The longest month – part 2

During the third week of the relentless mileage through Australia, something changed. The deep sleeps must have been working as I got my second wind. The fatigue, as expected, was still there but no longer at a prohibitive level.

It was still incredibly taxing and took huge resolve to fight my way out of the deep sleep, out of the tent and onto my feet each morning, but I felt stronger and knew I could handle it. The first two weeks of that mileage I was becoming increasingly fatigued with each passing day, and that scared me.  That’s not something you can maintain for very long.

I was genuinely scared of not reaching Sydney on time, and the consequences this might incur.

Why all the fuss over an extra 5-10km a day, surely 10%-20% extra mileage is only 10%-20% tougher right? A resounding “NO” is the short answer there!

You see, humans aren’t robots, they can’t be understood with a calculus table. Unlike machines or mathematical equations, there’s nothing linear concerning the way the human body responds to changes in stimuli from the environment.

My body’s so conditioned to running that I only begin to feel some noticeable fatigue around the 35-40km mark, dependent upon the terrain, temperature and my recent quality of sleep. It’s a very mild fatigue and easily manageable.  As the total number of kilometres increases however, so too does the intensity of the fatigue.  Let’s take a look at a 50km, 60km and 70km example.

50km Day

Let’s say I’m feeling good in general so I begin to fatigue at around the 40km mark, which equates to

10km run with some mild fatigue.

Now let’s compare that to running 60km and 70km distances which I often ran over the last month in Australia.

Obviously sleep wasn’t matching effort as I had to jack up on caffeine just to feel safe on the road because fatigue was beginning at around the 35km mark.

60km Day

  • Fatigue starts at around the 35km mark
  • 25km run through moderate fatigue

Now your perception of fatigue and its debilitating effects on your progress is non-linear as well – it’s cumulative and grows rapidly.

For instance, running two hours in a fatigued state is a more than four times harder than running 30 mins in a fatigued state – it’s a completely different challenge! In fact, it’s around six times tougher. You’ll pass from mild fatigue, fatigued, highly fatigued to walking zombie in a very non-linear curve!

Now let’s see how the 70km day stacks up….

70km Day

  • The point at which fatigue is reached = 35km.
  • Distance run whilst under moderate fatigue = 15km
  • Distance run whilst highly fatigued = 20km.

Let’s compare the days:

A 50km day run while enjoying normal sleep means 10km of running with moderate fatigue versus a 60km day run following poor sleep,

The 60km day only represents 20% extra distance Perhaps it’d be 30% more difficult? Well let’s do the maths. It’s a whopping 250% tougher than the 50km day!

That equates to 25km run through fatigue versus 10km, a factor of 2.5.

Now let’s compare the 70km day.

It’s 40% further, so perhaps 50-60% tougher, after all humans aren’t robots right?  Well the maths shows us it’s 15km of running through a moderate fatigue level versus 10km, so 150% tougher. However, we then reach the point where the highly fatigued state kicks in and this represents an extra 20km. Remember, a state of high fatigue is much tougher to overcome and run through than moderate fatigue – around 1.5 times tougher (and escalates exponentially).

So 20km run through high fatigue is equivalent to 30km of running with moderate fatigue 15+30 = 45km.

Comparing the 50km versus the 70km day we see a difference of 10km run under fatigue versus 45km under fatigue a difference of 450%!

Like I said humans aren’t robots and they aren’t linear!

The above maths gives you an insight into some of the thinking I do out on the road, when people ask me “what do you think about all day”, There are lots of things I think about, mainly trying to watch the traffic for idiots driving whilst texting on their phones and jumping out the way before they hit me!

However there’s also navigation, water, food, camping/accommodation to think of, and then I like to work out numbers such as this example.

I’ve thought about the same for steepness of hills and temperature and the environment, for instance running in 40 degree celsius heat should only feel 25% warmer than 30 degrees right?

Sure, if you’re dealing with a robot!

In reality it represents a ‘feeling of ‘ 300% warmer?! Why and how such a huge difference?

Well human beings feel comfortable between 18-25 degrees. Above 25 is experienced as warm/hot, so 30 degrees represents 5 degrees above baseline of ‘hot’ whereas 40 degrees is 15 degrees above baseline a factor of 3 times higher!

Of course we can reverse engineer these numbers, working backwards from the absolute limits for humans (furthest someone can run per day if running every day of the month for multi month effort max = approx 80-85km, highest temps can run in for 8-10 hours a day, back to back days = around 55 degrees) and we arrive at fairly similar numbers!

The longest month – part 1

 

May 2014 is the first month that I’ve clocked well over 1000 miles, not just during the world run but not at any other point in my life have I run 4 x 400km weeks back to back!It wasn’t through planning but rather necessity. My visa expired June 4th and I had to leave Australia then, or become an illegal alien. If this happens, your passport is flagged as having been in breach of a visa restriction. That would mean I’d have no chance of being allowed into North America, and the run would have been over. Simply not an option!

All in all it took me 12 weeks to run 4000km across Australia. My visa allowed me three months in Australia but it took me a week in Perth to get over jet lag, assemble my cart and prepare my kit for surviving in the desert, alone.

Twelve weeks isn’t bad to cover that distance, but I should have arrived in Sydney 10 or 11 days earlier, had I not been knocked over by a careless driver in Perth. Being knocked over cost me two days for repairs, two days through injuries to my left leg, two weeks running slower than planned where I lost 1-2 days miles each day due to the injury, then four days lost to couriers as I arranged to have the cart replaced with the stroller after the desert crossing. Finally, a day was lost disassembling the cart and transferring kit to the stroller.

I left Ceduna knowing I would have to average approximately 60km a day for 5 weeks to ensure I left Australia before my visa expired. Every Australian citizen I spoke to declared “surely with what you’re doing immigration will give you an extension – no worries mate.”

They were wrong. It took me two weeks to finally get through to immigration! Not once was the phone answered, eventually an email was answered which completely ignored my circumstances and the reasons for my request to extend my visa by 10 days.

I explained I’m wearing a satellite tracker, not only will I not be trying to hide, but for my own interests I have to keep my whereabouts public and proven at all times –  the very opposite of someone trying to hide/stay in the country illegally!

I showed them my website which publicly declares my desire and motivation to leave Australia as fast as possible. Not that it isn’t a fantastic place, but I’m trying to run around the world as fast as I can! Both common sense, and space age tracking devices made it abundantly obvious I posed no immigration risk to the country, but they ignored all of this!

The first two and a half weeks of this mileage was a slog. It’s much more taxing ‘having to’ run 20% further every single day versus running up to 30% extra just because you ‘feel like it’ and you felt strong that particular day.

This run is tough enough even when averaging 50km a day even though I do love running. However if it becomes reframed in your mind as a chore rather than a pursuit, I discovered that the abundant motivation that coursed through my legs suddenly ran drier than the red sands beneath my feet.

I found my eyes closing while running, so tonnes of coffee became the order of the day. Even when I drank a coffee on the hour, every hour, throughout the day, this was the first time in my life I’ve been able to fall into a deep sleep in mere moments.

I’ve always taken 30-40mins to get to sleep and then slept very lightly. Running back to back 400km weeks changed that – it became difficult to finish eating my dinner and I sometimes woke to realise a quarter of my meal sat in the camping pan, stone cold on the tent floor.

All day long I daydreamed of sleep……