Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The perils of ultra running

Saturday's run reminded me of some of the things that make ultra running so unique and enjoyable. The joy of stopping for a number 2 in the fresh air, miles from anywhere, and then witnessing the shock on the faces of the two old ramblers who had just come round the corner to find a runner in mid squat. Or stopping for a quick streamie, only for one of the women in the race to choose that very moment to catch up - thanks Aileen. Or the odd sensation of running a bit too soon after eating a pot of Muller rice (with apple), not entirely sure whether it would stay down or not. Or watching my chicken and rice soup blow away towards the Falkirk Wheel. Or finding that both my legs had decided to cramp at the same time, with my arms joining them seconds later in a painful spasm. And finally, the serious embarrassment of trying to spit into the canal but making such a hash of it that most ended up in my hair and on my backpack.

So, dear reader, ultra running is not all glamorous, at least not where I am in the middle of the field. I am sure it is much more attractive at the front end, where Lucy, Jack, Thomas et al run with great style and panache - no jobbies in the trees for them, I suspect: I doubt they could afford to stop for that long and still get as good a time.

I am of course aware that I do all this for fun, and of my own free will, and that no-one forces me to take part. I paid the princely sum of £52 to experience those pleasures on Saturday and, even worse, had to decline a full hospitality invitation for the two of us to attend the Scotland v Ireland rugby match at Murrayfield. Allybea was not best pleased. Standing in a 40 mile an hour cold wind beside a smelly canal at Falkirk, Linlithgow and Ratho does not compare favourably with a free piss up at the rugby. This is a point she has made, and continues to make, very clear to me.

However the oddest thing of all is the fact that I am unable to sleep well after an ultra race. Does anyone else experience this? There is no doubt that I should be tired - on Saturday I was up at 5.15am and then I ran 54 miles, after a hectic week at work. I normally sleep like a log. But not on Saturday, nor after the last West Highland Way race. I lay awake for ages, then gave up around 1.30am and headed down the stairs to watch some football highlights. I returned to bed about an hour later but slept in fits and starts, and was first up the next morning. Even on Monday morning I was not tired - I normally sleep on the train into work, but instead I gazed out of the window, occasionally noticing the canal along which I had run just 2 days earlier.

I can only conclude that the body is a funny thing. Particularly mine.


The Sunday Adventure Club said...

It's not a proper ultra unless you have a jobby along the way Ian, even Jez did one on the Devil! I reckon it's worth practising in training or to be really professional you could get your support to help out....!
Well done on the run too, btw

Subversive Runner said...

Excellent post, Ian. Interesting comments regarding post race sleep, too. I usually manage to sleep well, and even slept on my feet for a few seconds during the West Highland Way Race in 2007.

Brian Mc said...

I usually have trouble sleeping after an ultra as well. Restless legs and a general inability to get beyond a doze.

But am intrigued by Richie's response. Jez managed a jobby on the Devil? He must have squeezed some. That kind of training will only end in piles though. You have been warned!

John Kynaston said...

Ian ... this post was quoted on another blog ....



Thomas said...

I had to stop for 2 No 2's. I even looked for proper spots where I was save enough and did not continue without some proper cleaning! Plus countless number ones. I was not rushing. This was not a race! Until of course I was told I could catch number 3 that is - damnit. next time I do not care about cleaning myself ;-)

I know there are runners who manage number ones while running (I even saw a runner performing that during the Edinburgh Marathon while running 7 minute mile pace) even Karnazes admits doing it.
Maybe if it's a very close race some might even think about doing a number 2 whilst running... Probably noone would admit that?
Although Debs once posted a photo of a runner who did just that, but that was probably an accident. Ouch!

And sleeping, I did sleep ok after the double but could not sleep after the Inverness Half...

Anonymous said...

I also struggle to sleep - legs sore, but more than that I am usually really hot for the next 2 days.. Took me till last night (Tuesday) to get a full sleep - and that was only because I went to the gym... Bloody hell I felt good tday though - the tiredness all gone and legs just feeling strong !! bring on the fling !! Cheers KH

Debbie Martin-Consani said...

Hey Ian,
Sorry for the delay in reading your post. But guess what...I just don't know where the time goes :-)
I don't do toilet chat, so I'll refrain to comment. Just wanted to say well done on a great run. And I still can't believe you gave up hospitality at the rugby. I'm sure you showered Alison with Mother's Day and Birthday gifts to make up for it! :-)