Having just returned from a Summer trip to the French Alps, the mule is back on the shelf, resting and planning the next trip already.
To take in the magnitude of the alps requires strong neck muscles.
No matter how high we went, there was always something to gaze up to and cause the head to tilt back. At one point I thought I was back in the dentist chair - "wider, wider, just a little wider"
There is also a lot of time spent looking down. It's a stiff climb when you're looking down on a roof of a chalet that's only 500m away as the crow flies, yet 1000 feet below you.
Perspective of far and near become blurred, awareness of time on the feet drifts away. Once back indoors and reviewing the routes, laughing loudly at the fact that covering a 10km loop took the same time as the last marathon back home.
Jayne and I were very lucky to catch a booking space at Chalet Chez Robert, in Les Eucherts, La Rosiere. Josie and Xavier, themselves Madmule participants when they visit the UK, were exceptional hosts. The chalet is an amazing "home from home" located at 1850m above sea level, with the best bed EVER! It's always going to be a good week when the hosts have left home made Banana bread and cherry jam to tuck into!Not to mention a fridge full of stores and beer. :-0
Jayne and I had asked Josie to book us into the local trail race, Trail de la Rosiere. With the options of 15, 22 or 40km, we, thankfully, opted for the 15km distance. Less thankful, and stupidly, it was the morning after our arrival.
The organisation of this event is an example for all UK race organisers to emulate. Passionate, enthusiastic, professional, fun, inclusive and worth every penny of entry fee. A race isn't just what the individual makes it, otherwise I would never pay for racing and just go and run the routes. A race should be an EVENT. Something that the organisers go hand and foot to make a special day for their clients who are paying. When the race is on, the individuals make it their space, yet either side of that effort, a race day is complete by the manner in which the organisers host and draw out the best in spirit and celebration of human emotion. OOpha, moving on...... :-/
The tour de France finished in La Rosiere whilst we were there. Whilst the thousands were mingling by the finish, Jayne and I were 1km away in Les Eucherts, standing by the Sky Team Logistics caravan on the off chance we would bump into some team members.
Everyday we managed to tackle a route of 6-12 miles, hiking, rewarded with stunning views of the lower level glaciers, green meadows full of butterflies and countless flora, marmots, birds of prey, 1 Ibex, nighttime lightning storms, great food and not least, the magnified air of silence.
Off the cycle and onto the trails, this adventure brought to light the following observations to take forward in my coaching and personal running exploits. Please don't take everything literally that follows....
* time: the clock, the pace, the necessity to keeping in line with it or register awareness of it.... it is of no value or benefit in the hills or any endurance adventures. Moving from A to B became an exercise in remembering what I had seen instead of how fast or what pace I had done it in. A brilliant reminder, that unless my job was to be a runner, then i am in play, and to play is to enjoy.
* seek adventures that create doubt in ones ability and/or place uncertainty in the outcome. With all the tech it is fantastic that outcomes can be predicted, plan of training can be executed to small margins. As a trainer, the training plans are the easiest aspect of the job, tweaking along the way with the clients feedback. The hardest part of the job, albeit I find the most fulfilment from, is to coach people to cope with the unknowns and accept that until the adventure/ event is taken will they know what they want to get out of life next.
*something that I have practiced many times before and this trip reinforced.... never forget to stop and smell the roses.
We had a memorable time. With good fortune I will make the ballot for next years ultra trail de Mont Blanc, regardless of which, Jayne and I will be returning for the Trail da La Rossiere 40km routes next year. Interested in joining us?
Rested. That's the plan of attack at the moment.
A complete and thorough review of what has been and what is desired.
Letting the body regroup, by investing time in sleep, cross training activities and identifying niggles that are only seen now that the pace is dropped.
It took a years practice and 3 big races to establish a pattern that kept my bodyweight at 70-71kg post race. To start at 70-71kg and finish into the next day at the same weight. Not just by ensuring a balanced level of fluid, electrolytes, food and intensity were practiced on the day, it had to be practiced all the way leading to it.
