Year Review from 1983 to 1987


Yes, back again so soon. Yes, as explained in my previous blog post, with the intention to write seven posts for each five year review, I need to get a move on!  So here is five year review part two.

Before I start 1983 - 1987 though, looking back at my 1978 – 1982 review there are probably two further things that are worthy of mentioning. Firstly, I mentioned that my big break-through race was getting 2nd in the 1980 regional Dorne Cup race. Back in 1979 as I was learning to drive, for some unknown reason I got into visualisation. I would sit in our car parked in our carport with the engine off and visualise driving the mile or so to my school. I would visualise where I was driving and change gear, using the clutch pedal, accelerate out of the corners, brake when stopping at the stop sign etc. Being very familiar with my route to school made the visualisation really easy. I then found that when actually driving the same route, the whole process of driving was heaps easier.

Following my substantial improvement in running during the first part of 1980, both prior to and following my first marathon, suddenly there was a sense that perhaps I could start performing towards the front of the field. During the start of the harrier season, April and May there were one or two club and small interclub races only involving 2 – 3 clubs. The first big regional race of the year was the Dorne Cup. The Dorne Cup was one of the most prestigious cross country races within the Wellington region, which was organised by my running club, Hutt Valley Harriers. I therefore knew the cross country course very well, due to racing over the course in club races and small interclub events. Probably based on the success with the car driving visualisation, in the weeks leading up to the race I spent multiple, multiple times visualising the race, especially the start, running on the edge of the leading bunch following the ‘maniac’ sprint start that always used to occur. I would visualise running on the right hand side of the lead bunch as it completed the first big lap of the playing fields before clearing some fences and heading to the river bank. I would visualise the lead bunch getting smaller but I recall I never visualised the race right to the end. So the visualisation wasn’t about being within a dream world of crossing the line first, hands aloft in the air. It was a lot more about being a realistic visualisation based on the belief that perhaps I could manage to maintain running within the front group. Yes, there is a difference between visualising and dreaming. Dreams do have their purpose, and often can be related to one’s long term goals. But I find the term dream tends to make the content seem unrealistic, beyond the possible at the moment, hence why its use is only as a long term goal, as most likely not possible now.

I have just finished reading Julian Goater’s book titled The Art of Running Faster. It starts of really well with quotes within the introduction like “Relying on science alone ignores the mysterious mental and emotional aspects critical to performance”. However, although overall a good read, I find that he doesn’t truly understand and give sufficient recognition to the “mysterious mental and emotional aspects”, and I was therefore left thinking “and so ... , therefore ...” He seems to touch on some really important aspects, but then doesn’t develop, expand it, relate it back to what you the runner is required to do in order to improve. For example from page 187; “The power of the mind can help you achieve performances far better than you’ve achieved in training. So believe in yourself and expect miracles.” As highlighted, he acknowledges the power of the mind, however, apart for simply stating “believe in yourself” there is little other guidance on how do you actually develop this belief. This is what my intended training blog for January is hopefully going to cover. Then just to wind me up, the term “miracles”, just doesn’t sit very well with me. Terminology / words are very important. They influence feelings, perceptions immensely. To me the term “miracle”, is probably even more unlikely, even more distant than the term dream. If you visualise miracles, such as winning the race with your arms aloft, a bit like the miracle of becoming Olympic Champion, then yes, miracles do sometimes happen, just like winning the lottery. But the likelihood of it happening is so small that it isn’t worth wasting time ‘hoping’ that it will happen!

Oops, sorry about heading off on a bit of a tangent there. It’s just that without getting the detail and the terminology right, important really useful messages can so easily be misinterpreted. Don’t get me wrong, The Art of Running Faster is a good book, but maybe the second edition could be a fantastic book!

Anyway back to 1982! Come race day, as the race progressed I found myself just where I had visualised I would be, on the front right edge of the leading bunch, completing the circuit of the playing fields. I distinctively remember both at that moment in the race and still now, how I thought clearly to myself, “Hey, I have been here before, I have been in this position before.” I hadn’t in reality, but I had within my mind, many, many times. Then, just as I had visualised, the lead bunch had got smaller, and without actually realising it we were two thirds through the race and I was clear on my own in second place, not far behind the leader Matt Squire. As we entered the bush track section, two runners from Scottish Harriers overtake me, one of them was top class runner Peter Stevens who I had raced many times before and who always finished way ahead of me in the first three. Even though I was performing so much better than I had ever done before, rather than letting them go and settling for fourth place, I decide that being overtaken wasn’t what I wanted. As I mentioned above, I never visualised the end of the race, so it wasn’t as though I had visualised a certain position. No, the visualisation was more about the start of the race, and then the process of running well, running strong, running fast. I decide not to accept dropping from 2nd to 4th place and simply lift the pace and leave both of them behind, and end up finishing in 2nd place, 6 seconds behind the winner, but 5 seconds ahead of the Scottish Harrier Andrew Hercus , and the high performer Peter Stevens.

The really strange thing following the race was even though I had finished second I still believed that I wasn’t really any good at running. The Dorne Cup result was somehow a fluke! There was no way I was a better runner than Peter Stevens. With these thoughts at the front of my mind, at the National Secondary School cross country champs exactly one week later, I perform pretty well, achieving 17th place, but as I now realise, my thoughts strongly dictated where I finished, being one place, 2 seconds behind Peter Stevens, and also finishing behind Andrew Hercus 11th, and Matt Squire 5th. For some unknown reason it appears to be human nature to ‘hang on’ to a low perception of oneself, even when there is evidence otherwise. It is as if, to believe in oneself as being good, is quite difficult. Whether this trait is inborn, or whether it is a result of one’s environment isn’t clear, but it doesn’t really matter. The key factor is that one has to successfully battle this trait. The accepted society response of having high self expectations, could be interpreted as being arrogant, of being cocky, being a show-off, being a smart arse. So there is a real conflict here, and probably, why I find that pre-race interviews with top performers are usually so ‘false’. The athlete in order to satisfy society’s expectations states something like “I hope to perform to my best”, even though they have clearly established to themselves, much higher and more specific goals corresponding to their self-acceptance of being an awesome athlete and performing successfully.

Reflecting on the above two races 32 years later, the influence of self-expectations is very apparent. I don’t recall doing any visualisation of the National champs, I guess mainly because I had no idea what the course would be like. Even now I find my visualisations are so much more effective if I have previously run over the course. It is often started that it takes a few attempts to ‘nail’ a good performance. This is especially stated for big races like UTMB or Comrades. I’m not sure how common the use of visualisation is amongst runners, but for me, one benefit I get from having previously run the course is as a result of the enhanced visualisation.

This post was meant to be about 1983 – 1987, however, I will still briefly mention the second aspect from 1978- 1982 before reviewing the next five years. It was during the 1981 Junior (Under 20) Centre Road Champs over 8000 metres. It was on a road course in Miramar, Wellington. A very similar course as the previous year’s centre road champs except about 100 metres from the 1980 finish line, for 1981 instead of turning left, up the side street to the finish line, this year you continued straight ahead and ran probably an extra 700 metres around a block and entered the street with the finish line was the opposite direction. Being a first year Junior (the race categories covered a two year age range) with around 800 metres to go, I am running really well in 5th place, when suddenly Matt Squire, the chap that beat me at the 1980 Dorne cup, and probably the best runner in Wellington for my age year at the time, pulls in the 20 metre lead I had on in and overtakes me going at a significantly faster pace than me. I couldn’t believe what was happening. How could he get a sudden burst of energy at this point in the race, with around 800 metres to go? Back in 1981 I was really into the physiology. Having recently read Arthur Lydiard’s 1978 book “Run the Lydiard Way” I could tell you all there was to know about aerobic, anaerobic, lactate, glycogen depletion, glycolytic energy etc. So I was puzzled into where all of a sudden Matt Squire’s physiological energy had come from!

He pretty well immediately gains a gap of around 20 metres on me, and then appears to start to head of course turning left up the side street to last year’s finish, before being sent straight on my an official. I didn’t think much of the incident at the time. I simply tried to maintain my focus, and work as hard as I could to pull back this 20 metre gap he had established. For the remaining 700 metres of the race, the gap stays the same and I cross the line 20 metres behind him. I immediately approach him and ask him where all the energy came from in order to have such a quick burst to go from 20 metres behind to 20 metres ahead of me. He simply replied that he thought that the finish was the same as the previous year, so when he went flying past me, he thought that he had less than 200 metres to go. He was giving it everything for his final sprint to the line. He did comment that he pretty well ‘died’ on the spot when the marshal sent him straight on, telling him that there was still around 700 metres to go. I recall at the time, that I was quite angry in that he had only beaten me due to chance, due to his ‘good’ luck of misjudging the finish line approach, as without that spurt, I would have almost certainly beaten him!

What astounds me now though, is that at the time I never gave the incident any further thought. Why was it that he could do this rapid spurt? Where did this burst of energy appear from? I guess, apart from now acknowledging just how important it is to reflect in depth upon one’s races, the key messages that I should have taken from this incident at the time, but only now, many years later know are as follows: (i) The mechanism that controls one’s pace, that somehow determines what pace you are able to maintain, in order that you don’t ‘blow up’ tends to be very conservative. It is over protective, and will tell you that you are running at your ‘limit’ which in fact is significantly less than your actual limit. (ii) When we talk about a burst of energy, or running out of energy, this isn’t in fact physiological energy, like ATP or glycogen/glucose. It is mental energy, or what I refer to as RFE, Race Focus Energy. It is this energy that dictates the pace you are able to run. Although the aim during racing is to deplete your RFE tank at the exact instant you cross the finish line, what typically happens is that the mind is very over cautious, and want to keep a reserve supply of RFE just in case you get your pacing wrong, and you ‘blow up’, i.e. run out of RFE before the finish. However, once you are within sight of the finish line, there is no need to maintain this reserve supply of RFE, so all of a sudden extra RFE becomes available, and hence why one is able to producing a finishing spurt, and increase their running pace, even though physiologically they are at their most fatigued.

