• Mon09February 2015
    6COMMENTS
  • Marathon des Sables 2015 – the 140-ish mile week

    Thank you to the very talented Elisabet Barnes from MyRaceKit for sharing little snippet called Expect Miracles from a book by Julian Goater.

    “Some athletes consider training a proving ground. They think you have to have done something in training first before you can expect to produce the same performance in a race. But others have the attitude that training is merely preparation, and that other factors beyond just fitness can be harnessed that enable people to produce performances far in excess of their normal ability or current fitness level. The difference between these two approaches has a lot to do with confidence and self-belief, and with one’s ability to let the power of the mind take over in certain situations. One approach restricts you; the other opens new horizons”

    This couldn’t have come at a better time for the week before last was what I refer to as “my rehearsal week”. It was something that Matt Buck who completed the Marathon des Sables in 2014 suggested. Put simply, you follow your desert diet while running a fair whack of the distance that you will cover in the Sahara. So as part of my training, I thought I’d try it to build my confidence. The furthest I have ever run prior to Peddars Way Ultra was 32 miles, so covering 140-ish miles in a week was a new experience. It did prove that I can do it but more than that, it showed me that if you want something badly enough, then your guts and determination will push you through the bad (and freezing) times.

    Day 6 of rehearsal week - not quite the Sahara

    Day 6 of rehearsal week – not quite the Sahara

    Rehearsal week training

    On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I ran 20 miles each day, the Saturday, I ran the Peddars Way Ultra (48 miles), Sunday was my rest day, then on Monday I ran 20 miles, followed by an easy 16 miles on Tuesday.

    Learnings from my Marathon des Sables 2015 rehearsal week:

    1. You will feel very RUNgry 

    Granted, I was running in sub-zero temperatures during the Peddars Way Ultra and this certainly made me want to reach for a stash of 9bars, Chia Charge bars and anything else I could lay my hands on but throughout the week I did feel permanently hungry. The worst part was sitting down to a roast dinner with my fake-in-laws. While they tucked into their steaming hot veg, I was slowly and steadily shoveling teaspoons of Oats & Chia porridge down my throat, followed by a Chia Charge bar. I will need to adjust my food intake following the long day and during my rest day to ensure I’m not literally chewing at the bit.

    What this exercise did teach me was I can go for a week on noodles and various forms of carbohydrate bars (but not much longer).

    2. Protein could be key

    To counteract the hunger and also ensure my muscles are in good nick, I now know after my rehearsal that I need to add in protein in the form of a shake. I think I’m going to opt for Maximuscle, which when mixed with water tastes a bit like milkshake. This will not only help to curb those RUNger pans but also help with my recovery. It’s also a good solution to neck after a long run.

    3. Slow and steady running to keep me on track

    It may seem crazy to some but running 20 miles a day wasn’t actually too bad. And despite the freezing conditions of the Peddars Way marathon, I didn’t really suffer the following day. I kept my pace steady and treated it like a training run rather than a race. Even on the Monday, I felt fine, a bit tired but not exhausted. More importantly, the rehearsal week has boosted my confidence in terms of the back-to-back nature of the Marathon des Sables. I know I can do the mileage (in the UK at least).

    4. Check your footwear

    That doesn’t mean it was all plain sailing. On Monday, I felt a slight pang behind my knee. Panic stations alert – call the physio. Fortunately, my hamstring was slightly strained but nothing more serious than that. I’m not sure whether this was actually down to overuse or the fact that my trainers were properly worn down (see pictures). Thankfully, I am in the fourth week of my training cycle now, the recovery week, so I have had time to rest. My physio also managed to massage most of the tension out of my hamstring. Nevertheless, I am now more conscious of not taking my good health and strong legs for granted. As for my trainers, they have gone to shoe heaven.

    Time to say goodbye to my Asics

    Time to say goodbye to my Asics

    5. Make adjustments

    As I said above, the training was not actually too bad. I can cover the mileage without too much strain on my body. I’m not limping, I’m pretty fit and my physio says my legs are in the best shape he’s ever seen them in.

    What can I do to improve?

    Firstly, I need to stretch more to ensure my hamstrings are not put under undue pressure.

    Secondly, really nail my desert diet. During the rehearsal week, I was powered by the following:

    • one packet of Oats & Chia porridge a day
    • one packet of Ko Lee Go Chow Mein noodles a day
    • one Chia Charge bar (banana or plain) a day – these are really tasty
    • one Bounce ball
    • 6 tablespoons DrinkMe Chai
    • the occasional 9bar (one on the Saturday and Monday)
    • 50g mixed breakfast berries from Holland & Barrett
    • 100g Pontefract cakes spread throughout the Saturday, Sunday and Monday
    • copious litres of water

    Thirdly, check my equipment both during training and pre-race. While my focus is on my race kit for the Marathon des Sables, I need to make sure that the shoes I’m wearing during training are not jeopardizing my plan.

    If anyone has any suggestions for a veggie like me, please say below. My strategy is to go for food that weighs very little but is also palatable. Also it would be good to know your strategies – do you have a rehearsal week?

    If you would like to find out more about my epic challenge, please see http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SaharaBecsRun

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