Last night Bryn and #daznbone took the train from London Marylebone and headed out to Aylesbury to embark on a planned 90km “night run”.
What followed was a tough battle that ended in a #dnf of sorts and whole set of introspection of our “inner chimp”
Our feeds have seen lots of questions on the subject of ultra-distance night runs from a logistical to a why? level.
So why do a 50 mile plus night run. Obviously “why not”. We have seen an explosion in the running scene and many weekend parks are flooded with excitable park-runners as well as a huge variety of 10 kms, city half and full marathons and even trail events and races. However the night scene is still sacred. When you catch a commuter train out at 6-9pm you will barely see anyone else in their running gear. To see Bryn get his legs out and fumigate the carriage with his Deep Heat, whilst we set about filling endless water vessels with TailWind and Bryn his Maurten - it was carnage. The first real “sighting of the chimp” came (on the train!) when the night time legs and body just had this feeling of seizure. It’s the body and mind trying to tell you to be in your comfort zone (bed + in front of the laptop) and not fiddling with your replacement battery packs and your Petzl night lights
Here is something that is going to surprise you - sometimes at night it gets very dark.
This can play havoc for your long run. Last night the ground on the canal was very boggy with constant huge puddles. It is only natural to spend the first few hours trying to go around these (before you give up trying - puddles ALWAYS win). So what do you do - well you take your life into your own hands and you skirt close to the canal edge (ask Debbie Consani what it’s like to fall into the canal - no fun) OR you run ragged next to the trees/undergrowth. Last night I slipped (because I couldn’t see that well and my Petzl Tikka headtorch isn’t great) and I fell into a branch and my watch strap broke. No major drama but it meant that I carried my watch in my hand for a couple of hours and I am sure that it played havoc with my Heart Rate readings (way higher that Bryn’s!!!
Bryn had the opposite issue - his Petzl NAO was awesome*** and it lit up the boggy canal path for us. However it has 4 million settings and we already drained the first set of its batteries after a couple of hours only to find that he had it on industrial aircraft hanger mode. As Bryn turned it around to take a look at it he screamed “I’ve burnt my retina” and he basically couldn’t see straight for the next 15 minutes
When you are on an English canal these things aren’t that serious when compared to a mountainside in the Alps or 300km into the Tor de Geants and I guess this is the perfect way to segue back to the Chimp. Why because you need tips and tricks to be prepared for the Chimp.
Lesson 8: Your Ultra Running Chimp will say “Why are you running at night on this boggy canal - it’s dark and dangerous and if you fall into this canal you will die of Hyperthermia - Go get an Uber home”. You need to say “Look chimp when I was doing the Lakeland 100miler that was a proper ultra - this is a mere shuffle along a canal path” Summary - Punch the Monkey and carry on.
The Chimp (Paradox) idea was brought to life by the brilliant mind of Dr Steven Peters - the guy that helped kickstart the Team Sky cycling revolution. Put simply your chimp is a constant noise in your brain telling you to eat a second Krispy Kreme donut, to switch off your alarm that you set for a 5 am early run start and how you can (and should for your health and well-being!) do less. The Chimp is all-powerful and you MUST train your chimp.
If you are going to do more ultra runs you will have a series of highs and lows. It’s a fact. I have never met any ultra-runner who has not had nausea that could become the thing that brings you to a stop, small niggles that feel like they could sabotage your run and self-doubt on just about every decision you’ve made about your training, kit choice, your race goals - the list is endless.
Bryn and I bashed the heck out of this last night. Too cold and wet and boggy underfoot - lets stop. Niggles might become injuries - we’ve got to stop. We’ve chosen to bring the wrong footwear - surely we would be mad to carry-on. As the first few hours of strong running became classic mid-run sketchy running we needed to go-deep and PUNCH THE CHIMP - when the chimp said you can stop and eat at 54 KM - Bryn put his head down and took it to 59 km. It was immense - best period of the whole night-run. This needs to go into the “locker” so that when Bryn is in Basel for his 24 hour event he knows he can bring this experience out of the locker and go “I did that in the middle of the night on a waterlogged course - I can do more basking in the sunshine of a May Swiss day - isn’t that right Bryn?
So yes the niggles looked painful and to end the 90 km training night run after 70 km was a sensible idea. daznbone are certain that we got all the great things you can get out of this night run:
We tested our kit - some of it sucks and we need some different approaches for wet weather and boggy underfoot conditions. More trialing of Head-torches. Using mine at Arc of Attrition would probably lead to serious mountain path disaster
Nutrition plan from James @KOMFuel - was faultless - no bonks - no sickness - no need to eat too much outside of our planned drinks #don’tmentionthescotcheggs. We carried a lot of stuff (which was heavy) and we needed a 24hr petrol station for water
Logistics - Bryn did an awesome job researching the run. You always think that canal routes are straight-forward but there was at least one major diversion and you need to be ready for when canal routes fork off. The route was waterlogged - it could have been worse - but we needed to be prepared to come off the canal if it had been any worse
Expect the Unexpected - you are going to get spooked in night runs - you will see things that aren’t real and noises will assault you to the bone. Coming close to the night-time Wildlife is awesome but they will also attack you if you surprise them. The stormy weather meant that there were many uprooted trees blocking the path and many branches and debris perched ready to fall from heights
We undoubtedly were “challenged by our chimps” - Chimps are devious and playful and they will not stop ever. Be prepared to play games back and give your chimp no room for self-expression. You are here to get a night-run done and whatever you do out there will undoubtedly give you an awesome story next day at home/work/school
DaznBone are planning a night-time run down to Brighton in the next few months and we will be kicking off a series of these throughout the year. If you fancy joining us get in touch
*** daznbone can share a 10% discount on any item at the awesome UltraMarathon Store - just use the code daznbone