Going long is an intense stress for the body. All the science proves that significant weight loss before, during and after can be represented by very small margins on the scales or girth measurements. What may appear to be insignificant losses to the human eye and measuring tape externally, can be destructive to the healthy functions internally.
During this period of lower intensity and volume, the same foods taken during high loading weeks are eaten. For it is this that will support the uptake of training that looms ever closer in the diary.
As a trainer, I will urge anyone who is trying to live a life of good health, of varying activity levels and varying stresses to aim high when it comes to food. Invest in food as a priority over everything else. This is the true factor that supports ALL. There is no "which came first....?"
I will invest in food before new training shoes, a race, a new job commitment. This is no chicken or egg scenario. Food comes first. That will determine the outcome of all other decisions, actions, successes and progressions.
December happens to be a month of reflection and assessment in my calendar. It's just the way work and races have aligned. I was enabled to train and perform the races to the desired outcomes because of food.
Everything else ,positive and negative, is a result of this action.
Best in health, in training and in life.
5 things Madmule does to improve fitness during the festivities. From 20 years experience working and training amongst people.
# plan ahead for less to achieve more. Alcohol, less sleep, higher intake of sugary foods and disruption to normal lifestyle patterns. Is it inevitable? Is it part of the lifestyle choices? Then fine. At the very least it can help define the approach to movement and how intense the activity will be. My body is being rewarded with a phase of recovery from the years activities. My aim is to have a regular pattern of training under the belt as the new year approaches. The health of my gut and how much quality sleep will dictate the outcome of training in January. The more I move from positive beneficial foods and methods of positive rest, the less I allow intensity to rise within a training set along with volume and frequency. A lot of people have seen the holidays as an opportunity to do more, end up burning the candle at both ends, and end up worse off at the end of January. Come on, the gym floors empty out steadily as the injuries, illnesses and poor planning take the toll.
# steady state and allow flexibility. Not stretching. Flexibility within the schedule. Last minute decisions to go to a party, ended up being later than desired last night. The list goes on where allowing a flexible appproach becomes a positive mindset. I'm still going to get moving. Unless you're a pro athlete, this is when a rational approach is required. Hey, let's say that training is vital to an early New Years race/ goal? Then you've planned ahead anyway right!
# "they all had the control of the food and drink" "didn't get what I usually had and wanted" - this is quite a common statement I have listened to over the years. How it's everyone else that influenced the decisions and caused the distractions. I AM IN CONTROL. A perception or feeling that I wasn't is one of two things. Being made/ allowing myself to suffer by someone else. OR making myself suffer. Either way, that's a negative situation and one that will always destroy anyone achieving their personal goals. This is a serious conversation that can be taken right here!
# using a simple smart tip from Precision Nutrition experts. Take 60 seconds before making a final decision. For eating and training. Perhaps that will allow a secondary option to appear that has greater benefits. What sort of trainer am I?! I'm seriously suggesting that an individual thinks twice about training. It's asking an individual to take a minute to assess the type of training/ intensity before cracking on. A few drinks last night and perhaps there is a window to train later in the day. Perhaps on reflection, placing time into good nutrition, a mobility drill and positive sleep will be better and tomorrow's session becomes impactful. When that has been the case, I have actually rested with positivity and reaped the rewards the next day.
# last observation over the years. Many people become ill during January. Resolutions to become better, stronger, slimmer, faster are paraded for all to see. Place a resolution to each day the day before. That starts today. Why delay a resolution that can be actioned today? Why do we repeat this monotonous annual routine? From experience ( and my opinion of which all the above relates to), a resolution is an act of determination. Are you not determined today? I'm determined today to eat for the good of my health. I'm determined today to complete actions that contribute to recovering from the last race. I'm determined today to be active.
The pace and resolve can be assessed today. Regressed or upgraded through a positive process rather than a reactive one - New Years resolutions are just like a bad hangover, swollen with regret, physical discomfort and guilt.
Madmule will be keen to make gains before January 1st. A realistic positive approach will see that become reality. That's my resolution. How will you determine the outcome of yours?
Best in health
"Them there trails......"