What Matt Squire was able to do by misjudging the finish line, was to make his reserve supply of RFE available 800 metres out from the finish, rather than only 200 metres out. This enabled him to reverse the 20 metre gap, and then return back to his previous running speed and yet still find some more RFE for the increased pace during the final finishing spurt. Where he found this extra RFE from, is either due to the over conservative nature exhibited in judging one’s pace, so there was still RFE available, or alternatively, by overtaking me and moving into 5th place, he was able to ‘top up’ his RFE at this moment of time due to the extra excitement, satisfaction, crowd support of moving one place up the field. Yes, the unique feature of the RFE model is that there are many factors that can add to the RFE tank, as well as the many factors that can increase the rate in which the RFE is consumed. The RFE model is a much more useful and applicable model, than the now generally accepted, rather limited model concerning physiological energy and its impact on running pace!

Training Diaries 1983 - 1987
Finally, the year 1983!!! This year I was a first year senior, so now running against men with years and years of experience, wisdom and miles in their legs. In some ways I regressed back four or five years, to where I was back in 1978/79, with low expectations of myself in terms of how I would perform in the races. The first big regional race of the year, the Dorne Cup, but now as a Senior (Over 20), I finish in 54th place. As the season progresses I slowly make my way up the field, to 40th place in the Centre Cross Country Champs, and then at the end of the season, finish in 27th place at the Centre Road Champs over 16000 metres in a time of 53:30. Each year, two or three weeks following each regions centre road champs, the National Road Champs took place at a different venue. Each region/centre were able to select up to 20 runners in the Senior category. Finishing in 27th place, I somehow ‘scrapped’ into the Wellington team, I guess because seven runners that finished ahead of me declined the invitation to travel to New Plymouth (a 4 hour drive away) to race representing Wellington.

I recall being in a bit of a dilemma, whether to go or not. I felt really privileged to be invited to represent Wellington and to wear the yellow Wellington singlet (vest). But I also knew that I shouldn’t really be in the team. I wasn’t one of the 20th best road runners in Wellington, and I only made the team due to other runners not choosing to go. In the end, mainly due to the anticipated social side of the trip I decided to go to the National Champs. Yes, and as one would expect, with the social aspects of the trip being the reason for going, I performed really poorly. In fact so poorly I dropped out of the 16000metre race at the half way point. I wasn’t injured, I wasn’t dying, I wasn’t even last! I just had no reason to continue. It was hard work, it was a really hot day, and I was struggling with running against the best senior runners in New Zealand. I had no goals, I didn’t know why I was there, what was I trying to achieve? I hadn’t determined prior to the race, what would constitute a worthy performance. Although, my first experience of representing Wellington at a National Championship was a negative result, I actually gained absolutely loads from the venture. I learnt the massive importance of having clearly established goals prior to the race. These goals must mean something to you, and they must be able to be checked/measured/assessed whilst actually racing. So while one is racing, one is able to gauge whether at the pace they are running whether they are in the process of achieving their goal. The assessment during the race is necessary in order to change one’s strategy if need be, if at the current rate the goal will not be achieved. If it is only possible to determine achievement of the goal after the finish, then the progress of improvement is reduced, as it is only possible to make changes following the race, in preparation for the next race. Yes, the 1983 National Road Champs aided me immensely as I progressed up the massive learning curve to do with endurance performance, which I am still far, far away from reaching the top! During 1983 I raced 29 times, including two ventures into multisport racing, (which I will return to), and ran a total of 2300 miles, my third highest mileage year to date.

The following year, 1984, my second year as a senior runner, proved to be more successful with there being further improvement, that I think was largely due to my understanding of the need to set realistic, but ambitious goals. I didn’t “wish for miracles”. I just gave more thought to my preparation, more thought to visualisations, once I had decided what the goal for each race was. During 1984, I also returned to the marathon, and looking back now, I see that it was actually for the same reason that I did my first marathon as a 17 year old. I still wanted so much to be able to classify myself as a good runner. Even though I was able to run 16 kilometres in 53:30, to me this did not ‘count’ as being a good runner. During the early eighties, endurance running within Wellington was huge, and a time of 53:30 got me nowhere near the front of the field. The winning times for the Senior Centre Champs on the road over 16 kilometres were always sub 50 minutes. I notice from my pile of results that in the 1980 centre road champs the winner was Keith Livingstone, the author of the book titled Healthy Intelligent Training – The Proven Principles of Arthur Lydiard, which I mentioned in my previous post in a time of 49:37. Then as the standard got stronger during the early eighties, the times got quicker with the winning time in 1984 being 48:48 by Dallas McCallum. So by returning to the marathon, it gave me an opportunity to classify myself as a ‘good’ runner.

Back in 1980 I had decided that as a 17 year old, a sub 3 hour time was what was required to be classified as good. Come 1984, now 21 years old, the standard had been raised. Now I decided that a sub 2 hour 30 minute time was required. So the stage was set, could I be a ‘good’ senior runner. Note, I didn’t want to ever be ‘elite’ and looking back now, that was probably the biggest mistake I made during my running, this deep down acceptance that I could never be elite. For some reason, being elite was beyond my reach! Not possible to be achieved. Being elite would be beyond a miracle, only a dream!

I decided that I would race the Christchurch Marathon in June to obtain my sub 2:30 time. This race was selected as the course was extremely quick. It was the same course that was used for the 1974 Commonwealth Games, where Ian Thompson ran 2:09. I therefore planned my training and racing programme, to peak on Saturday the 3rd June. Come race day, all is going well. I am banging out 3:30 kilometres with ease, which equates to a 2:27:41, so I have a few minutes ‘up my sleeve’. Then disaster, as I reach the 35 kilometre mark, I run out of energy, and this is actually physiological / biochemical energy! Back in 1984 there weren’t such things as gels. There was no mention of the need to take on board carbohydrates during the actual marathon. All that was mentioned was the need to carbo load prior to the race. Therefore, I literally depleted my carbohydrate stores, and hence had to massively reduce my running pace for the last 7 kilometres (4 ½ miles)! I cross the finish line on the QEII running track, (the same running track that New Zealander Dick Tayler had the iconic win of the Commonwealth Games Gold over 10000 metres in 1974, convincingly beating World record holder at the time David Bedford, and Englishmen David Black), in a time of 2:30:39. Missing out on being a good runner by 40 seconds! I was disappointed but being so close I felt that yes, with a little bit of improvement I could be a good runner, but that was the limit. I could just ‘scrape’ into the ‘good’ category, but no more!

The remainder of the harrier season I continue to run well, to a level at which I was content with, and although in the Wellington Centre Champs my finishing position of 24th is only three places higher that 1983, the time of 52:14 is over a minute quicker. I get selected for the Wellington team again, for the National Road Champs that this year are being held in Christchurch. Having learnt from my 1983 National Road Champs experience I am conscious of the need to clearly establish, my race goals, what do I wish to achieve? Not knowing how strong the field would be, who the other runners would be, or even what the course would be like, it was hard to establish clearly definable and measurable race goals. I was also finding the visualisations difficult. I therefore decided to simply focus my performance in relation to the other Wellington runners that were competing. I analysed the Centre Road Champ results and decided that I was capable, on the right day, to beat all of the runners that had finished within 40 seconds ahead of me. I have no idea where I got the 40 seconds limit from, but I believed that it was possible at the time, so I then spent three weeks visualising myself ahead of these Wellington runners who were also travelling to the National Champs down in Christchurch. These runners included: Gerard Maarhuis 23rd in the centre champs, Lance Jackson 22nd, Howard Gregory 21st, and Murray Ball 20th, as well as expecting to finish ahead of other Wellington runners who I had beaten at the Centre Champs who were also competing.

In order to really reinforce ‘the want’, the ‘need’ to perform, I then made one to one bets against all of these runners. The bet was for a one litre jug of beer, probably worth around 3 – 4 NZ dollars at the time. Not a huge amount of money, but with probably 8 – 10 bets made, it could have been quite costly if I ran just slightly below my Centre Road Champs form. Recalling the above names really brings back some great memories, and I could type for hours about the great times we had on these running trips. But, I think I will keep these stories for another day.

Whether it was the extensive visualisations, the establishment of well defined goals, or simply the incentive of not wanting to lose loads of money, I don’t know. All I know is that at the 1984 National Road Championships, on an extremely hot day in Christchurch, I ran probably my best ever running race and won every single one of my bets and finished in 46th place, in a time of 53:07. A really great performance for me, but finishing over 5 minutes behind the winner Rex Wilson (47:53), it further confirmed that I should be ‘happy’ with this level of achievement, and not expect anything greater.

