They said there’d be weeks like these…

Everything was going swimmingly and then… bleurgh.  In training for my 157 miles across the Sahara, I’d built my mileage to 45 miles per week for a few consecutive weeks (follow my training on Strava) and then something happened which I haven’t experienced in two years of solid running.  I couldn’t be bothered.  I didn’t want to go for a run.  I did it anyway.  I clocked up the miles, but I didn’t get any satisfaction from running.  I suppose I should be surprised that this hasn’t happened before now.  It’s probably not normal to enjoy every run and every race as I have done for the last two years.  So what to do about it?

The first, most important thing is that it won’t affect the outcome.  I will continue to do all of the training and run the Marathon des Sables if it kills me.  Rather like when I first decided to run a marathon, I never expected to enjoy it.  It was just something I was going to do.  The fact that I enjoyed every second of the training was a bonus.  The same holds true for MdS.  It is something that I will do to challenge myself and to raise money for the Lord’s Taverners (some really generous people are counting on me to finish).  Enjoyment, if there is any, will be a bonus.

So why might it be happening?  There are a number of ‘burnout inventories’, most notably Christina Maslach’s Burnout Inventory (MBI) who defined symptoms for occupational burnout, which Alison Eades adapted for athletic burnout with her Eades Athlete Burnout Inventory (EABI).  They tend to refer to a number of symptoms:

  • Sleep loss
  • Weight loss
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Increased exercise heart rate
  • Higher incidence of colds and respiratory infections
  • Increased resting systolic blood pressure
  • Increased muscle soreness and chronic muscle fatigue
  • Decrease in muscle glycogen
  • Loss of appetite

One of the benefits of wearing a fitbit and being geeky about the data is that I can see that I have been getting plenty of sleep (between 7 and 8 hours a night) and my weight hasn’t changed in 5 months.  I can see that my resting heart rate was creeping up from 50 beats per minute to nearer 60.  But my exercise heart rate has been dropping week on week as I continue with my Zone 2 training.  My muscles have been sorer than normal, and I think I’ve got some tendonitis in a couple of joints, but then I was always going to hurt more as I ramped up the mileage wasn’t I?  And I’ve continued to eat what I like and eat a lot.  One thing that was inching upwards was my alcohol consumption, with the holidays and the long summer evenings, and that always saps one’s motivation.

So here’s what I did:

  1. I took 5 days off.  With well over 200 days to go, it’s not going to make any difference to my performance in the Sahara Desert if I take a short break now.
  2. I cut out alcohol.  No more alcohol between now and the Sahara Desert.
  3. I’ve put in some speed-training.  It was all getting a bit samey, just plodding out lots of miles, so one or two of my runs every week will be speedy (more about these in a future post).
  4. I’ve entered an event.  It’s a long time between now and April, so I’ve booked myself an ultra-marathon in November to give me something to aim for (more about this in a future post).

And so far it’s worked a treat.  Another 42 mile week last week, with some speedy runs and something to aim for has given me a new lease of life.  So I’m still on track, if you want to sponsor me at www.justgiving.com/damoisrunningMDS.

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