30,000 ft ascent
That's the sum of the 3 key races I have completed this year. The Brutal Oner (82 miles), North Downs Way 100 (103 miles) and the CTS Endurancelife Ultra plus (45 miles)
I'm enjoying the rest and looking forward to the crosstraining to come in December. Recovery is at the top of the list, remaining active, repatriation of the body to full health.
This year I have practiced, relentlessly, a positive mindset during training and races. By doing so, it has kept me from experiencing negative physical and psychological stress. Prepare with specifics in mind. To run a 100 miler requires a plan of action. That plan takes into account lifestyle, commitments, finances, equipment, ambitions, training history, knowledge, reason and desired outcomes.
I've said it before and now with 3 big sessions in the legs, I'll say it again. Ultras are no harder than a 5k. I can make both hurt just as much as the other. There's the kicker for me. I can make..... without the honest reviews of all the factors that will influence the outcomes.... I can make it very hard for myself.
A well paced 5k, personal best even, is a pleasure. That pB may well hurt. However it will have been in a schedule and worked towards with reason and purpose. No diffferent to the years approach with the ultra training. A goal was set for each race and the training complimented the desired outcome. It hurt at times, just like the fast 5k, it was expected and planned for.
The ONER. 82 miles, charmouth to Studland along the South West coast path. Time limit of 24 hours. Goal time 18:30-19 hours. Completed in 18:56.
North Downs Way Ultra. 103 miles. Fareham to Ashford. Time limit 30 hours. Goal time sub 22. Completed in 21:52.
Ultra Plus CTS Dorset. 45.3 miles. Back and forth South West Coast path, Lulworth. Goal time 7:40-8:00 . Completed in 8:10.
Training took care of the decisions leading into the race itself. On the day itself, prepared to let the course come to me, let the clock tick, have trust in the prep and the body. The only work required on the day is one of mental focus, positive language, positive reinforcement, positive outlook, positive that all efforts leading to the day enable the desired outcome to become reality.
# living with time; 3 hours into an 8 hour effort and the mind can wander. It's a bit analytical how I break this up. Lots of sections to work through, landmarks of distance, time or actual landmarks that are seen in the distance. Otherwise an inevitable sense of OMG, "I can't" language will rise to the top. I can't do another 5 hours of this. When it's realistic and positive to say "I can do another tenth and take the session over halfway" "I can see the flag of the next checkpoint on the hillside, great, drink up, kick on, and the next section awaits with vigour"
Time will tick on regardless. One of the ultimate factors I can never control or wish to go faster. That is a bad day right there. Especially on a hilly course. The proposed average for CTS was 10 mins per mile. Actual moving time on the day was 10:15, a slight drop off occurring later in the session. The average on a course like CTS doesn't make sense to assess until 6-10 miles into it.
So this is where time must be allowed to pass, getting the miles under the belt and the true average starts to show once a few flatter sections are completed .
I'm waffling now. From all of these races and experience of the year there remains one common theme throughout that makes it worth while. Everyone around. My better half Jayne, all the Madmules, close friends and an amazing family. For without racing an ultra, life is very very good.
I'll be entering the ballot for ultra trail Mont Blanc 2018 (UTMB) in late December. 104 miles, 30,000 ft ascent, circumnavigation of the infamous mountain. The races this year have earned the ballot requirements.
Get in? Don't get in? Time will pass regardless. So, best make the most of now.
The evenings are dark. The mules get tucked away in the barns with a new bed of hay to nestle into. Safe. Cosy. Hibernation mode switched on.
Well, perhaps at the donkey sanctuary. Not here in Poole and Bournemouth.
This is Ashley Cross Green during Madmule Fitness H.I.L.L. With dynamic warm ups, running drills, specific strengthening and stabilisation drills. Springness drills, tempo elevations and much more to improve everyone's running ability and general body conditioning.
Intensity was high by the middle of the main sets. This was down to everyone knowing their intent for each drill. The application of thought being played out with a physical action.
Think it. Do it. Make it.
Observing plays a big role in how Madmule coaches someone forward. Identifying movement patterns that are contributing to a positive outcome. At the same time, picking up on areas that can contribute far more and coaching someone how they go about that.