Whether, as a consequence of realising that 46th place at the Nationals was the best I could ever achieve, or whether, just simply due to the overall appeal of a new sport, the fun aspect, the natural beauty, the adventure nature of multisport I’m not sure but 1985 saw a change of focus away from running, to the new sport of multisport. Multisport could be simply described as a triathlon, but with kayaking rather than swimming. On occasions the multisport event would be a quadrathlon involving all four disciplines of cycling, running, kayaking, and swimming. But as I wasn’t a very strong swimmer, and didn’t really enjoy swimming, I tended to stick mainly to the kayak triathlon of multisport. In addition rather than the distances for each discipline being standardised as they are in triathlon, for multisport, the distances were determined by the demands of the course, i.e. the distance between the access and exit points on the river, the distance back over the hill, the length of the bush running / tramping / hiking track, etc. It also just seemed so much more casual, exciting and refreshing. The years of 1983 - 1985 were the very start of multisport within New Zealand. The famous Coast to Coast multisport race started in 1983, and the very first National Multisports Championships were held in 1985. During 1984 in addition to running, I also started getting out on the bike a little bit, and competed in a few multisport events and cycling races as preparation for multisport. During 1984 I competed in 23 running races, 6 multisport races, 5 cycle races, and ran a total of 2588 miles, my highest mileage year to date.

The year of 1985 was therefore a transition year, as my focus on running reduced and my competitive thirst was satisfied through multisport and cycle racing. I was extremely fortunate that a friend from Naenae College, Tony Clegg, was a very knowledgeable road cyclist. He was a pretty reasonable level cyclist within the Wellington region, but tended to love the sport of cycling for the overall package (Tour de France, etc), rather than simply enjoying cycling due to the actual racing. He therefore knew absolutely everything about cycling, about how best to train, the importance of a smooth cycling technique, which gear to ride, how to service the bike, change the bottom bracket, glue on tubular tyres, pedal in the seat/out of the seat, etc. Tony and his cycling friend Graeme McLay, an extremely aggressive and powerful cyclist, one of the best track cyclists in Wellngton, both ‘took me under their wing’ and passed on all of their extensive cycling knowledge to me.

It was therefore quite unbelievable, within a very short space of time, from being a total cycling novice, with Cleggy and McLay’s guidance, I was able to compete in cycle races at regional / national level. During 1985 I first won the Wellington two-up time-trial teamed up with John Jackson, a fellow multisport athlete (Yes during 1985 I considered myself as a multisport athlete, rather than a runner or cyclist), beating the formidable pairing of Duane Rock and Ray Tomlinson. Then three weeks later, I somehow won the first stage of the regional Wellington Centre Air NZ two day multi-stage race. Beating all of the top cyclists within the Wellington region including Stephen Carton who had won a Commonwealth Games medal at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games, and Wayne Morgan who later went on to ride for NZ at the 1988 Seoul Olympics Cycling Road Race. Yes, I had got away in a three man break, and then as we prepared for the sprint finish, I had the words of McLay ringing in my head “Delay your sprint until the very last moment. When you think that the time is right to explode into a sprint, wait, and wait some more, then give it everything”. Having taken on board all of Cleggy’s and McLay’s tremendous experience, this raised my self-expectations significantly. McLay was a natural winner as a cyclist, and his expectation to win seemed to rub off onto me, and as I keep on repeating, yes I know, time and time again, expectations have such a large influence on one’s performance! Hence, why I was capable of winning the first stage. Unfortunately during the afternoon stage of the Centre Air NZ I crashed and had to withdraw!

Throughout the year, I did a mixture of running and cycle racing, including the famous long standing Palmerston North to WeIllington, and Taupo to Napier cycling road races. I raced the Wellington Centre Cycling Road Champs rather than the Centre Running Road Champs, and finish in 9th place, a significantly higher placing than what I could have possibly achieved running. I get selected for the Wellington cycling team to go to the National Road Cycling Championships, but even though I was performing at a really high level, and worthy of attending the National cycling champs, for some unknown reason, I decline my place. I still can recall quite clearly now, after the Centre Cycling Champs road race after being selected, chatting to Dave Comparini. He was one of the Wellington selectors, who was a former cyclist, who had competed at an Olympic Games for New Zealand, so he knew quite a bit about cycling. He was trying to convince me to go to the National champs. He was saying such things as; “you are extremely talented, you have real potential, you could be a ‘very good’ cyclist”. For some reason I didn’t listen to him. I think this was due to the deep down low perception of myself. I could never be a very good athlete, being good was the best I was capable of. And perhaps it was also due to not wanting to be disappointed again. If I listened to him, started to believe that perhaps I could be very good, there however was the anticipated expectation of not being able to perform to his expected level at the National champs and therefore I would have to suffer the disappointment again of further confirmation that ‘good’ is the best I could achieve, and I should be happy and content with that! It is hard trying to remember what my rationale for my decision was back then, over 27 years ago. One thing that I have learnt already from this 35 year review, is just how important it is to create time to carry out serious and deep level reflection of one’s training, racing and decision making. As mentioned in my previous post, one can learn so much from this reflection.

Although, I hadn’t raced the Wellington Centre Road Running Champs, I was still selected in the Wellington team for the National Road Running Champs due to my strong performances in other regional races throughout the season. However, this selection was only within the Wellington ‘B’ team, not the official A team. Because the National Champs were being held in Wellington in 1985, the host centre Wellington, were therefore able to enter a ‘B’ team. I felt that my performances were worthy of me being included within the official A team, so I spoke to Don Dalgleish, the chair of the selectors. He was adamant that because I didn’t race the Centre road champs that I didn’t deserve to be in the ‘A’ team. This got be quite angry. I was therefore really determined to prove him wrong. I therefore had different motivation compared to the 1984 Nationals, but what resulted was a similar strong performance. This time I finished in 33rd place in an identical time of 53:07. Was it a better performance than 1984? Well when compared to the winning time of 48:54 by Geoff Shaw, this being 1 minute and 1 second slower that the 1984 winning time, would suggest that my 1985 performance was actually better, although I only recognised this last year when sorting out the filing of my results/training diaries.

What is quite interesting from this race, is just how there are so many different factors that can influence one’s performance on race day. From reading Julian Goater’s book, where he describes in detail how anger at not being selected for the 1980 Olympics was probably the main cause that led to him racing the best cross country race of his life, winning the 1981 English Cross Country Championships by two minutes, it is obviously apparent that anger can aid performance. The difficult thing is identifying what non-physical factors influence your performance and how to incorporate these into your TOTAL training. During 1985 I competed in 12 running races, 8 multisport races, and 19 cycle races. I ran a total of 1535 miles, and cycled 7350 miles.

The year of 1986 started with a return to the 2-day Coast to Coast multisport race from near Greymouth on the west coast of the South Island to Christchurch on the east coast. I had finished an unexpected high 8th place in the 1985 race, and was therefore hopeful of a higher place than the 6th place I achieved, considering I felt that I had prepared adequately. One thing that I did learn from the 1986 Coast to Coast is that even though one can have a huge desire to achieve, and have high expectations to achieve, there is an actual limit to what the non-physical training can achieve. At the end of the day, the underlying physiology also plans a substantial role in determining the overall performance, and if you come up against other athletes that have the same ambitions, desires, expectations, and have prepared TOTALLY just like you have, it will be the underlying physiology that will determine the result. Yes, I had improved quite significantly from 1985 to 1986, but so had a number of other multisport athletes!

The year of 1986 was also quite significant for me in terms of change. Since leaving school at the end of 1980 I had been a student at Victoria University in Wellington studying architecture. After four years of study I decided that architecture wasn’t really for me, and so come 1986 I had a massive change of direction and headed down to Dunedin, and commenced studying Sports Science at the Otago University’s School of Physical Education. During the year I do a mixture of multisport, cycling and running racing, but to a much lower degree than in previous years, due to a few niggling injuries, but mainly due to the need for my changed direction to sports science, and living away from home for the first time and meeting loads of new people taking priority. During 1986 I competed in 6 running races, 7 multisport races, and 6 cycle races. I only ran a total of 818 miles, and cycled 2560 miles.

The final year of this five year review is 1987. After having a bit if a break during 1986 in terms of competitive focus, I decided that my focus for 1987 would be road cycling. The cycling scene in Dunedin was excellent. Although there were only two cycling clubs in Dunedin, the Otago Amateur Cycling Club, and the Cashes, officially called the Otago Cycling League, there was racing every weekend, with visiting cyclists often from Invercargill and other surrounding areas, as well as travelling to the occasional race away from Dunedin adding variety during the year. The sport of road cycling is quite different to running, in that it is so important to be able to stay within the leading bunch. Once you get dropping it is pretty well history! Overall, I really enjoyed the racing throughout the year, and felt that I improved as a cyclist as the year progressed. I was often able to stay in the front bunch through to the finish, but due to not having much of an explosive sprint, was unable to finish any higher than third place.

The big highlight of the year was racing in the prestigious four day Southland Tour. This event was huge, and involved a total of 12 stages over the four days of racing. Loads of the best cyclists in New Zealand were racing including plenty of New Zealand representative, National Champions, Olympians and Commonwealth Games medallists including; Brian Fowler, Graeme Miller, Wayne Morgan, Alan Miller, Greg Fraine, Del Woodford, Carlos Marryatt, Bruce Storrie, to name just a few. I absolutely loved every minute of the entire four days. I was buzzing the whole time and finished at the end of four days in 10th place overall on General Classification (GC) which also included winning the B Grade classification. At the time I didn’t understand how and why I had performed so well in this event. It is only now whilst doing this review, that it has just dawned on me. My recollection of the Southland Tour in 1987 seems very, very similar to the experience I had at the 2011 IAU World Trail Championships when running representing Great Britain I again performed extremely well, significantly better than any of my previous performances. And the reason for these two outstanding performances? Simply the overall excitement, the overall joy of competing amongst such high quality athletes, some of them literally the best in the world. One can’t underestimate the influence enjoyment and excitement can have on endurance performance. Yes , my final cycling race of 1987, the Southland Tour, was an extremely positive and satisfying experience that it got me yearning for more. At the end of 1987 I couldn’t wait for the following cycling season to commence. I was now an out and out cyclist. No more multisport, no more running, I was 100% a road cyclist. But you will have to wait until my next five year review blog post to discover what happened! During 1987 I competed in 2 multisport races and 24 cycle races, with the 4 day Southland Tour, and the 2 day Tamahine Tour being counted as one race each. I only ran a total of 155 miles, but cycled 9525 miles.

