Those of you who have followed by blog over the last two years will have noticed that in addition to not commenting on injuries I also have never commented on religion. Are the two related? Well maybe they are!
Back in February I mentioned that I was heading out to New Zealand with my family for a lengthy period of time to spend some quality time with my father-in-law John, as his health was declining. In order to make the most of the upcoming less than ideal situation in New Zealand, I contacted the race organiser of New Zealand's premier ultra trail race the Tarawera Ultra Marathon and sorted out an entry to take on Anton Krupicka from America and the top Kiwis and Aussies. Now, although I am ultra competitive when it comes to trail racing, I feel that I try to keep a good balance between training, racing and family. However, at this particular moment in time, when family needed to take total priority, the attractiveness of the Tarawera Ultra was consuming some of my focus! So what happens? Yes, immediately before flying out to New Zealand I suffer a stress fracture in my foot. Sufficiently broken to put me out of running for eight weeks.
Now I would like to think that upon arriving in New Zealand and seeing the poor health of my father-in-law, focusing on supporting my family would have taken top priority, however, maybe the Universe, the greater power above, God, whatever you want to call it, knew me better, and hence, the stress fracture! So, I found myself instead of suffering from disappointment due to having an injury, I was actually quite pleased that I was injured, so I didn't have any selfish distractions. Sadly, John's health declined at a rapid rate, so we weren't able to spend as much time with him as we had hoped. However, he had lived an active and fit life, pretty well right until the last few months, and he was able to peacefully pass away being surrounded by his loving family.
So during my time in New Zealand (I am now back in the UK) I tried to focus on the positives, and gave plenty of thought to the 'bigger picture'. The importance of family, the importance of fulfilment, the importance of enjoyment. The need to set goals, to challenge oneself, to aim for ones best, to not accept mediocrity. And what I was discovering was that the messages I had learnt during my last four years of ultra trail running, seemed to be totally applicable to life in general. So being in New Zealand was a sad time, whilst also being an enlightening time. Now I just have to implement my ideas, ambitions and beliefs! Not just think about it, but to actually do it!
As I mentioned above, my stress fracture injury prevented me from running for exactly eight weeks. Below is a photo of me trying out some cross-training!
Thanks to all of you that sent me e-mails / left comments, expressing confidence that my positivity would prevail and that I would come back stronger. It's nice to feel part of a friendly, supportive community. Also thanks to those of you that e-mailed me commenting that you were missing my blog posts. Again, it's nice to know that people find worthiness within my 'words of wisdom'. And lastly I received an intriguing e-mail/message from one blog follower. After a bit of "rambling" (her words), she outlined her goals: "Be the best I can be at long distance. Compete instead of just running races. Take my training more seriously. Seize this opportunity now to do what I absolutely love before its too late and life gets in the way." and then she asked if I was able to assist her in achieving her goals.
So after I recovered from my ego boost, I had to give some serious thought to whether I had sufficient time to establish a successful coaching relationship, which would significantly assist her in achieving her goals. I set up this blog over two years ago, in order to share what I had learnt through my ultra trail running. So, after deciding that I did have the available time, I thought that it was a great opportunity to further share my knowledge, so I said yes, and I am now officially an ultra trail running coach! Looks good typed out, and I am finding that it is proving to be very satisfying. She sends me short e-mails with some questions /comments regarding her training, racing, goals etc., and I simply send her an e-mail back with my thoughts. I not sure that she entirely knew what she was getting herself into, as strangely my e-mail responses tend to go on a wee bit. I start with one of my ideas/philosophies, then tend to go onto the next , and next etc. Anyway as I said above, it has been very satisfying for both of us. Since coaching began, she has raced once, probably achieving her best ultra trail result to date and is all set for her first 100 mile trail ultra shortly. For me, the timing was ideal, as it provided a running challenge whilst I was injured.
So am I now a retired/semi-retired competitive ultra trail runner? Well those that know me, you will know that the answer is definitely NO. Yes, I am finding reward in seeing my coaching client improve, but I still have the strong hunger to run faster for further. So I am looking to successfully combine the two. And as I am a strong believer in TOTAL training, I am able to log the time involved in coaching as training. So following my foot injury, I have been back up to some big training weeks, including physical training, visualisations, thoughts on race preparation/positivity and coaching.
