Starting to sweat the small stuff – but now with good help

Just recently a friend who I’ve had some amazing adventures with wrote to me and said

I’m pretty sure you must be getting excited/apprehensive by now.  Think the small details will probably matter more to you than me, and I bet a lot hinges on getting those tiny details just right.  You were always good at that though; more of a fine brush artist compared to my broad strokes!

Funnily, I’d be looking at everything in massive strokes, and am really only just getting down to the detail.

Fortunately I’ve been looking after a good few things as part of my, that are the detail so my list is pretty short and seems surmountable. Even though someone helpfully posted that it’s less than 1000 hours now before we jump on the plane. Ooof.

One of those detailed items is nutrition – fuelling the body. Because I have to carry my food for the event, calorie to weight is an essential consideration. I’m lucky that I’ve been looking at this for a while, tested items in events and training and am now pretty confident that my final details are getting sorted. A more detailed blog to follow.

Trail food is a real pick me up, and having something that picks you up psychologically is as important as the nutritional value. Having considered and tested fat and nuts for a long distance rowing project and woofed down chicken curry with Mars bars melted in I can definitely testify to food fuelling a campaign like this.

I was introduced to Bounce Balls about 7 months ago, and was initially hesitant. However, feeding my body with good quality, balanced natural food is essential. When pushing the body hard recovery is an essential part of training. I’ve found for the last 6 months. Bounce natural energy balls are a really convenient way to fit quality calories into a 5 meal a day eating plan. This has become really important whilst looking at weight management. The balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate is perfect and the various tastes are delicious. They are absolutely perfect when I want a treat and are really filling. I’ve also found that they are well packaged for training food. I choose to eat them through rest cycles, and they immediately stop rumbling stomachs.

As well as using them day to day for training, I will be using Bounce Balls for breakfast during the event.

You’ll spot Bounce products in a number of high street retailers or you can but them online. I really recommend giving them a go. Look out for the logo!

Bounce Natural Energy Balls
Bounce Natural Energy Balls

On winning

Today was the TORQ Trail Team assessment in Church Stretton. I have to admit to being really, really pleased to have been selected for assessment. Getting a place on a team like this would make a whole heap of difference to me, well to anyone. I went with a level of intimidation, surely everyone would be better than me? The venue was open an hour before the start of the programme and there was lot’s of chatter about the “how’s” of the assessment.

TORQ meeting before #TORQTrailTeam assessment.
TORQ meeting before #TORQTrailTeam assessment.

As with most off road running events it was really friendly. Chat’s about races done, doing and targets. The normal small talk about the journey, and I suppose a little bit of figuring each other out.

The programme was kicked off by Julie and Simon from Freestak, a social media marketing company specialising in running. They gave context to the day and were quick to point out that they wished they hadn’t called it an assessment. To take what they were saying and put it in my own words, they wanted a speed dating style networking event for trail and ultra runners. They certainly achieved that.

Next up was Ben from TORQ. In the cycling world TORQ is a very well known nutrition brand. It’s built from passion, and grounded in science. Ben was clearly able to cope with both. I’ve played with nutrition in the past, but not with any great science. Ben gave clarity to a few things, and was easy to talk to during the rest of the day. In a stage race like my target of Marathon des Sable it’s obviously something I need to get spot on, or do I?

After Ben was a quick lunch break, cheese rolls and fruit. I have to say that given Ben had just been discussing the block that fat puts on our metabolic pathways for carbohydrate, there were a few discussions about whether we should be picking out the cheese. All in jest though.

Stuart Mills at #TORQTrailTeam day
Stuart Mills at #TORQTrailTeam day

Straight after lunch was Stuart Mills. Stu is a Kiwi who has become a pommie. He is also a very talented ultra runner and a sports science lecturer. He laid out some challenges to conventional thinking, and pushed us to think about ourselves. This guy wins 100 mile races by running 40 miles a week at 9 min/mile pace. But, he spends as much time on mental preparation. That’s preparing his mind not going at preparation at 100 mph.

I can’t really explain the effect of some of the challenges on me. They made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck-it really affirmed my approach. As of right, there is no way I should have run 50km on New Years Day, but crucially I had rehearsed it and believed in it. I had no doubts.

Here was a legend to ultra trailies, reinforcing everything I believed about the preparation I need to run across the Sahara, that no-one else seems dare to say. No warts, no ifs, no buts. And in typically Kiwi style, denouncing anything that he didn’t believe in, like genetics and talent as “Bollocks”. Even if ‘science’ was against him, he believes in himself. Sound.

Next up was a “non-competitive” run in to the hills around Ratlinghope. Nice, easy trail running, a few slippy bits, a few bits of snow, but despite the low cloud and drizzle, a really nice run with everyone. At the top of the run there was a need to re-group a bit. I doubled back with Simon from TORQ and swept a few people up who had been sightseeing (temporarily of course). Then three of us ran back talking, and enjoying the moment. I guess for me, a solo adventure runner by choice, the smaller group suited me, but it was quickly back in to social mode at the hostel.

We started to go our separate ways. It was a shame to miss a pint in the nice looking pub. I spent the drive home thinking about the session.

The day actually made me feel more positive, more confident. I’ve heard not to set restrictive goals, I heard to believe in me and I enjoyed running easily with people who would have intimidated me 12 months ago. That for me is a win, a massive win. That average Ash, actually isn’t that average. That’s flipping brilliant. Imagine if I was immersed in this environment, for a year. What might I achieve?

I want to be a part of TORQ Trail Team (I still have no idea what the selection criteria might be). Unfortunately, believing I might run MdS with a black and gold TORQ shirt on probably isn’t enough. I’ll be keeping my eye on my e-mail though, just in case.

A massive thanks to the organisers, the venue, the partners who supported the event and all the others there.

To read more about the companies/people, here are their websites:

Apologies for the phone camera pictures, there are some professional photo’s to come.