Well, that was a bit of an epic blog post. I didn’t realise what I was taking on when I decided to write seven blog posts each reviewing a five year period. I will sign off with an expression I picked up whilst in Lanzarote competing in the very first Lanzarote Ironman. Yes the next five year instalment introduces the world of Ironman!

If you managed to read this blog post in one sitting, then “You’re a better man than me!” An overweight Englishmen holidaying in Lanzarote, 1992.

Once again, all the best as you review your 2012 year.


Friday, 28 December 2012

Review of 2012 - Well not Quite! First a review of 1978-1982!


It has been a while since my last blog post back in October.  I have been intending to write a post on training to help expand upon some aspects raised back in October, but somehow haven't managed to.  Hopefully the post will eventuate in January sometime.  First though is a review of 2012.

The intention for this blog post was simply a review of my training and racing from 2012. However, with the 1st of January 2013 being exactly 35 years since I started recording my training down into a training log, I got a bit carried away after digging out my training diary from 1978. So the idea of a quick review of 35 years of racing and training seemed appealing. Unfortunately reviewing 35 years isn’t going to be quick! Hence my plan is to split the last 35 years into seven posts, each covering 5 years, starting with 1978 – 1982, so here we go!

35 Years of Training Diaries!

Firstly, why did I start recording my training on the 1st January 1978? Living in New Zealand, I was like most other kiwi boys, I played rugby. Yes from the age of 8 to 13 I played rugby for Naenae Old Boys, the local rugby club. I knew I wasn’t going to become an All Black, and I recall during my last year of playing rugby I was finding it quite demanding, with the intensity of rugby having increased significantly now that I was a teenager! At the same time, I found that I was enjoying the runs we occasionally did as part of PE at secondary school. My favourite PE run, the Summit Road run, I guess was around 2 miles. It was an out and back route, with the turnaround point being at the top of Summit Road. Yes, as you would expect from a road named Summit Road, it was a pretty tough climb up to the turn point where Mr Chen, our PE teacher would be waiting with a clip board to tick off our names! So during the winter of 1977, instead of playing rugby I joined the local running club, Hutt Valley Harriers, and had my first experiences of club racing, usually every second week, with there being a club training run on the other Saturdays when there were no races.

Although I usually finished within the second half of the field, I wasn’t last, so I really enjoyed the season of harriers, involving a mixture of cross country and road races, which ran from April though to October. Meanwhile at school, Naenae College, the occasional Summit Road runs at PE continued, and although I wasn’t doing any training, the benefit of running or racing at Harriers each Saturday was cumulating in me improving during the PE runs, so I was now finishing usually in around 3rd or 4th place, from a total of around 30 boys from the 4L and 4D PE class. Probably the most significant impact that led to me starting to record my training on the 1st January 1978, was in 1977 the arrival to Naenae College of Mr Wilby, a newly qualified music teacher from Christchurch, but most significantly he was a runner. It was during his first year at Naenae College that he established a running group that trained together each day after school. One of my friends from the 4L and 4D PE class, Jeremy Wah, had joined the group and said it was really good and suggested that I should join the group. Jeremy probably used to finish the Summit Road PE run in either 1st or 2nd place, so a better runner than me, but not that far ahead, so although the thought of joining an ‘official’ training group was a bit daunting, there was a little bit of evidence to convince me that I wouldn’t be totally out of my depth training in the newly formed training group.

I therefore resigned from my after school job at one of the local butcher shops that I had been doing each week day for the previous year and a half. I remember ‘conning’ my Mum in that I needed to quit the after school job in order to have more time available to concentrate on my School Certificate subjects (GCSE equivalent), which I would be examined on at the end of 1978. I therefore negotiated a weekly pocket money amount to compensate my loss of earning, and officially commenced my entry into the fantastic sport of endurance running in September 1977. Other runners within the Gary Wilby Training Group were, the Lucock brothers - Mark and Peter, Michael Bastion, Chris Bryant, Jeremy Wah, and also the Ritchie brothers – Glenn and Martyn. Yes, it was all boys in the group, I guess mainly due to the fact that instead of getting changed and departing from the school gym, we met and got changed in one of the music rehearsal rooms. Back in the 1970s us boys at Naenae College didn’t really worry about such things as having a shower following our training. I do recall that on occasions, one girl would join us for the after school runs, her name Fiona Tanis. She was a pretty impressive runner having run if my memory is correct 2 mins 16 secs for 800 metres as a 14 year old. A pretty impressive time! especially as my PB for 800metres as a 14 year old was only around 2 mins 35 secs! Mr Wilby would join in with us on our runs probably around twice per week, mainly for the interval sessions. Without knowing how fortunate we were, Gary Wilby, commonly referred to as the wizard, (you’ll see why in the photo below), was not only a good quality club runner, probably around 25th best within the Wellington region, but more importantly a very knowledgeable running coach, having trained with some of the best runners in Christchurch prior to coming to Wellington, and since arriving in Wellington, being a member of the Victoria University Harrier Club, and therefore currently trained with many of the best runners in Wellington, including the world famous Professor Roger Robinson, the inventor of ‘Sausage Sessions’.

An interesting aside, I have just finished reading an excellent book written by Keith Livingstone titled Healthy Intelligent Training – The Proven Principles of Arthur Lydiard. For a while Keith Livingstone lived in Wellington and he was also a member of the Victoria University Harrier Club. Whether many of his the ideas he shares within his book were developed during his time at Wellington it isn’t totally clear, one thing that is clear though is that the training we were doing within the Wilby training group closely resembled the principles described within his excellent book.

Yes, way back in 1978 our training was extremely well balanced. It was heavily based on the Lydiard Principles, i.e. a strong emphasis on a periodised approach to training, building a strong and solid aerobic base, before moving to the quicker more anaerobic phases. Mr Wilby, although interested in performance, also placed a lot of emphasis on long term sustainability. He was very cautious in not to over train us, or to give us too much anaerobic work without there being an aerobic foundation. Yes, us group of young lads, and the occasional lass from Naenae College, were very fortunate to have the Wizard coaching us. And as every good coach will tell you, it is extremely important that you log your training down within a training diary. However, the thought of buying a diary when there were only a few months of the year left in 1977 just didn’t appeal. So my recording of my training had to wait until the 1st of January 1978, which just so happened to also be my 15th birthday.

Training Diaries 1978 - 1982

So what was the entry on the 1st January 1978? I quote “My Birthday. Rest until 10th”. Looking at these early entries, not much has changed in 35 years. I still simply state either the approximate distance or the run time, a brief description of the route, and a comment regarding how I felt. From Wednesday 25th January 1978: “7 miles, 65 minutes. Very hot day. Had 2-3 rests. Ran through golf sprinklers, cooled me down. Felt hot and tired, then got more relaxed, felt better,” And from Tuesday 14th February 1978: “800m at athletics. 4th Time 2min 30secs. Felt good and amazed. Really sprinted hard with 200m to go and at finish wasn’t completely stuffed.” Really interesting that way back then I included a large focus within my training diary on my emotions, how the running felt! The fact that the latest research regarding fatigue during endurance performance includes such articles as “Fatigue is a brain-derived emotion ...” (Noakes, 2012) is quite revealing. Together with my Race Focus Energy (RFE) model of fatigue being heavily dependent upon feelings / emotions suggests that maybe I knew the ‘answer’ way back then without realising it!

The five years from 1978 – 1982 were five years of tremendous change. At the start of 1978, I am a middle / back of the pack runner. At the Wellington Secondary Schools Cross Country Champs, that took place in October 1977 I finished in 77th place from a field of 96 finishers. Just for those interested, probably not many of you, but finish places for runners from the Wilby training group in the same fourth form (year10) age group race were: Chris Bryant – 12th, Peter Lucock – 19th, and Jeremy Wah – 40th. Come the start of 1978 I therefore didn’t have very high expectations of myself in terms of finishing positions. I hadn’t chosen my parents very well, and therefore didn’t have the necessary genes to be a good runner. That was what I believed back then, and as I have since discovered one’s performance is strongly influenced by one’s self-belief!

The change in terms of my self-perception of my running qualities was quite slow, but with one or two key shifts in attitude. During 1978 the two big leaps forward were the New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships that took place in June, and the New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Road Championships that took place in December. The cross country champs were being held way down south in Timaru. Although, not performing to the same level as the other runners in the training group, Mr Wilby still strongly encouraged me to go to the National champs. I still recall now that I felt a bit of an ‘imposter’, heading all the way to Timaru, consisting of a 3½ hour ferry journey, then a 4½ hour train journey, an overnight stop in Christchurch, then a 2½ bus trip finally to Timaru! I was convinced that I would finished close to last, competing against the best runners in New Zealand. Whether it was the fear of getting last, or simply the fact that the course was pretty well 4000 metres of ankle deep mud so running was extremely difficult, so it got down to ‘wanting it more’ rather than actual running ‘ability’, I just don’t know! But I ran probably my best race to date, finishing in 104th place out of 205 finishers in the Junior Boys (Under 16) event. Nearly, in the top half, at the National champs. I was absolutely ‘wrapped’, as we used to say back then.

