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There’s Goals. Then there are Goals.

Chicago Marathon is coming up fast. Two weeks to go. I’ve found myself in the horrible situation of picking up a niggle, not listening soon enough, and said niggle now meaning that I am cross training my way to the start line. But it’s all good. Because actually I’d rather get to the start line relatively in one piece and just enjoy the experience of another world major. I’m fully intending to ‘Jeff’ my way around. Run, walk or craw. Powered solely by sweets and high fives.

Had you said this would be the outcome, last year or even a few months ago I would’ve cried. You see, Chicago was my goal. My ‘Goal’ for a whole year since saying I wanted to obtain Good For Age time in a year last October (after another London marathon ballot reject) in my mind, all I wanted was to obtain that at Chicago. But a lot changes in a year. And actually, I have learnt a lot about myself and also about how goals do and don’t work for me. My heart has also been stolen this year. No longer am I driven to find fast road marathon times. I’ve found my love for trails. For Ultras. My whole outlook on what I want to run for has changed, and has made me a happier person (mostly) for it.

You see a goal doesn’t work without a spark. When setting a huge goal, it needs to be something you truly want. Something that really does set your soul on fire. I am, essentially a goal driven person. I need that, for motivation, for achievement. Goals and dreams are very much the same for me. I still very much, want to achieve my GFA and complete all world majors even though I seem to have developed a slight aversion for road running. But I’ve taken it off my priority list. For me, it’s now something that will happen eventually, and as part of the process of achieving my new goals.

So what have I learnt about setting goals?

Set a goal that means something to you.

What you want to achieve, may be completely different to the runner next to you. You may want to get that sub whatever time 5k, you may want to complete your first marathon in x time, or you may want to run from John O’Groats to Lands End or run 5k non stop, Whatever it is, it has to be something YOU want to do. Don’t follow the crowd because that’s what everyone else seems to want.

Just because it seems impossible, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it.

The ‘big’ goal. It should be big. Big enough that you have to work for it. The goals that both terrify and excite us are the ones that you won’t be able to stop chasing. Goals are there to challenge you. To make a change for the better.

Set mini goals.

Yeah, I’ve just said set a huge goal.. but break it down into smaller goals on the way to achieving the big daddy, it keeps you motivated. If you’ve set a goal that will take time to achieve (which it should do) you need smaller aims to keep you motivated and enthusiastic along the way. Chip away at it, one step at a time.

Don’t lose heart

If you truly want it, stick at it. Some super humans are able to set a goal and progress in leaps and bounds towards it, making it look effortless in the process. But this isn’t the usual. And if you were to ask that person how they’ve done it so effortlessly you will more than likely find that they have put their all into it, they’ve grafted away still. You’ll have ups and downs. The trick is, when going through the downs, keep in mind that the up will soon make up for it. Expect the rough with the smooth. Not everyone’s progress or journey is the same.

If it isn’t working for you, change it

Last but not least. Don’t be afraid to adapt your goal, or change it completely. If it’s not working for you, or you change your mind completely on your journey, as I have, then drop it, adapt it, make it work for you again. There’s no shame in that. At the time of setting my original big goal, I don’t think I really knew who I was as a runner. Sometimes you need to go on a journey to discover more about yourself, and that might not fit with what you originally started with. You’ve got to be you.

So that’s about as far as my little nuggets of wisdom go. Above all else, find that goal that makes you soul happy. Then knuckle down, buckle up and enjoy the ride on the way. My news goals excite me, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Needless to say, 2019 will mostly be trails, Ultras and mountains…. and THAT fills my belly with fire.

Ultra Training

Crash Course Ultra Training

The last few weeks have been a flurry of all the sunshine, easy runs, cranking out a marathon as part of standard training (who even knew) and embracing hills as much as I embrace my coffee.

April saw the return from injury. Finally. Which meant keeping pretty much every run to an easy pace. One which was a lot slower than pre injury. I found it pretty tough, knowing that my first Ultra would soon be creeping up. It required patience and perseverance just getting my legs back in to running. Everything seemed off, from breathing to just feeling awkward. Pretty much, like starting all over again. Seeing what I should be doing to prepare for a double marathon and what I was actually doing was a little nerve wracking. But I stuck with it, complimenting those easy runs with lots of strength training and tlc in the stretching and rolling department.

Then I signed up to a local trail marathon. Please note, that I am telling you what I did do, which is most likely, totally not advisable.

13th May I completed the trail marathon in 5:18 hours. The longest run I had plodded before this was 6 miles (post injury) it was a huge risk, I could of come away with injury again. My aim was to just spend time on my feet, with a mixture of walk/running. Trying to suss out a tactic for how I would approach the ultra. It worked. I walked the huge hills (probably more crawled the last) and just kept moving forward. It was an incredibly difficult day for it, high temperatures and no escape from the blazing sun. It was also a 4 lap course, with abandoned aid stations after the first lap, and not another soul to be seen. Even when I finally crossed the finish line there was nothing. The whole event (which had a nice number enter the 10k option – the first lap) had been taken down. No finish line, nothing. One person, sat on a chair by a timing mat, waiting for my return. I cannot tell you how soul destroying that was. Aside from my views of how shocking the whole event was, it served its purpose and probably helped a huge deal with mental preparation. Yes humming the wheels on the bus did help.

I actually felt amazing on the days that followed and happily eased back into more easy miles. I don’t know if it was the easy pace, or the numerous Epsom salt baths and my new found love of Oofos recovery shoes but it was all good.

The second long run of 24 miles followed that week. Again, super easy. I walked, I ran, and I stopped at a shop to have a lolly in the stupidly hot weather. I enjoyed this much more than the marathon. But running along the River Wye in beautiful surroundings on such a beautiful day certainly contributed to it. I have a new love for Ultra training long runs as opposed to marathon training. No paces to hit, no slogging out a long run. Just time on feet, taking it all in. No pressure.

I did feel the results of these two weeks with my energy levels taking a huge dent. I ran an appalling trail race a few days after this run. Just couldn’t get going, completely out of puff. The hills most definitely ruined me that day. The recovery beer helped take the edge off any bad feelings about that though.

The last long run before taper, of 14 miles again was a completely different story. Most enjoyable until mile 10, energy levels had returned. The last 4 miles of all the uphill Home, and a huge thunder storm made me drop any easy pace and pelt it. A lot more strenuous than it should of been!

Now it’s less than two weeks to go until Race To The Tower, and that has been the extent of my training. 3 weeks of 30-39 miles, far lower than I would of wanted. But time on feet spent, different weather conditions and making sure that almost every one has included huge hills. I don’t know how it’ll all fare come 9th June. But I know I’ve done as much as I can without being completely ridiculous, I’ve come through without injury, I’m feeing stronger and I’ve recovered well.

I also know that time isn’t an issue for me. I’m not racing it, I’m not wanting to be a super speedy speed machine. The reason I entered Race to The Tower, is because it’s the 12th anniversary of my son passing away. The last day I held him. I struggle every year around this time. So to spend time doing the thing I love, the thing that helps me mentally, remembering him whilst challenging myself in beautiful surroundings…. for me, that is what my first ultra is all about.