Marathons and me have never actually gotten on! I've done a few just to tick the box or to run them with friends but my GoTri Adventure clubmates can testify to how my eyes glaze over at the mention of road marathons. I've full respect for people who do them but I definitely struggle with them. If someone mentions a mountain ultra marathon in the middle of winter at night time... I'd be straight in for that!
I do fairly long runs as part of my training but they tend to be on mixed terrain. In terms of training for The Race when I competed the first time my training was different from my normal training in that it was a bit lower on intensity and just longer. I had thought that I'd be holding back all through the race so I'd last to the finish so that's how I trained, somewhere around the low to mid 80s for percentage effort. However when I lined up on the start line and the whistle went all that went out the window... I started racing! And to my surprise I was able to keep a stronger pace up than I expected for longer than I expected.
Where I fell down was not keeping the fuel flowing in due to frozen hands and flavour fatigue. So for this year I'm planning on training to a slightly higher intensity, closer to my normal training for adventure racing, and hopefully I can improve on my time from 2014... and I'll be getting some better gloves!
I'm really excited about training and racing with the GoTri Adventure group. We've a great bunch of guys who have made incredible progress in just a year. Some of the group had never run much beyond 10kms this time last year and every challenge that has come their way in the last year they've met it head on and done fantastically well. They've conquered adventure races, marathons, ultra marathons and they keep coming back for more!! The Race will be another step up again for them and a huge challenge but with the support shared among everyone in the group I've no doubt that every one of them will cross the line.
For training it's going to be great to have the support of the lads to motivate me to get up and out on the cold dark mornings and evenings so hopefully that will help with my consistency for hitting long sessions and the quality and intensity of training that we do as a group is better than anything I could achieve on my own. In return I'll try and pass on as many of the lessons I learned in The Race 2014 to them.
Once we're on the start line though and the whistle goes it'll be race mode for all of us! I'll have the guys beside me in spirit which I think will be a mental boost for me but it'll be my legs that have to drag me around. I suppose I won't want to let them down either so that will push me on. I hope they'll hear my voice in their ears too when they inevitably struggle at different points in the race.
Nutrition is something I'm a bit hit and miss on to be honest. In some ways I'm lucky in that I can eat pretty much anything I want and I have a fairly resilient stomach but on the flip side I suppose that is sometimes my achilles heel in that I actually do eat whatever I want rather than what I should be eating!! I do try to keep my protein intake up to help with recovery and I eat a lot of chicken, wholewheat pasta, porridge etc but I certainly wouldn't claim to be on point when it comes to nutrition.
I have a very fast metabolism so I need to make sure there's plenty of fuel in the tank so before big sessions or races I'll always make sure I have as big a breakfast as possible. Generally that would be porridge, eggs, toast, bananas and then during races I'm more topping that up than trying to eat large quantities in the race. I also use a carb drink so I'm getting fuel from two sources. For a lot of adventure races where I'm out around 4 hours or so I'll just have a big brekkie, take my carb drink and then just graze on jellies that I'll have loose in a pocket rather than wasting time messing about with wrappers or eating anything that affects my breathing like energy bars or anything too chewy.
For training it's going to be great to have the support of the lads to motivate me to get up and out on the cold dark mornings and evenings
For longer events like The Race I'll be adding in some quick stops for proper solid fuel and again top up in between. Flavour fatigue is a big issue as I learned in 2014 where I made 8 wraps all the same and felt like throwing them over a ditch after the second one! Learning point - anything that discourages you from fuelling should be eliminated!
One thing I noticed after competing the first time was that The Race affected different people in different ways. Sections that I found relatively easy other people struggled on and for sections that I found difficult other people thought they were fairly straight forward. For me if they extended Muckish by about 50kms and knocked that off the cycle I'd be happy! I thought the kayak section was tough and I'm hoping to prepare for that a bit better this year.
Obviously the first cycle is a huge challenge, the hills in Donegal have hills on top of them. They just kept coming. So armed with that knowledge my winter training this year will be more uphill! So I think getting off the bike after the first cycle will be a milestone for me, I'll be looking forward to that. The second cycle was a disaster for me last time because my arms froze up as far as my elbows, by the time I got to the last checkpoint I only had one finger that I could move to pull the brakes on my bike and I wasn't able to eat for most of that leg as I wasn't able to get food out of my race vest. A simple kit mistake almost stopped me from completing the race & I was almost pulled out on medical grounds at the last checkpoint, I was on the verge of hypothermia. Luckily I was able to get myself warmed back up, change clothes and hit off on the final run. I'm hoping if I can fix those mistakes that the second cycle will be more straightforward for me.
My mindset for the final run the first time was that it was just a run to the finish line, that wasn't a conscious decision, it was just how I felt when I got that far, the time or the distance didn't cross my mind, I just wanted to keep moving forward and get to the line. None of the legs are easy though, but I'm still looking forward to all of it, I must be a sadist! I'll be preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.