On the Picton Ferry with Gary Wilby on the Way Down to the NZSSCC Champs - June 1978

Six months later, it was the National Secondary School road champs. The road champs took place at the same time as the National Secondary School track champs. Therefore all of the best runners raced the track, so the road champs contained significantly weaker fields in comparison to the cross country champs. This well known fact had a significant impact on my performance. Immediately my expectations were raised. Not only was I confident of finishing much higher up than 104th due to the weaker field, but also due to the way the age groups were set for the National Secondary School champs, being taken as under 16 as at the 31st December rather than using the usual academic year groups. Having my 16th birthday on the 1st January therefore meant that I was the oldest person in the entire field! It should therefore come as no surprise that as a result of these heightened self expectations, my performance was quite outstanding in relation to my other performances during 1978. I finished in 24th place in the Junior Boys (Under 16) 6000metre road race. Considering just over a little more than a year earlier I was only 77th best in the Wellington region. I was now 24th best in the whole country. Yes, once I obtained this outstanding result, I conveniently ignored the fact that the best runners in the country didn’t start the road race as they were racing on the track!

It would be foolish of me to conclude that my massive improvements during the year were simply due to changed expectations. In addition I had continued training regularly after school within the Wilby group. Throughout the year, he had carefully orchestrated our training, (yes I also thought orchestrated was a very apt word considering Gary Wilby was a music teacher!) Although we didn’t know it, we were mimicking the training, but to a lesser extent, of the Lydiard boys from the 1960s – Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, Barry Magee and Bill Baillie, all of them either Olympic medallists and/or World record holders! Our training involved developing our endurance base first with different types of runs including, the long run, sub-threshold effort runs , fartlek, aerobic intervals, and recovery runs, before progressing to the anaerobic phase, including VO2 max intervals, sausage sessions, hill repetitions and again the important recovery runs. Yes, our training programme was very well structured, that not only developed us physiologically, but also helped develop our confidence by getting us to peak for the big races, one of the key principles of the Lydiard approach to training. As highlighted by Matt Fitzgerald over 30 years later in his 2010 book titled Run – The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel, "If it does nothing else, a runner's training must make him feel prepared, because if he feels prepared, he is prepared, and if he doesn't, he isn't. The primary objective of training for every competitive runner should be to develop confidence in her ability to achieve her race goals.” Yes, Lydiard knew this key principle way back in the sixties, and fortunately, so did Gary Wilby, back in the seventies. During 1978, excluding track races, I raced 14 times and ran a total of 1044 miles.

During 1979, Gary WIlby took the last two terms of the three term school year off as he travelled around Europe on his 'Big O.E' (which stands for Overseas Experience to you non-kiwis). The after school training group didn’t function so well, so I returned back for one last season of rugby. I still raced the NZ Secondary School Cross Country and Road Championships, but now in the Senior Boys (Over 16) category. Considering during 1979 I was in the sixth form (lower sixth) I was racing against boys up to 1½ years older than me, my finish places of 64th (cross country) and 25th (road) were a gentle continuation of my improvement as a runner. During 1979, excluding track races, I raced 6 times and ran a total of 1169 miles.

I have commented about the start of 1980 in a previous blog titled Marathon Number 1 - Fletcher Marathon, Rotorua, NZ - 26th April 1980, posted in April 2010, which describes my preparation for my first ever marathon, at the young age of 17. Performances following my marathon were a significant improvement upon 1979. Whether my improvement was a result of the increased physical training I carried out preparing for the marathon, or as a result of a changed acceptance within myself that I was now a good runner, I don’t know. I would expect a combination of them both. Refer to my Blog articles to learn more about factors that influence endurance performance. My key results from 1980 were, in the order they occurred through the year; probably my biggest breakthrough race to date, even more dramatic than my 1978 national performances, was finishing in 2nd place in the Colts Under 18 regional Dorne Cup race in June, then 17th at the NZ Cross Country Champs, and finally 7th place at the NZ Road Champs at the end of the year. During 1980, excluding track races, I raced 19 times and ran a total of 2167 miles.

The year 1981 was my first year at Victoria University in Wellington, so being a student I found I had more time available to train. Turning 18 at the start of the year, I moved up into the Junior Under 20 race category so found the competition pretty tough as I was competing against boys again up to 1½ years older than me. I had some good performances finishing between 6th and 11th place in the regional races. During 1981, excluding track races, I raced 20 times and ran a total of 2520 miles, my second highest mileage year to date.

The final year of this five year review is 1982. The intention was that this would be the year that I would really perform, being 19 years old and therefore my last year competing as a Junior. Well, what a disappointment. I picked up two injuries during the year, which severely restricted my running. The injuries, combined with the excessive alcohol intake of my University student lifestyle, resulted in me gaining the name ‘Tits Mills’ after 8 weeks of non-running! I managed a 12th and 10th place at the Wellington Centre Junior cross country and road champs, both positions worse than 1981. So overall a bit of a ‘blip’ following four years of successive improvement!  During 1982 I raced 10 times and ran a total of 1406 miles

Well that’s the end of my first five year review. This post is probably not typical of my previous posts, so maybe not many messages to take away from the post to aid your running. However, my UltraStu blog is sub-titled Millsy’s memories, and as I approach a significant date next week, it is a good time for a few memories.

Time to sign off; “Often one is not aware of the significance of the learning that has taken place until many, many years later. Reviewing 35 years of training, highlights the importance of the need for reflection on a more frequent basis. Discovering ‘secrets’ 35 years later could be considered a little bit too late!” Stuart Mills, 2012.

All the best with your reviews of 2012,


Monday, 29 October 2012

The Relationship Between Performance and Fatigue - With Illustrations from the Beachy Head Marathon


This blog was going to be my Beachy Head Marathon race report, but my quick update told quite a bit of the story.  So instead I will try to reply to a comment left by Dale in response to my UltraStu story.  So this race report will be slightly different, with some ideas first, then some application to the Beachy Head Marathon.  I will try to keep the post to marathon length rather that an ultra!

Nearing the Finish of the Beachy Head Marathon

In some of my previous posts, which I since have edited and now made available as articles, I have introduced my Race Focus Energy (RFE) Fatigue Model.  The more of the recent academic literature I have read, the more I am convinced that my RFE model has many, many merits.  I have just finished reading an enlightening book titled "So It's Tough Out There, Is It?" written by Barry Durdant-Hollamby.  Who?  No, I wouldn't expect many runners out there to have come across any of his writings, however, what I am discovering is that my enhanced understanding of trail running, for example, in realisation of simple concepts such as 'Your expectations largely determine your experiences", is applicable to ALL aspects of life.  Barry's book, on communication within business, has helped me realise this.  Oops, sorry, I got side tracked there!  It was the quote at the end of his book that I wanted to share: "A new idea is first condemned as ridiculous, and then dismissed as trivial, until it finally becomes what everybody knows." William James.

At the end of the Beachy Head Marathon, I was chatting with one of my training mates Kev, and his brother Ian, who had both just finished the marathon.  Ian asks me "What do I need to do to prevent me from running out of energy towards the end of a marathon?"  His question was referring to biochemical / nutritional energy, with additional reference to physiological fatigue.  I gave a quick reply with something like, you need to understand the Race Focus Energy concept, and commented that a brief explanation wasn't really possible there and then.  So Ian and Dale have prompted tonight's blog post.

The Race Focus Energy (RFE) Fatigue Model was developed in response to the existing scientific model of fatigue, known as the 'Catastrophic' model, being rather flawed.  Tim Noakes, known for his book "Lore of Running", and now more recently his book titled "Waterlogged" was probably the first person that encouraged me to start thinking 'laterally', with his Central Governor Fatigue Model.  My RFE model takes on board his Central Governor model, but builds on this, with specific application to trail running. 

The three components of my RFE model are:
(i) Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
(ii) Race Focus Energy (RFE)
(iii) Muscle Activation

But most important is that the BRAIN is CENTRAL to these three components!  In a recent Tim Noakes academic article published back in April titled "Fatigue is a brain derived emotion that regulates the exercise behaviour to ensure the protection of whole body homeostasis" Noakes lists the many many factors that have been shown within the research to alter endurance performance.  This large list includes:

"The biological state of the athlete at the start of exercise including the emotional state, the extent of mental fatigue, or sleep deprivation, the state of recovery from a previous exercise bout, the level of motivation and prior experience, the degree of self-belief, including superstitious beliefs. Factors specific to the event that alter performance include monetary reward, prior knowledge of the exercise end-point, and the presence of competitors, especially if they are of similar ability. A number of chemical agents including the stimulants–amphetamine, caffeine, pseudoephedrine, modafinil, and the dopamine/noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor bupropion as well as the analgesic, acetaminophen, or the analgesic naloxone, or the cytokines interleukin-6, or brain IL-1β have all been shown to alter exercise performance as do placebos.  Psychological skills training can also improve subsequent exercise performance.

Conscious deceptions that improve performance include using the Ramachandran mirror to observe the non-fatigued arm when working with the opposite, listening to music, the provision of inaccurate information provided by a clock that runs slowly or of the actual distance to be covered, or of the pace of a prior performance that had been deceptively increased by 2%, or of the true environmental conditions in which the exercise is being performed and the athlete’s real core body temperature response. Factors that influence performance and which are likely sensed subconsciously include the degree of arterial or cerebral oxygenation, the size of the muscle glycogen stores, the extent of fluid loss or, and variables relating to the rate of heat accumulation.  Pre-exercise whole body cooling can also improve subsequent exercise performance, including cooling to the lower body, the upper body, the neck, or palms.  Rinsing the mouth with carbohydrate improves performance perhaps by acting on specific brain areas. Running downhill and the presence of muscle damage or muscle soreness are all associated with reduced performance further."
However, the most important observation made by Noakes is: 
"Potentially “everything,” not just those factors identified above and in the figure below, can potentially affect athletic performance.  But that the most important of these effects begin and end in the brain."