Stats have huge benefit, especially as training becomes focused on a performance goal. As I enter a solid 4 week block of training for the CTS 45 miler, the devil is back to the detail. Taking a step away from the stats for the last 4 weeks has demonstrated its benefits. This session is my own effort of H.I.L.L last night before the Madmules turned up. Everyone was then presented the session, fresh from the mules mouth. Couldn't resist! Cringe.
Hibernation is an option. So is getting out in the cold, wind and rain.
The method will determine how much spring is in the step in Spring.
Best in training.
Words of encouragement from Madmule Phil.
"Each year, as mornings and evenings get colder, darker and wetter, I always waiver on cycling commutes. One way or another I talk myself into the decision to drive instead, convinced it's a better idea."
Is this you?
"It's NEVER a better idea and I always end up sitting at my desk looking at the blue sky and changing leaves wishing I'd ridden in. I usually have to do this at least 2 or 3 times before I fully commit to the winter commute. I always love it in the end."
PURPOSE CAN HAVE A FUNNY WAY OF HIDING UNTIL THE END
The Tuesday circuit session finished at 8:09pm
I know this to be exact because the sky was dark and it prompted me to look at the watch.
"8:09pm!". 6 minutes before the session finishes and it is dark..
It can mean only one thing.
Madmule Fitness training comes into its own. It won't be long until we are starting the session in the darkness. There's a value to getting out amongst the elements and not seeing 100% what's under foot.
Distances become harder to judge. The ground becomes unpredictable when landing a jump. The nervousness I've witnessed in people putting their hands into the ground still amuses me. I understand it, though it does humour me.
Watching people training outdoors demonstrates clearly how desensitised we humans are in danger of becoming. Moving preciously, with caution, carefully, in a way that suggests one is holding a china teapot full of tea.
Training with less light sharpens the senses, the mindset and with the colder months connects us all to a healthy stimulus that the central heating in the office and manicured air conditioning of a gym space will never embrace.
Get my butt outside. YES!!!
Find a training group that throws caution to the elements and purposely welcomes the change of season
Shut the door, pull the blinds at 7pm and hibernate. Condition your body to
a deconditioned status. Allow the elements and daylight to dictate the mood swings and level of stiffness in the back. Keep dreaming of how you imagine it to be....
Unless.... you get out and expose the body to the elements, plenty of movement and experience the colder nights.
To give it a go.
That certainly resonates with some of the mad mule spirit and philosophy.
Then after the decision to give it a go, an effort to prepare and plan for it to add depth to the experience.
Already there are 8 Madmules that I know of who have signed up for the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series event in Dorset this December. All mixed into 10km, 16 miles, marathon, ultra (39 miles) and ultra plus (45 miles). That's Bec, Doug, Jayne, Martin, Teresa, Neil, Neil M and myself. A few more to confirm in the coming weeks.
With 12 weeks to prepare, everyone has the opportunity to prepare very well. Profiles of courses, including ascent/ descent are at our fingertips. Conditions underfoot will be of no surprise as the event is local and there's ample time to get out and experience the trails.
Strength, agility, endurance, speed and personal health will all be improved with a balanced approach. With magnificent views, the day of the race can be remembered with clarity when the training programme is spread to cope with all the elements that are forecast.
Madmule has an ambition to get out and experience the elements, the terrain, the atmosphere, the social, the physical and the difficult.
It's the difficult that is left open to question. With the right training approach, what is thought as a difficult challenge ahead can become a pleasurable experience when the training is performed at a difficult level.
I will take my ambition and choose difficult challenges.
I will train for it. I will train for it. It is training that will present it's difficulties.
Then the day arrives and as if by magic, it wasn't as difficult as I thought.
Come and join us at the CTS. A very well organised event by Endurancelife and an amazing location to take on an adventure. Here's the Madmule Fitness Facebook link.
The most frequently asked question from friends, family and clients has been "why?. why are you going that far?"
Before completing the century, the hundred, the ultra, the endurance race, the long day... I proposed, to myself, that the answer to that question will come from completing the session. Purpose was to be delayed. Purpose was to be established and experienced from doing. Weirdly, this can be presented as purpose. 'The purpose is to establish what the purpose is' Now I feel like I am sitting in one of those endless mirror rooms!