The overall timing has worked out really well, as the TOTAL training has come together ready for this weekend's Endurancelife 44 mile Classic Quarter Ultra Trail Race in Cornwall. I have raced a few of the Endurancelife races now, and one thing that is guaranteed is that the course will be extremely scenic but also very challenging. So I am really excited about racing again, after quite a break.
Whilst in New Zealand not being able to run, I also did quite a bit of reading. I first read the autobiographies by some of New Zealand's great runners including, Jack Lovelock (1500m Gold in 1936 Olympics and World Record holder for mile and 1500m), Peter Snell (800m Gold in 1960 and 1964 Olympics, 1500m Gold in 1964 Olympics and World Record Holder for 800m and mile), John Walker (1500m Gold in 1976 Olympics and World Record holder for mile) and some other New Zealand runners less well known; Dick Taylor (10,000m Gold in 1974 Commonwealth Games beating David Bedford in a World Class time) and Anne Audain (3,000m Gold in 1982 Commonwealth Games, but more well known for being unbeaten on the roads in the United States for two years in the early eighties). So I was discovering as much as I could from these great athletes. They weren't ultra trail runners, but they understood about performing to the best of their ability, that just so happened to be the best, or near the best in the World. What was really interesting was that similar themes/characteristics were common to them all. I haven't got time to share them now, another post, but the key one that stood out was their inner belief in their ability, and that their preparation had been effective for their key goal race.
I also read a few other books by a few triathletes, and a few former All Blacks. Again enlightening. Different sport, especially the rugby, but some key messages the same. Then to bring it right up to date and specific to ultra trail running, I was privileged to be sent a final draft copy of Andy Mouncey's book titled "Magic, Madness, and Ultra Marathon Running". I found the book a really interesting read, especially identifying the similarities and differences in what I had experienced in ultra trail races in comparisons to Andy. Those of you not aware of Andy, I first met him during the 2010 Lakeland 100, well actually after the race at the finish line as he got second to me. Since then we have worked together on the Alpine-Oasis Running Camp out near Chamonix prior to the 2011 Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, and will be working together again at the upcoming Alpine-Oasis Running Camp in Yorkshire Dales (Ingleton) during the weekend of 13 - 15th July. I am a guest for the weekend running camp, so will be contributing and sharing my ideas on trail running, whilst on the trails, around the dinner table, and I guess also occasionally at the bar!
Anyway back to Andy's book. It's not too thick, a good light read, with some key messages, albeit slightly 'hidden away'. Having read the final draft, my feedback comments were then able to be incorporated within the published copy, and I even get a mention on the Amazon UK website, (“As with the journey of life, the messages are not always obvious, not always easy to see. But if you read this book with an open and receptive mind, and are able to feel beyond the race descriptions, then what is really important within ultra trail running (and possibly life) will hopefully become that little bit clearer.” Stuart Mills, Seven time Beachy Head Marathon Champion, and Lakeland 100 Winner 2010), where you can purchase a Kindle copy for only £7.57. Sorry if it sounds like I'm a salesman for Andy's book. Unfortunately I'm not receiving any commission, although I'm sure Andy will shout me a beer or two up in Yorkshire (hope you are reading this Andy!)
I think now is an appropriate time to finish tonight's post, before it becomes another ultra post. It feels great to be adding to my UltraStu blog again. It great to be running again, and really exciting to be racing again this weekend. I hope all of you out there have been enjoying your running and working towards and achieving your personal challenges. I have been keeping a bit of an eye on the UK race results and there definitely have been some great performances. Long may it continue throughout the year of 2012.
All the best,
PS Exactly 5 weeks today (as it is now Friday) until the opening ceremony of the Olympics, and for hundreds of you out there that simply means one thing: Yes, the start of the Lakeland 100!
PPS Nearly signed off without a quote. Having read loads of books I have plenty to choose from, however, the quote from Chris McCormack - Awesome Australian Triathlete/Ironman - from his 2011 book titled "I'm Here to Win" has been quite relevant recently as I carry out my TOTAL training for the upcoming races:
"The mind game that takes place before the starting gun ever fires is really the critical point of a race. It's when you have that good angel on one shoulder and a bad angel on the other. One is saying "You can do it, mate!" The other is whispering, "Why are you here? You can't win!" The angel you decide to listen to will determine whether you are competitive or an also-ran. There's always a voice in everyone's head saying "You haven't done the work, mate. You know that track session you missed? It's coming back to get you on this hill." That's what holds you back. Each race is a new war against the evil angel! Mastering your own self doubts is the battle!"