Hence, why the RFE model, which has Race Focus Energy at its core, which is situated within the brain, which could be alternatively referred to as mental fatigue, or running out of mental energy, is now being recognised by recent research.  So in terms of fatigue and performance.  The brain is monitoring so many factors all at the same time.  The brain then sub-consciously controls the amount of 'discomfort' it 'passes' onto you, in response to it's 'concern' over potentially being damaged.  The brain controls the level of Muscle Activation both directly, and indirectly via controlling the level of 'discomfort', which affects your Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE), which subsequently affects your Race Focus Energy (RFE) and Muscle Activation. One of the functions of TOTAL training that I frequently refer to, is to alter the brain's subconscious 'concern' when experiencing different situations, by having experienced them before!  Therefore having previous sub-conscious 'awareness' of the potential concern, so thereby adjusting the 'thermostat' level, so concern is no longer 'initiated' at such a low level, i.e. there is a reduction in the brain's safety margin / safety reserve!  (Perhaps more on this in another post).

Endurance running performance is not only influenced by all the factors highlighted by Noakes, confirmed by published research, but many other factors, based on my experiences, including: life stresses at work or within family / friends, excitement, enthusiasm, expectations, enjoyment etc. (More details on these other factors that I consider are also important, are described in the RFE article, and illustrated in last year's Beachy Head Marathon race report.)  So performance is influenced by an overall balance of, as Noakes puts it"Potentially “everything,” .

Back to my UltraStu story and the comment left by Dale: "It seems the subject of your story didn't put too much pre-race mental focus into his race? Does this not conflict with the message of most of your posts? Yet he surprised himself with his performance."  Yes, Dale is correct in that I place a lot of importance on having positive realistic expectations, as this will influence the direction that the RPE - RFE arrow is pointing, i.e. consuming more or less RFE corresponding to a certain level of RPE, but also influences one's actual RPE.  So why was it that the subject in my story was able to perform so well?  I conclude it was due to the massive positivity he was receiving from being cheered on, from the excitement, absolute buzz of performing so well.  Hence why I talk about the spiral effect.  Performing well, creates a buzz, creates positivity, which further enhances performance.  It is why 'break-through' races occur.  The break-through is simply 'getting onto' the upward spiral!  The extent at which performing 'above' your expectations, if interpreted positively, can enhance performance can not be underestimated.  At times there is a sense of feeling 'indestructible' as if you are a 'superman'.  Talk to any athlete who has just achieved an extraordinary performance, where it is clearly recognised as one of their best performances ever.  Do they reflect on, recall the difficulty of the performance.  Yes, they may be well aware that they were working at a very high intensity, i.e. they had a high Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE).  But more often than not, they will comment, that even though they knew they were running hard (i.e. a high RPE), it just felt tremendous, it just felt positive, it just felt great!  They should be the most fatigued they have ever been, as a result of performing to the best they ever have, but they don't.  Yes, the massive effect of achievement.  Watch the end of a race, or a football / rugby match.  The winners always appear to have 'boundless' energy.  The losers are totally wiped out, absolutely no 'energy' left at all, but yet both teams, have worked equally as hard!

In addition to the 'buzz' of performing well, the subject in my UltraStu story, also probably had an enhanced performance because there wasn't the usual worry, the often performance limiting 'burden' of wanting to perform too much.  The 'need' to perform, the over analysis of performance, simply thinking about it too much, can hinder performance.   Come race day, the preparation is complete.  During the race, in some ways, it is best to relax, and simply let it happen.  Have belief in your preparation, be within the present moment, and enjoy that moment without any worry or anxious anticipation.


This year's Beachy Head Marathon was won by my work colleague and training partner Rob Harley.  Rob is an exercise physiologist, so he has been 'conditioned' on the now 'dated' way of thinking about performance.  In that it is pretty well entirely determined by physiology, your genes, what you are born with, with some influence due to physical training, up to a certain level, but the overriding concept that performance is determined by physiology.  Well over the last few years, on many, many runs, I have discussed with Rob my differing views on what determines performance.  He started of with my ideas being totally wrong, then 'softened' a bit to, could have a minor role to play, and more recently he has beginning to be more accepting.  Frequently he would state that it was my physiology that was the cause as to why I always beat him in running, previously by over 30 minutes at the Beachy Head Marathon, which gradually over the years, as he became more aware of what factors influence endurance performance, this margin of being beaten was reduced to only 17 minutes, last year, where he finished in 5th place to my 2nd place. 

Then just Tuesday last week, I performed identical physiological tests as he had recently carried out.  We finally had some good quality, reliable physiological data to confirm whether it was my physiological characteristics that 'caused' me to always beat him, or was it due to all of the other factors that my RFE model refers to such as: positivity, expectations, enjoyment, visualisations, etc.  What did the data show us?  In terms of physiological measures, there are three key variables; VO2max, lactate threshold, and running economy.  (Go to a previous blog post for details on these variables.)  Rob's VO2max was far superior to mine, our lactate threshold's were identical, and only was my running economy better than his.  But when our running economy was expressed relative to our VO2max value, the values were very similar.  Rob couldn't believe it.  He immediately questioned the validity of the data.  Were the gas analysers calibrated correctly?  They were!

Rob therefore had a real dilemma.  He could no longer limit his expected performance in relation to me due to his assumed physiological inferiority.  It was hard for him to believe, but him always getting beaten by me was now within his control.  It was due to his limited TOTAL physical preparation.  Yes, his physical preparation was good, and this year had been probably the best it had ever been.  However, prior to viewing the physiological test data on Tuesday he would have never  given even a tiny glimpse of a thought towards beating me.  Just as in the quote from Barry's book above, Rob was finally at the stage where he accepted my ideas on factors that influence performance.  He finally knew, what I already knew, and what eventually others will know! 

Come race day, he no longer simply accepted that I would run away from him.  He stayed in close contact.  Then believe it or not, he overtook me on the long climb between Jevington and Alfriston, around 6 miles.  Rob was now in second place, not too far behind the leader.  The realisation that he had broken through his previously imposed limitations was overwhelming.  He caught the leader and went to the front.  Rob was leading the prestigious Beachy Head Marathon, leading over 1700 runners.  He was in the front!  Even though he knew he was running at a high intensity, and hence was experiencing a high RPE.  However, due to a downward RPE-RFE arrow, running significantly faster than he had ever run in any of his previous five Beachy Head marathons, there was only minimal demand on his Race Focus Energy (RFE).  Yes, it was hard, it was tough, but 'somehow' he was able to maintain the fast pace!

With around 8 miles to go, as he reached the iconic Seven Sisters, a runner joined him and the other runner in which he had been alternating the lead, to form the lead pack of three, side by side.  This third runner then gained the lead and run off into the distance for what seemed an assured victory.  Rob drifted behind, and as he told me later in the pub, he thought to himself, "If I finish in 3rd place, it will still be a good result".  So there wasn't really great disappointment at losing the lead, as he felt more than content with a 3rd place finish.  At this point in the race, I was still around three minutes behind in 5th place, around 100 metres behind 4th place.  So there was a huge gap behind Rob to 4th place.

As the race passes through Birling Gap (less than 4 miles to go) Rob is still in 3rd place, with the leader nearly out of sight, probably around one and a half minutes ahead of Rob.  By this stage, not that Rob knew it, I was on my own in 4th place and now only around one and a half minutes behind him.  Although I was further down the field than I had ever experienced in my previous ten times of running the Beachy Head marathon, rather surprisingly I wasn't in a negative state.  I was actually still enjoying myself, and feeling that I was running quite well in terms of the effort I was putting in, but for some strange reason, it was just not flowing, the rhythm, the smoothness, just wasn't there.  As I gradually pull in Rob, with 2nd place less than 100 metres ahead of him.  I begin to feel content that finishing in second place will be fine.  Yes, I simply reminded myself that I had won this race seven times previously, never finished worse than in 2nd, and Rob had never beaten me.  The interesting conflict I had experienced so far throughout the race was trying to deal with 'overcoming' the argument that I had spent significant time trying to convince Rob, that there was no logical reason why he couldn't actually beat me.  Yes, it was rather bizarre.  In some ways convincing Rob that it was possible, had also convinced me that it was possible.  My self expectations had been altered!

With three miles to go though, I was back on track.  Yes, I will finish second, to the leader way out in front.  Just as Rob, with 8 miles to go was reasonably content with 3rd place.  Although I was still in 4th place, I had decided that I would be content with 2nd.  A good result considering it wasn't really 'happening' for me today.  Little did I know that with less than two miles to go, as I had gained to within a minute of Rob, who by now was closing down on 2nd place, that Rob had changed his expectations.  He began to believe that he could actually finish second.  So instead of nearly running out of energy, which Rob up to a year ago would have simply concluded was biochemical/nutritional energy, but now wasn't so sure, Rob felt he still had sufficient energy, Race Focus Energy.  He picks up his pace, moves into 2nd place, and then immediately sees the leader ahead struggling.  He can't believe it.  There is the chance, something totally unimaginable, that he could win this prestigious marathon with over 30 years of history.  The buzz, the positivity, the excitement is unbelievable.  The suffering from the cramping fatigue legs he had experienced between 8 to 2 miles to go, had suddenly disappeared, his pace further increased, and much to my despair my closing of the gap to Rob was halted.  Rob hits the lead with less than half a mile of downhill running to the finish line.  Nothing is going to stop Rob now, he is 'indestructible'.

