It’s been an odd year so far. Have never done so much running, but at the same time so little racing. Even with the benefit of large altitude training blocks, the focus has been on improving and maintaining endurance for our desert races. North Face 100 in May was meant to be the release for the pressure inside, that need to just get out on a great course and compete solo to my limit. Unfortunately, rookie insulin errors leading up to the race start and in the first couple of hours made sure that limit was a lot lower and less comfortable than it should have been throughout the day.
We’ve just received our patches for the Sahara Race in the past 24 hours and it really brings home what lies right in front of us. October 28, we’ll be hitting the soft sands of the world’s hottest desert for our 3rd Racing The Planet multiday this year.
Atacama was a blast, Gobi was a special kind of hell, and whatever the Sahara turns out to be, we’ll have less than 2 weeks from when we get back until we leave again for Antarctica, the Last Desert – our chance to become the first team to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam, my challenge to become the first type 1 diabetic to complete this feat. I hope Greg and the team’s faith in me won’t be let down.
For now, it’s about researching gear and strengthening the body. I recently found out why I’ve never liked back bends in yoga. Spondyloliesthesis – when a vertebrae doesn’t line up with the one directly underneath it and instead overhangs it. Apparently 8% of people have this to some degree and from scans looking at bone structure I probably always have. The additional stresses on the body of not just running but running 200+km with a reasonably heavy pack have created other issues around the vertebrae, including the ilio-lumbral ligaments, that I’m now working on together with my shiatsu mentor and cranio-sacral osteopath.
Recently, thanks to advice from Coast2Kosci Race Directors Diane Weaver and Paul Every I’ve added a new specialist to the mix, spinal rehab physiotherapist Nick Stepkovitch. With his team of student from sports clinics around the world, Nick has already had a big impact on me. He has set a comprehensive program of stretching and strengthening to incorporate into my running and training routine. Having already taken 10 days off running, I am now certain that we are Born To Run, because we are sure as hell not Born To Swim. Thanks to a waterproof MP3 player, I’m now swimming from 1500m to over 2km (very slowly) in pool sessions. But the focus is on getting control back into muscle groups where it is needed around the core and getting back to the most satisfying and simple sport humanity has never had to invent – RUNNING.
For all the runners reading this – in fact, whatever your sport – I just wanted to share one of the most basic but useful sets of exercises Nick has given me, and it’s in a form I hadn’t previously seen. Check this out for yourselves – I think it’s excellent, and for ultrarunners, importantly, it’s portable.