Wednesday, November 24, 2021

I quit and f**king hate myself for it

300 mile Concept2 Triathlon

As most of you know, I like to set myself these little ultra endurance challenges. I n the last year I’ve sat on a Concept2 rower for 24 hours.  Pushed and pulled my body weight (90kg) on a sled for 46km (a marathon distance), on a 20 metre AstroTurf track. Skied 100 miles (160km) on a Concept2 Ski Erg. Ran across Singapore (58km) wearing a 10kg weighted vest and a 7kg rucksack.  

My most recent challenge to set myself, was to travel 100 miles (160km) on each of the Concept2 range; The Rower, Ski Erg and Bike.  Combining and total distance of 300 miles or 480km.

Unlucky for some, 13  

After the run across Singapore, I really wasn’t happy with my performance. To be honest, I didn’t really make an effort.  I didn’t train for it, I didn’t take it seriously and actually, I felt disappointed with myself.   

To make up for it and to prove to myself I hadn’t lost ‘it', (that mental edge, of able to push through), I thought “fuck it, it’s time for another challenge, and 300 miles should do it...and I’m going to do it before my 37th birthday".  So with a day's notice (first mistake), I set myself up to row-ski-cycle the 300 miles…

I set off at quite a comfortable pace, around a 46-48 minute per 10km split, taking 5-7 minutes rest per 10km interval.  I got to hour 7, around 70km and my back started to tighten.  

The next mistake I made, was demolishing lovely a meaty pizza a couple of hours in.  I ate the same one when I pushed the prowler, so I thought it wouldn’t do me any harm-WRONG! To be honest, you don’t need to be a sports nutritionist to know, that a pizza probably isn’t the best fuel for an ultra endurance event. This time it didn’t agree with me and created a lot of bloating in my stomach. That in turn, led to a change in posture and when I rowed, put more tension/stress on the muscles along the spine. 

After popping pain killers, regular stretching and massaging at every checkpoint, after 13 hours (130km), I ‘tapped out’ and quit. Frankly, I didn’t want to continue and mess up my back, for an event that ultimately didn’t ‘mean’ anything, this was just my own challenge I’d set myself.

Fuck that!

It took me a lot to swallow my pride and stop.  Obviously I’d made this challenge public and was confident/cocky I’d complete it.  It played on my mind, how humiliating this would be to quit, but essentially though, I thought no one’s actually going to give a fuck. No one’s lost out and if there were to be any ‘nay sayers’, them fuck them.  

Ultimately I tried to convince myself I’d earned my stripes before, from the 24 hours on a rower, so I already knew I could do better.  

It was a big lesson for me though.  In the past, in my personal life and business life, I’ve made a lot of mistakes because, I let my pride get in way and because I didn’t want to lose face.  So making the conscious decision to ‘quit’ rather being forced to, was a very humbling experience.

That being said, I was so pissed off with myself the next day, I told myself I’d come back and have another attempt in four weeks time.  

The last time I pulled out of a challenge was 7 years ago, in The Worlds Toughest Mudder, a 24 hour obstacle race in the Nevada desert.  I pulled out of that race at the 22 hour mark and never forgave myself for it.  This recent failure was a great reminder of how shit it feels to quit. FUCK-THAT!

Training for 300 miles 

I obviously disrespected the challenge first time around and didn’t train specifically for it.  Now I was hungry and had to take this more seriously.  

I didn’t go crazy, but the first thing I did was, everyday use at least one of the Concept2 range and did at least x1 10km, or 20km (on the bike) and I just rotated the equipment on alternate days. I didn’t do any more that, as I didn’t want get bored of the training, otherwise I’d be less motivated to do it.

For strength training, I only incorporated pulling work and this would be my second session of the day. I included lots of isolated movements, like lat pull downs and swimmers pulls. It was also important that I added functional movements, like sled pulling using rope (as if hoisting a main sail).  I also included lots of big compound pulling lifts, like power cleans, clean squats, various types of barbell squats and various types of deadlift.

The next element was physio, plenty of it. Every week I had my back clicked, cracked, massaged and straightened.  I didn’t my back to be an excuse again!

Nutrition for Ultramarathons 

Leading up to the challenge, my nutrition didn’t really change.  I use a company called Fitthree to sort out my meals throughout the week.   I was hitting around 2700-3000 calories between three meals and one snack per day.

As for ‘carb loading’, I probably only increased maybe a handful more two days out.

Come race day, I kept my food simple and ate roughy 350-400 calories every 3-4 hours .  I knew for fucking sure, I wouldn’t be eating pizza again-silly twat! 

Where I could, I opted for more potatoes as my starch. I ate lean proteins like chicken breast and kept the fat to a minimum, as I didn’t want to cause extra stress on the digestive system. ie, I didn’t want to have to need a poo for as long as possible.

