There was a time, around 30 years ago, when I decided that it might be an idea to have a shot at marathon running. I was already a runner of sorts, out most lunchtimes (good old flexitime) and quietly content with my lot. But running long distances properly demands a different approach from being Joe Average, street jogger. So I decided to start training twice a day.
During those intervening years, I’ve coached lots of athletes of varying abilities over various distances, and occasionally I get to tell the story about the impact of training twice a day. I can still remember it hitting me like a ton of bricks for the first few weeks. In my humble opinion, making the move from training once a day to twice a day is infinitely more difficult than making the transition from nothing to something. The stress is persistent for a start. There is no such thing as proper rest. You adopt, or should I say adapt to, a regime of prolonged physical effort every 12 hours, except you don’t get 12 hours rest because each session can take up to 2 hours. Contrary to the Mars Bar advert, you learn to work, rest and work some more.
Of course I’ve been working out for 90 minutes, twice a day since I started this project last August so I’ve already been through that threshold of tiredness that I know from all those years ago (and I don’t fall asleep at work). But you do adapt to it, there’s no doubt about that. You adapt your lifestyle, your eating habits, your drinking habits and your sleeping pattern: all to meet the demands of the workload. And you get through it. You get to a place, physically, where everything you do is there: right in the zone: the tiredness is there, but it’s a nice kind of tiredness: the energy is there, but it’s a suped up kind of energy: and finally there is confidence in one’s self, a confidence that says “I can do this”.
Then came May 2014…
May didn’t start out the way it finished, it just kind of happened. Or should I say, it evolved. May was a slow burner, a month that kind of crept up on me like a tsunami of miles, building, building, building until finally it exploded into the week that ended today. The stats don’t lie: 76 (two days only), then 232, 182, 209 then finally 241. Three separate weeks with more miles than any of the previous 40. May has become the month when the difference between training once a day and twice a day actually feels like less than the difference between training twice a day and three times. May has taught me a lot.
So: this week. How on earth did that happen?
Well I started out on Monday knowing that I needed 201 for 900 miles in May, and that was my target. Indeed when I fell out of bed just after five on Monday morning, that was my only target. Then on the way home, I thought “if I’m going to attack 201, then I need a good start like last week”, except instead of matching last Monday (44), I topped it (48). A good solid start. Then on Tuesday, up on the Fenwick Muir, I got a right good soaking on the way home but with a tailwind, I was down in Fenwick in double quick time. Despite having to be back out the door again at seven, I felt strong enough to do Monday’s route again so that bagged me another 48. Suddenly, from 82 the previous Tuesday, I was sitting on 96 and that’s when I started gazing into the far distance and eyeballing the magic 6000 mile barrier.
If I may explain why 6000 hadn’t really been on the horizon, when I set out at the start of May, I wasn’t expecting to count the Highland Bike miles, but Oscar’s passing while I was on the road changed all that. 6000 miles had been a target for something like 10th June, then as the miles piled up, that date with destiny became first the 9th, then the 8th, the 7th and so on. But at the start of this week, it was still out there on 3rd June (next Tuesday) so it hadn’t really occurred to me that it was under threat. But on Tuesday night, with 96 in the bank, I did the sums. I needed two more decent days with extra miles, then a big final push on Friday. Friday’s always a banker for big miles because with an 11:45am finish at work, I can pretty much go home by any route I like.
I half expected to wake up on Wednesday morning with rubber legs but to my surprise, they were remarkably responsive: I just didn’t push it going into work. Lower gear, lower cadence: five minutes longer. “So what” thought I. “I’ve got bigger fish to fry here”. The trip home took in Dunlop, as on the previous two nights, but missed out big climb out past the Church and instead headed straight down the road to Stewarton: 44 for the day. However that still wasn’t enough to satisfy my thirst for more, so on Thursday morning, when I woke ten minutes before the alarm, I just got up and left Stewarton up the Old Glasgow Road before cutting across to meet my normal route on the Clunch Road. That bagged me an extra two. A re-run of Wednesday’s home delivered 46 for the day and 186 for the week.
Everything was now up for grabs: Only 15 were required for 900 in May, and I was certain to do those on the way into work on Friday morning, meant that I could focus all my energies, both mental and physical, into the home run. The records were about to start tumbling, one after the other. I felt brilliant.
I left work on 204 miles, with 900 already a reality. My first target, 23 miles up the road, was the magic 6000 barrier. When I got there, I was in Dunlop and thought “I know what, I’ll tweet it”…. No signal, which I knew would happen because O2 and Dunlop are not good neighbours.
Next up was the 232 miles that I clocked up on Highland Bike week. That’s been bugging me for a fortnight because while it was a massive total, it hadn’t been achieved in a normal commuting week so it was gonna have to go…
“And another 6 takes the total to 233, which eclipses the 232 of Highland Bike week” went on Twitter after I’d changed my name to 6006 LifeCycle Miles.
But by now I was getting tired and I knew the end wasn’t far away. However I was determined not to go out in the 230’s as 237 was a number that had stuck in my brain ever since I biked it from Manchester to Glasgow in a day twenty years ago. So after heading out past Torranyard and almost to Irvine, I made the turn for home and arrived back in Stewarton with just enough juice left in the tank to do a loop up the Main Street and down Bridgend for 241.
I said last week that this project was limitless. This week merely underlined it.
This has been a Mega May.