How not to train for an ultra marathon

If I were to ever write about my first attempt to train for and run a 50k ultra marathon, this post would probably represent Chapter 2, and would be titled, rather grandly, ‘Losing my mojo’ (when it should in fact be titled either ‘Lazy, lazy, lazy’ or, more accurately, ‘Lack of common sense’).

Chapter 1 would refer to a good start to my ultra training – two weeks of good mileage, sensible eating, a bit of weight loss, and plenty of determination. That took me to the beginning of May, leaving me five months to develop my running from an ability to cover 15 miles comfortably in 2 hours 30 minutes, to more than double the distance and time on my feet.

In my last post, when I was still in semi-shock after entering the ultra, I stated that I needed to:

1) step up the miles and get in plenty of long slow runs,

2) eat more healthily and consume less alcohol,

3) lose several pounds.

I also indicated that I’d need a large slice of luck.

Well five or six weeks of thoroughly enjoyable working hard and playing harder has left my original plan in tatters. Three big social events have reduced my mileage and fitness. Unfortunately drinking too much is very easy with my own lack of self-control and the wonderful company I keep and, when coupled with my age, a good party leaves me with a certain amount of apathy (and inability) to run for a few days. I know I should and could turn out for two or three miles but then I stupidly/lazily consider it a waste of time if I’m not going to be able to do at least five or six miles.

Fortunately, I seem to have at least got the large slice of luck that I needed. Despite weight gain, mileage loss and a very poor diet, I’ve today been able to run (with a few strategically placed walking breaks) 20 slow miles. So there’s a big positive – I’ve still got enough fitness to be able to punish myself for six weeks of inadequate effort.

But now it’s getting desperate. Weeks have been lost and I really don’t think I can afford to lose any more. The slice of luck has kept me just about on track to at least believe I can achieve my target of completing 50K in October, although I’d like to be able to complete it in more style than I did the gruelling 20 mile punishment of today. The bit of common sense I have remaining is telling me that I have no luck credits remaining. Only hard work will pay now. Maybe chapter 3 of the story could tell the tale of a miracle of biblical proportions. I can see the headlines now – ‘Fat 40+ bloke becomes proper athlete in 2 months’. It’s not quite up there with turning water into wine or making a bit of bread and fish into a filling meal for a large crowd, but as alcohol and vast quantities of food need to be avoided for now, it’s perhaps best that I turn my hand to these latter two tricks some other time.

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