Trail to Larapinta Week 4: Jump the shark

In a conversation recently, I found myself saying “oh don’t read it — it’s a little dry, run of the mill — boring”.

A conversation, or at least a topic of concern that I have discussed with this particular writer in the past.

As many of you know, the task of the muddy masochist is not just to document my running adventures but to record them in such a way that even non-runners will find my digital scribbles interesting to read.

Something which becomes challenging when one is in the middle of a training cycle, has not fallen over, found the lost city of El Dorado or travelled to an exotic location that week.

This can lead to the temptation to jump the shark – to write or do something which is purely aimed at increasing the entertainment value of the blog and in doing so, severely reduces its quality.

Actually, thinking about this I realised that there is a running equivalent, that moment when you push yourself (either in pace or distance) a little too much and the quality of your running is severely compromised by a dramatic increase in quantity — however, when a runner “jumps the shark” it tends to end in painful injury which forces them to stop running for weeks, months, even years.

With a history of being on the conservative side when it comes to this sort of thing, I have been lucky and have mostly managed to avoid jumping the shark at the extreme end – I may have jumped the halibut at times but never the shark.

Still, this is a fear which well and truly raised its Jaws like head when I committed to – effectively — three ultra-distance events in the same year.

The first of these is in about two weeks and my plan is to hit somewhere in the region of 50Ks in my six-hour window — as previously stated, this is a great opportunity to test my fuelling strategy and bank some serious hours on my legs in a “safe” space.

But six hours is a long time to run, so last weekend I embarked on a four hour run to see how my body was coping with all this extra distance I am putting into it.

I am not going to lie to you, at 3:15 into the training run, I was ready to call it quits but I managed to push through and not only did I reach the right end of Warrandyte at the four hour mark but by the time I had walked up the hill to get home – I felt pretty good.

A short run on the Sunday confirmed things, I felt fine, I hadn’t over-trained, I am feeling ready to run six hours.

What I am reminded of is times in my running life when I have taken a “stupid risk” only to discover it was merely the conservative voice at the back of my mind telling me it was a dumb idea.

2013 — two half marathons over two weekends


Some five years ago now, when I was quite happy to pound the roads of west London, I was reading about Ultras but was not yet concerned with anything beyond about 25km, I suddenly found myself with the opportunity to run in the Royal Parks Half Marathon — an awesome 21K event which starts and finishes in Hyde Park, little did I know it is also a HUGE charity fundraiser with 21,000 runners making it wall to wall runners all the way around.

A place for me came up unexpectedly and I jumped at the chance, not realising that the second edition of the Ealing Half Marathon – was only six days before.

Did I back down, hell no.

I ran Ealing as fast as I could and felt quite stiff for a few days after, but with some very light running during the week, I soon found myself standing in the start funnel for half marathon number two that month and feeling pretty confident about it all.

A rather sweaty and awe-inspiring meet-up with THE Scott Jurek the day before Royal Parks had got me inspired and when I found out that the race starting just before the Royal Parks Half was the Royal Parks Ultra – 50Ks along the River Thames, well — I knew where my future lay.

2014 – sub 2s and almost marathons

Fast forward 9 months and I am “down under” and I am about to cross the timing marker on the Great Ocean Road Half Marathon.

I’ve been running the distance and hills to be prepared for this but not “formally training” and have no real goal in mind, other than to enjoy myself and finish before the marathoners catch up.

With 2ks to go, I cross the half marathon timing marker and I am sub 2 – what the fuck! How did that happen, the remaining two kilometres take a little longer than the previous 21 but still, a solid performance.

In the weeks that follow, I continue to run, 10k, 15k, on hills and trails and I soon discover that the stiffness is not there.

After a big run, I expect to be bedridden but the next day and I am not, the opposite in fact – I want to get out there again.

So one day I decide to run from the CBD back to Warrandyte, it’s about 40ks plus change.

It takes me six hours and about 4.5 hours in I am ready to give up completely but I persevere and although I am sore at the end, and hungry and thirsty, oh and so so so hungry, I do it – and the next day things feel ok – a little bit stiff but not laid up in bed for a week.

It is then that I begin to plan my first attempt at marathon and I pick Marysville as my first – your first is always going to be memorable so might as well make it about the scenery as well as the distance.

And now…

So, before this week’s long run I had some doubts, thought maybe I had – this time – jumped the shark.

But after a positive four hours of running, followed by an easy run the next day – in a week where I nearly hit 70ks I am starting to think that six hours at Princes Park is very doable, that back-to-back-to-back runs in the Red Centre are doable and that while 100k in one go is going to be the toughest run of my life so far, it is also within my means.

What is the life lesson take out from this? Being mindful of your conservative side is a good thing, but taking risks is much more fun.

The trick is to find the balance.

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