On one of the several bridges that crossed over the busy highways I was thinking how busy and frantic roads must appear to wildlife and nature. There was no deep enlightenment at this point. This run has not turned ultras into a quest of being super green. We had driven 70 miles ourselves to get here. Oblivious to the 70 miles of green space we had passed through. The radio drowning out the sound of engines and at one point saying " that was a better trip than I thought it would be". Totally negligent that every green space that was passed on the M3 had to put up with this fracca I was living with on the passovers and pathways parallel with the motorways. The main difference being I was on the move, never having to return. The flora and fawna don't have such choice.
I see 100 miles no different from trying to get faster over 5km. Both can hurt if you go hard enough. My PB for 5k is 17:15. I remember that effort. It made me feel many discomforts and had to think quick to remain positive throughout. Going long was the same, just in slow motion. To be ok with loving the now, especially when what you are doing now, is to be done for the next 20 hours, non stop. Staying in the moment. I will write a piece on pacing later. To welcome the prospect of doing the activity for a lengthy period of time. Embracing it and never wishing for it to end. The finish line I was glad to see. It was where I had been told it was. However, at no point was I was wishing it was closer. Getting into that mindset or the misfortune of hoping that time passes quicker can and will turn pain into suffering. And suffering is NOT my purpose now or in future efforts. To suffer is not something that can ever be attached to these efforts. SUFFERFEST... way out of control in how to prepare and take part in any physical effort when someone uses the word 'suffer' to express the experience. Unless someone was forcing it upon me or I was of unstable mind and forcing it upon myself: usually when there is no purpose attached!
By doing the 103 mile route I have enabled myself to be able to answer the question "why?"
To engage the brain
To keep playing
To further knowledge
To have a unique experience
To develop teamwork
To become an expert
I've always said Intensity is experienced from having intent.
Now, for me, I understand to announce purpose comes from first doing something rather than attaching purpose to do something.
Better remove some of these mirrors.
I'll cut to the chase. This was a fantastic experience.
There is a strong urge to write until my fingers bleed, I have so much to regurgitate.
However, a short summary and leave some details on training, nutrition, pacing, teamwork, event organisers, event support staff, navigation, prep, self management, positive affirmation, recovery, planning, hydration, foot management, tapering and fundamentals of a great support crew.... for later.
The session was made easier with the help of 2 amazing people. Jayne, my better half, and during this venture CEO all things support. Martin, a good friend and 6 time finisher of Comrades, and excited pacer for the session.
The schedule was to complete under 24 hours. Review efforts after 25 and 50 miles, at which point a more accurate time can be driven. By mile 70, sub 22 was realistic. The section after Detling, (you did it? then you know) challenged that ambition, heavily, though once clear the pace came back up and the averages steadily drawn down.
It is one lazy mule.
Compared to The Oner this session has it's moments, not least because there are 21 extra miles to endure. The road sections allow for good pace, at the same time a contrast from hard to soft will, and did, take it's toll on the joints and feet. Changing weather conditions turned up the attention to remaining hydrated, vented, warm and, underfoot the tinge of heaviness being soaked up from the thin layer of mud.
There was a quietness about all of the folk I swapped places with. A level of focus being applied. No one allowing themselves to get too distracted from managing their day successfully.
3 practices that helped to do what I set out to do.
* positive self chat throughout.
Always CAN, WILL, WANT
* taking the correct amount of time at the agreed stopping points that set up the next leg. The key was to know which ones I was going to stop before the race started and why I was stopping.
* when walking, MARCH! Helping the strong flow and surprisingly quick when done correctly. With vigour, purpose and easier to break back into the run. Being a former Royal Marine helps. The distant memory of hearing the "1,2,3,foooouuuurrrrr" stirs a briskness of step that Martin found by his own admission quite impressive and disturbing at the same time.
Thanks to Centurion for a very well organised day.
Completing 100 in a oner in one day.
Now it's experienced I can turn my attention to answering the question..... why?
Then, where the answer leads me will be what happens next.
Best in training