Eight miles from Latvia having run Estonia this last week, I’m taking my first full day off in 40 days.
I don’t believe planned days off are of huge benefit in events like this, but yesterday my legs ached all day for the first time and this morning the feeling was only worse, and this was following a night in a guesthouse vs. wild camping, so I’d had a much deeper sleep.
I’ve had an absurd amount to eat today. I’ve tried sleeping extra hours to recuperate, but to no avail, my body has been screaming out for food incessantly!
It’s only 8pm and I’ve eaten well over 7000 calories. I’m writing this and about to go and have dinner and get snacks for later. Seriously, my stomach is rumbling, and it’s hard to concentrate on typing as I just have an overwhelming urge to eat!
It’s the first time I’ve felt this hungry for a long, long time since setting out on this run. I’ve struggled to eat anywhere near the required 6000 calories a day in order to maintain weight.
My legs are visibly larger than this morning, much larger! It’s the empty glycogen stores refilling. I never though it possible to comfortably eat over 5000 calories in a day and today will be well over 10,000 calories without any force feeding, my body and appetite are just screaming out for more.
The last three weeks I’ve been on a somewhat downward spiral, it’s taken a day off to realise the problem and the solution.
I’ve been running faster and stronger but covering fewer miles, how? Intensity – I’ve been struggling to get going in the mornings. Sure climbing out of your cosy sleeping bag into the rain or snow isn’t very appealing but it’s what I signed up for, so it is to be expected and dealt with.
The problem though is a self-fulfilling fatigue, having woken up late and been slow to strike camp, I’m forced to chase my tail all day long, trying make up for lost time. When winter is closing in and the days are shrinking it just can’t be done!
Running 20% faster is 20% tougher right? Wrong! It’s about 40% tougher; it’s draining, not just physically but mentally. There is only so hard you can push if you are doing it again and again day after day, I’ve been running too fast.
It’s left me mentally burnt out; in the morning I’m exhausted following the previous days efforts. Dragging myself out of bed has taken up to two hours just to eat, dress and strike camp, it’s an absurd amount of wasted time but I’ve been like a zombie!
I think it’s caused by sustained very low glycogen levels, running at higher intensities asks the body to burn a lot of sugar. I don’t normally need this as I usually train to run off body fat, sugar just being a turbo boost in events but never in training, but the brain requires sugar.
Running faster, blunts appetite also making it impractical to eat much during the running block, this means having to gorge myself in the evenings to make up the calories.
It doesn’t work, I’ve been eating less, sleeping less (due to eating so much extra just before bed) and then wasting hours in the morning like a zombie trying to get going. I hadn’t realised what I was doing until a few days ago, honestly during prolonged fatigue your mental acuity drifts very quickly into foggy territories.
This fatigue and other underlying reasons are then compounded by my desire to make miles before sunset, running so hard my stomach muscles are sore to the touch! The counter force of pushing the buggy at higher speeds requires a lot of core strength, which I have but it’s just a bit too much.
The simple answer is to slow down and run longer hours, not faster. I’ve taken today off as my legs told me to! The appetite which has taken me by complete surprise, confirms my suspicions. I’ve been running on empty for too long and hence the zombie state each morning.
Tomorrow I’m rising earlier and comfortably running 30 miles during my day, with time to eat along the way.
It’s crazy how easy it is to fall into a self-defeating pattern of trying harder but getting less done!
Like the old adage goes, ‘more haste, less speed’.