The trouble with unfounded expectations

Now I am less than 3 weeks out from the the West Highland Way Race. The work, however much I managed, is done.

I have been thinking about this race for about a year, it has been in my mind daily since then. I started ‘pre-training’ in mid October, 1 month after the Ring of Steall Skyrace, and began 100 mile training the first week of January 2018.

I had a huge wobble. I had an amazing March where training was going perfectly to plan, then in April work and travel caused havoc for my schedule. In hindsight, Max being injured was also a factor. Without my running buddy I was skimping unintentionally on my long runs and back to backs. I missed spending time with him. The Fling had gone great, but I had tapered so lost out on WHW training. Then a brief injury post Fling meant the following 3 weeks were sub par seeing two thirds less running than was planned. I never completed a peak phase in my training as I was wiped out.

I began to worry I had not done enough, I was not worried I would not finish as I am stubborn enough in my mind to do this, but worried I had not done my best. Having committed so much time, thought, money, planning and that of my crew and those rooting for me too. I felt this way, because physically, I was not feeling what I imagined my best to feel.

Eventually, after a good 10 days of whining about this to Max and Neil (sorry!) I came to an epiphany! Back in January, when I was first interviewed by John Kynaston, I had talked about my training plans and even began to make a training plan in excel. I had an image of not only what future Stacey, 5 months from then, would feel, but also an expectation of what fitness someone who ran 100 miles would have. I had this unfounded expectation, that I realise now had zero evidence behind it. Comparing my present self to that imagined future self, and the chasm between the two, sent me into a spiral of doubt.

I imagined the 100mile ultra-runner to be lean, full of energy with no sleep deficit who trained easily all the time (in fact, something a bit like my husband Max…). Where as in fact, despite my training load over the past 8 months growing by a third on the previous two years I had gained weight, was no faster than before and felt pretty much the same. I was not fast or light in a way that you imagine fitness to feel. Maybe training for this distance is not your traditional definition ‘fitness’ and these 100 mile ultra-runners are not the demi- goddess warriors I had subconsciously imagined, well certainly not the ones aiming to complete in 31hours.

So looking at what I have gained (other than a greater number on the scales)

  1. I am so much stronger. I do dynamic exercises now with 12kg, when I started at 3kg static. Hills are becoming fun! Some one yelped ‘bloody hell!’ as I came running down Blencathra this weekend (have to admit, I did feel a little bit warrior goddess in the torrential rain, in shorts and T with map in hand charging off the mountain!).
  2. I recover easily. I ran 6km easily at 5.30min/km split the day after a marathon. The week following the Fling I still clocked up 9hours of cross training, two years previously I barely moved for 6 weeks.
  3. My base is huge. All the walking has meant my heart rate is much lower. This is a clear indicator of my fitness gains. My average sleeping HR has dropped from 58 to 53bpm. Last year just standing had my HR at ~100bpm, now its in the low 70s and when running at 6.30min/km I am under 140bpm, I used to be around 160bpm.

So, now I have rid myself of the unrealistic vision of expectation and now dealing in reality I am feeling wholly confident. My legs have it in them, my heart is full and my head is as its always been, curious and stubborn to see what will happen!

In summary

Here is my training, for those who love numbers, and reassuring for anyone out there with a weekly millage near the lower end.

My 2017 cumulative distance to this date was 638km

My 2018 cumulative distance to this date is 1128km (my goal had been 1448km by race day)

Pre – training period

I was not fit enough to begin the 6 month 100 mile 50 mile as week plan so had to pre train for 3 months to build up.

Oct = 18hrs

Nov = 23hrs

Dec = 32hrs

100 mile Training Period (time includes all sport, not just hiking and running)

Jan = 34hrs (60.8km, 63.3km, 27.9km, 71.8km)

Feb = 37hrs (46.8km, 62.8km, 29.1km, 29km)

March =53hrs  (101.9km, 76km, 46.9km, 60.2km)

April = 34hrs (87.9km, 16.8km, 48.9km, 34.7km, 94km)

May = 38hrs (7.4km (injury so Xtrain), 14.9km (injury so Xtrain), 45.8km 51.6km)

As can be seen, I trained perfectly for the Fling! I missed some long runs due to ill preparedness in lead up to the Fling, an injury post Fling and then being exceptionally tired from work the last 2 weeks. Hoping I am not too undercooked, but at least know I will be healed and recovered for the start line now.

My bags are packed already, my crew informed, just need to get food and head on up to Milngavie!



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