Me, having decided back at Birling Gap that I was going to finish a respectable 2nd place, had no other option.  Rob was 'flying' in both physical, but more importantly in a an emotional sense.  So I simply had to overtake the other two runners.  With only half a mile of downhill running left, I first had to move into 3rd place and then close still quite a large gap to the previous leader.  The focus, the rhythm, the flow, the energy, for the first time during the race finally return to me.  Where they had been all day, I don't know.  With some reflection and analysing hopefully I will work it out.  But at this moment in time, I was on a mission.  I mentioned above that although not performing as well as expected I wasn't in a negative state, but now I was absolutely buzzing, the excitement at running these two guys down was amazing.  As the descent starts to get really steep, I guess about 250 metres from the finish line, I move into 3rd place.  Then I finally draw level with 2nd place as we come off the steep grass slope onto the final 50 metres of road, both of us nearly having a potentially horrendous spill as we collide into each other as we pass through the narrow gap adjacent to the cafe.  As I regain my balance, my stride, I have lost half a metre, and now less than 40 metres to go.  Amazingly though, I still don't doubt that I will get 2nd place, which is rather strange, bearing in mind that I only managed to avoid getting last in the fathers 60 metre sprint at school sports day a few years back, only because there was your ideal 'heart attack' Dad also running, (who is only just visible in lane 1)! 

School Sports Fathers Race - Displaying my Sprinting Qualities!

With less than 3 metres to go, I finally manage to move ahead, and the official results show that I beat Paul Barnes by 0.2 seconds!  Daniel Watt finishes 4th, eight seconds behind.  Meanwhile, Rob Harley is still in a state of absolute shock, trying to comprehend the unbelievable that has happened, winning by 47 seconds.  Which only became achievable once he removed his own self-imposed limits!  Susie Casebourne was the winning women in a time of 3:31:29.

Well, I think its a good time to conclude this blog post.  I hope the above has answered your question Dale, and also provided some context for you Ian.  To briefly summarise, performance is affected by many, many factors, but some factors have a larger influence than others.  With positivity, enjoyment, and being within the present moment, combined with not limiting your self-expectation, being the most influential factors!

Time to sign off with a quote from Chrissy Wellington, multiple Hawaii Ironman World Champion: 
"Pain is little more than a conversation between your body and your brain, this is another reason why a fit mind is so important.  The brain is programmed to protest us, and that can mean imposing limits on what it thinks we can or should do.  Constantly push at these limits, because the brain can be way too cautious."  Chrissy Wellington, (201), page 142, A Life Without Limits - A World Champions Journey.

All the best as your re-consider your self-imposed limits.


PS  It isn't too late to donate to the Teenage Cancer Trust, the charity I was running for to raise both the profile of the charity, and a wee bit of money.  Unfortunately I didn't win the race, but hopefully there will be a photo of Rob and I with the mayor of Eastbourne within the local press, as with both of us working on the Eastbourne campus of the University of Brighton, coming first and second, it provided an interesting news item.  If you are interested in making a small donation, please go to the JustGiving page that I have set up. Thanks.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Beachy Head Marathon - Quick Update


Just a quick update on today's marathon, the eleventh consecutive time I have raced the Beachy Head Marathon.  Going into the marathon I was feeling reasonably confident of going quicker than last year's 3:02.  Weather conditions today were pretty chilly, plus quite a strong northerly wind, so a bit tough going out, but the wind really helped coming back.  So overall the wind probably added around two minutes to last year's conditions.

A finish time of 3:10, therefore eight minutes slower than last year was a bit of a shock!  I felt like I was putting in a decent effort, but just didn't have the flow!  It just wasn't happening.  At half way I was down in sixth place, so the pressure was really on to move up the field in my local marathon.  At half way there were three runners quite close together, probably around 3 minutes ahead, then I wasn't too far behind 4th and 5th place.

With quite a bit of effort, including a very, very tight sprint finish I ended up 2nd.  So a reasonably strong second half.  The only runner I couldn't catch was my work colleague and training partner Rob Harley, who finished 47 seconds ahead.  Achieving a fantastic result, with a PB!  Last time I share all my training and performance ideas with him!

Full race report in a few days.

To those of you that raced today, hope you all had enjoyable runs.


Thursday, 25 October 2012

Beachy Head Marathon Preview


Just a quick post tonight to inform you that this Saturday I will be racing the Beachy Head Marathon for my eleventh consecutive time, and for the first time I am hoping to raise some money for a worthy charity - The Teenage Cancer Trust.
Prior to last year's race I produced the following slide below for one of the talks I was doing.  The slide displays my finishing times for my previous nine Beachy Head Marathons and my weekly training mileage during my marathon build-up.  I haven't counted up my mileage this year as I have been taking a slightly different approach.  I have been getting a bit of a 'hard time' in that I am 'cheating'.! That I am getting an unfair advantage of other competitors!  What is this cheating?  Well I guess it technically isn't cheating, as it isn't illegal, but it isn't really something your 'typical runner' can access, unless they had some spare hundreds of pounds.  What is it?  Altitude training, or more technically termed "Intermittent Hypoxic Training". 

Yes for the last four weeks I have been running in the University of Brighton's (where I work) altitude chamber.  I have been monitored by two Sport and Exercise Science Masters students, Andy and Sally.  The altitude intervention has consisted of running for one hour, three times a week, within a hypoxic environment, with the percentage oxygen set at around 14.1 - 14.2% (compared to ambient oxygen 21%), which is equivalent to running at an altitude of around 3200 metres above sea level.

Looking into the scientific literature, there are mixed results whether such a short term (4 weeks) intermittent (only 3 x 1hour per week) intervention produces any benefits, however, one of my colleagues Dr Gary Brickley, coach to a number of paralympic cyclists and triathletes, has found that a short term altitude intervention has really 'brought on' the athletes he coaches, including four time Paralympic gold medallist Sarah Storey, and Paralympic gold medallist David Stone, as described in this article. Looking at the journal articles it appears that the intervention doesn't alter blood physiology, even when there are significant improvements in performance.  However, the physiology researchers therefore hypothesise that the improvements must therefore be to changes in the muscle physiology.  My interpretation is slightly different, however, I will wait to see if there are any significant improvements over and above my expected performance during the race on Saturday.

At the start of tonight's blog, I mentioned that I am hoping to raise some money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.  Yes, another one of my work colleagues, Sue Keen, approached me and asked if I wouldn't mind trying to raise the profile of the Teenage Cancer Trust, in anticipation that I would be finishing high up the field within the Beachy Head Marathon, and hopefully have my photo within the local media.  She explained how her son, Jamie, was diagnosed with cancer whilst a teenager.  She commented how the Teenage Cancer Trust really helped Jamie and her family during the difficult times, and in really assisting in making the treatment Jamie was receiving as 'pleasant' as it could be, by providing an environment specifically targeting the needs of a teenage patient.  I therefore agreed to run in a Teenage Cancer Trust shirt, and then I thought, with my UltraStu blog hits now having past 56,000, that possibly some of my UltraStu readers may wish to sponsor me and donate some money to this worthy cause. 

Yes, I know all charity causes are worthy, and yes, you are probably 'bombarded' with requests for donations to charity from many of your running friends, so please don't feel obliged to donate.  But I just thought I would mention it to you all, so if interested please go to the JustGiving page that I have just set up.  I am not aiming for a huge target, simply £100.  With around 500 different people reading each and every blog post I publish, I am hopeful that this target of £100 can be raised.

Thanks in advance, 


PS If any athletes out there have had any positive or negative experiences with Intermittent Hypoxic Training please leave a comment, as I am interested to know the results from practical applications, rather than within the artificial environment of scientific lab testing.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Interaction of the Body and Mind - The Process of Resting / Recovery


This post was meant to be about clarifying "what causes performance and what is fatigue" in response to a comment from last week's UltraStu story post.  However, I have been in communication with one of the athletes I coach, and I felt that some of my 'words of wisdom' that I offered her, may be useful, or at least interesting to other endurance runners.  Just a wee word of warning though.  My ideas, are simply that, my ideas!  They are not supported with scientific references from journal articles, and in fact may be considered totally flawed , when based on today's current medical understanding.  But this doesn't necessarily mean the ideas are wrong, but simply possibly means that there hasn't yet been the research carried out, to confirm these ideas, i.e. to explain how exactly the body functions!

As with my previous post, and in fact with all of my posts, comments are most welcome, as it is interesting to receive feedback, so I am aware whether my ideas are 'totally outside of the box' and are therefore interpreted as rather pointless, or that there are other runners that like to think 'laterally' and appreciate alternative ways at looking at things.  I hope you are in the latter category.

Below are some excerpts from an e-mail I recently sent to one of the athletes I coach.  The e-mail was prompted by recent communication I had been having, which included the following comments:

"Well, things haven't exactly gone smoothly on the 'rest' front...    So after speaking to you on Sunday, I did as planned and rested Monday and Tuesday with only relaxing walking....    I couldn't understand why after 4 days off I felt so well, ill!...I am obviously concerned about how rubbish this is in prep for my next race....    Any thoughts? Has this happened to you before? Had these symptoms? How did you handle it and did you find you were fresher when you recovered fully and returned to training again?"

SO (excerpts from) MY REPLY:

The body and mind together are pretty amazing and very, very little is actually known on how they interact.  Take for example, usually after running a trail marathon my legs are so trashed that the next morning I can barely walk!.  But back in August when doing the 3 day Ring O Fire, where I had to run 64 miles on day 2 after 32 miles on day 1, I wake up the morning of day 2, and not one bit of stiffness / damage.  Yes, the intensity was slightly down on day 1 as it was a 3 day race, but only slightly.  I still banged in a 6 min mile during the 32 mile day 1.  So how?  Why was it that I had no stiffness / damage? 

The simple answer was that the body and mind working together knew that I had to run 64 miles on day 2.  So instead of the usually recovery process kicking in the moment I finished the race, because it knew I had another race the next day, the body delayed its recovery process, so delayed the swelling, the inflammation etc. to allow me to race.  What was also interesting was that when I had to DNF midway through day 2, the muscle soreness began!  The body was now ALLOWED to start recovering. 

In one of my previous e-mails I mentioned how if my body and mind was able to do more mileage I would, but I have found that I tend to 'break down' when I up my mileage too much.  One of my real strengths when it comes to ultra trail running is my ability to listen to, to feel, to acknowledge what is happening within my body and mind.  So I am always monitoring, can I do more, am I doing too much?  So I am not being over demanding on myself, both mentally, but mainly physically.  Yes it is often too easy due to enthusiasm, excitement, desire, ambition etc. for the mind to demand too much from the body (if we think of them as separate identities although they are just one).  Hence why many elite athletes suffer from chronic fatigue! 

Now in my recent e-mail I proposed that you take exactly seven days off from training.  Perhaps I didn't stress this number of days, i.e. seven days strongly enough.  What is so magical about seven days?  Well in my experiences, when I have been over doing it, when I eventually finally get around to accepting that I have done too much, and admit that I am not indestructible, 'superman', I find that seven days is the ideal duration of rest.  Now what happens during this seven day rest, is that you are actually ALLOWING your body to recover! I'll try to explain.  The essence of training, is RECOVERY!  Whilst training, you are stressing the body and mind, it then needs to recover.  However to recover requires energy, so whilst in steady training, the body focuses on dealing with recovering from the most recent training bout.  There may be other aspects / issues that the body also needs to recover from, but it seems to leave these other aspects alone, and prioritises the immediate stresses created from the recent training.  So one can see here, that whilst training other issues, that require attention to be dealt with, tend to be ignored, and over time, these issues will develop and slowly progressively get worse.  It is these less immediate issues progressively getting worse, that is probably what causes / leads towards over training / chronic fatigue. 

One interesting thing that you may have experienced within yourself, or read in other runner's reports / blogs, is that during the last few days of tapering, before a big race, just how often athletes tend to start 'coming down' with a cold, or flu like symptoms.  There is always the comment like, "I just hoped that the developing flu would hold off until after race day".  It typically does hold off, and the athlete performs well on race day, albeit, going into the race with reduced confidence due to the worry on the cold/flu developing.  Below is your typical example, from a local running friend who recently took ten minutes off his PB at the Berlin Marathon:
"I was feeling quite groggy in the days before the race; the glands in my neck were sore and swollen, and I could tell my body was fighting a bug of some kind. By Thursday night, I’d accepted a cold was imminent and was devastated... in fact, I was on the brink of emotional meltdown!

Bizarrely, the symptoms didn’t get any better or worse from Wednesday to Sunday, and come the day there was no question over whether I’d start the race. (It’s now developed into a cold, so my immune system was indeed battling something, but as much as I’d like to say it had an effect on me and I could have run faster, well, I can’t – I felt fine once the race started.)

It was faster than I expected to run, I must admit – and I need to thank Richard and Stuart for convincing me that sub-2:30 was on the cards."

So why is it that one starts feeling cold like symptoms when taking it easy during a taper?  Surely, you should feel worse when you are training harder!  No, not if you realise that the body and mind are one.  By deciding to taper, or to have a period of rest, you have informed the body and mind that things will be easier for the next few days.  The response therefore seems to be, that with this surplus energy 'coming it's way' the body and mind then decides to use this energy to try and deal with those underlying issues that it has had to put off, because it was so pre-occupied with dealing with recovering from the stress of daily training.  So the surplus energy from the rest/taper is used to recover from the other issues, whatever they may be.  To deal with these issues, one then senses / feels the flu/cold like symptoms.  It is not that one has just 'caught' a flu / virus, in fact, the issue has always been there, but 'buried' away.  The key aspect is that once these underlying issues have been dealt with, the body and mind are then are to perform at a higher level, without the underlying, background issues 'slowly draining', 'demanding' some of the body and mind's precious energy.

Back to the seven day aspect.  When I have finally sensed / acknowledged that the underlying issue has built up to a significant level, in that it is strongly advising me that it needs attention now, I have found that it takes seven days, for the recovery of this issue to be dealt with.  It takes seven days of rest, to enable full recovery.  Then once fully recovered, one performs so much better.  Hence why I proposed in my previous e-mail that following seven days of rest, you would then absolutely 'fly' during your next race.  Because a taper is a different situation, i.e. the underlying issues have not significantly built up, seven days rest/taper is not required.  The body and mind simply 'grasp' this brief opportunity to deal with these less immediate issues, but it knows that it hasn't got long before race day.  It knows that it has to perform on the upcoming race day, so therefore only attempts to deal with minor underlying issues, in a brief / quick attempt, without risking damaging the race day performance.  And yes, race day performance improves as a result of the taper, because by easing off training, you have reduced the level of background issues that although one is not always conscious of, subconsciously these underlying issues, do draw the precious energy away from the race day demands.  Then following race day, the body and mind are 'told' that training will be light for a few days / a week, and with that message, sufficient time and energy will be available for a more complete / advanced recovery from not just the race, but an opportunity to have a massive go at dealing with everything else, so hence often athlete's immediately come down with a fully developed flu / cold immediately after the race.  It isn't in that they have just 'caught' it, they have always had it (whatever it is???), they have just ALLOWED their body to deal with it.

So, how does this relate to needing to rest prior to an upcoming race.  Time is the key aspect here.  Hopefully having seven days off, which in most instances (in my experience) is sufficient for the underlying issues to be dealt with.  Perhaps, your issues weren't as large as mind, when I need a rest, so seven days isn't required.  Perhaps, your issues are larger, as they have been 'buried' for longer, buried deeper.  Only you will know.  It involves, listening / feeling your body and mind.  Hopefully, you are feeling that it is good, it feels right, to get back into training.  The timing is important, as you need to have run at least 2 or 3 runs prior to the race, of feeling back to normal, to then 'honestly know' that you are 'back on track'.  Without these 2 - positive relaxing cruisey runs, the body may still be using precious energy dealing with underlying issues, and hence not have it available for race day performance.  Yes, the mind will tell the body that it is 'needed' for race day, but if there is worry, doubt, concern that you may not have got over the flu by race day, then this doubt, is actually telling the body, that you are expecting it to still be using up this energy on the underlying issues.  It will therefore take on board this message, and hence will still be processing/ recovering from the 'buried' issues, and therefore 'you will not be over it'.  If however, you have these 2 - 3 positive runs, the doubt / concern will be gone, the confidence will be there, and with this positive confident thinking, just as I wasn't stiff and sore on the morning of day 2, the body will respond by ensuring all of its energy is available for race day performance, it will stop using it on the underlying issues, and hence 'you will have got over' the flu / cold / virus, whatever you wish to label it as.

So I guess the key message here, is that the body and mind act together as one.  The way you think affects what the body is doing, and hence how you feel.  However, to think positively one needs some evidence that things are positive, one needs to listen to the messages from the body.  Remember it is often that these messages have been ignored for so long that a 'crisis' has occurred that has prompted the runner into 'dealing' with the underlying issues.  So one can not simply conclude / assume that a positive powerful mind / mental approach can deal with everything.  It can do a lot, but one needs to accept that one is not indestructible!

To conclude, it is extremely important to honestly listen to your body and mind.  How do you feel?  Honestly, after 'inviting' your body to deal with the ever developing underlying issues, which from communication with you, indicated to me that these issues were reaching 'crisis point', you do need to provide the necessary time to successfully, and completely recover from these underlying / background issues.  Your instinct, honest gut feeling, will tell you, if sufficient time has taken place, and you are ready to recommence training and ready to 'hammer' the upcoming trail marathon.

BACK TO YOU READERS OUT THEREHopefully, my rather lengthy explanation above on how the body and mind work together isn't too far 'out of the box' that it makes some sense.  It is a totally different way at looking at 'what is illness' what is 'catching a flu/virus'.  Understanding how it 'all works' I find helps me in developing my confidence, and I therefore have no doubts / concerns about being able to perform well in a race, after a bout of recovery, as I know that the underlying issues, that had been slowly but subconsciously 'draining' of energy is now no longer, or significantly less present.
Time to sign off with a quote:  "As with many, many aspects of life, more is actually unknown, than is known.  The key is to go with your 'hunches', to follow your 'instincts', and believe in your ideas, even if they may be in disagreement with the currently accepted way of thinking."  Stuart Mills, 2012
May you NOT need to have to adopt a lengthy rest strategy, as you have been attentive, reflective, and listened to your body and mind, and therefore avoided a 'crisis' situation,

PS  Well done to Duncan Harris for winning the last race of the Runfurther Series, the Round Rotherham 50 mile, and therefore winning the overall series with 4000 points.  Sorry that is all I know.  I don't know any other results.