Other ‘nutrition’ that kept me gong was jelly sweets and BCAA drinks.  I also topped up my usual supplements of magnesium, multi vitamins, liver detox and creatine.

Hydration wise, I aimed to drink one litre every hour.  

Race day

One lesson I learned from the last attempt, was I started too late in the day.  This meant working through two nights.  This second time around I decided to start earlier, at 0700 Saturday morning, as opposed to late in the afternoon. 

The rower: I set off a slightly slower pace around 50 minute/10km and took full advantage of the the 10 minutes max rest allowance (as set by the monitor before timing out and resetting). 

I didn't really get much pain from the rower compared to last time. Don't get me wrong, I got stiff and was having to down Ibrobufen to ease the chronic pain.  

I finished the 100miles/160km at 15 hours 55 minutes and 50 seconds, at 22:52 Saturday evening.  I took about 20 minutes to reset myself and take a shower before starting the Ski Erg… 

Standard Technique for the Concept 2 Rower

The Ski Erg: One of the main benefits of the Ski Erg, is that it's not necessarily a 'fixed path' movement, compared to the rower.  On the rower, your feet are strapped in and you can only go back and forth, which is ultimately what causes the stiffness from 'repetitive strain' if you will.   

On the Ski Erg, you can change foot positions, you can change from arms straight, to arms bent pulling.  You can rotate at the hips, the thoracic (middle spine) and shoulders.  All changes of the biomechanics reduces continuous-repeatitive strain.  Saying that, it still fucking hurt and it still took fucking ages.  The hardest part though, is going through the night-man that sucks!

Because I was going through the night, naturally I wouldn't normally be eating, I'd be sleeping, so I didn't have much of an appetite.  Not eating means no fuel.  No fuel means you don't get very far and so I slowed right down.  By 0530, I was fucked.  I was really holding out for daylight, so that my body clock would kick in and I would feel like I was half awake again.

I finished my 200mile/320kms at 35 hours 39 minutes and 40 seconds, around 18:36 Sunday evening.  2/3, let's go...

Standard Technique for the Concept 2 Ski Erg

The Bike:  Now, if you've never ridden a Concept2 bike before, let me tell you now, it ain't like ridding a normal bike.  There's no free-wheeling and no downhill and there certainly ain't no comfort on them saddles!  However, it was a massive morale boost to get on the bike, as it meant I was nearly finished, ('nearly finished', as in 'only another 7 hours-is to go, yayyyyy).

In my mind was aiming for 5 hours.  My intention was to go in 20km intervals, but I just wanted to get it done, so I could go home, get a curry and then go to bed.  So set off at belting pace and only took a couple of minutes rest after the first interval.  I wanted to get straight into the next 20km, but I was getting a hotspot on my foot, that was so distracting and uncomfortable, it became consuming.  All I kept thinking about was Muhammed Ali's quote, "It's not the mountain that'll break you, it's the stone in your shoe".  This was almost literally 'the stone in my shoe', so I changed shoes-sorted.

Because I was hyped about being closer to the finish line, for some reason thought I was in a spin class.  I whacked the music right up, blared out some banging tunes and as a result, I totally forgot about my game plan.  

Hyped up-high BPM music, is not good for long slow duration (for me anyway).  It get's you too fired up and as result, burns me out quickly and that's exactly what happened.  

From the start, I was working out my pace and estimated finish time.  As I started burning out, that finish time slowly started slipping away.  Every minute slower on a 10 km split compounds and the end time gets further-and-further away.  It's very demoralising.

It's like physically trying to catch up with a loved one, on a train setting off from the platform.  You're able to keep up, fingers touching, but then the train speeds up and pulls away, as you slow down and then have to stop, bent over crying out nooooo.  Yeah, kinda like that., but this time your loved one is a bed.

Eventually I managed to finish the full 300 miles/480km, after 43 hours 37 minutes 34 seconds at 02:36 Monday morning. Thank fuck.  Really didn't want to go through any of that again.

Spirit of the Ultra Triathlon

All throughout the challenge I wanted to stop.  Believe me, I was trying to find every excuse and think of every rationale to get out of it.  However, one lesson I learned from my last attempt, was that I didn’t have to my main motivator, (my son Rudy) 'present' for me.  

When I did my 60 hours pushing a prowler, I wrote his name on a white board, so I had a visual reminder (or anchor) of him.  On my last Triathlon attempt and for my 'low performance' run across Singapore, I didn't have that.  Going in this time, I used a picture he drew for me, as my motivator.   Every time the 'why the fuck am I doing this?' question popped into my head, I just looked at the picture and it reminded me of why.  

What's your motivator/anchor?  What will keep you pushing when you want to stop and give up?

I mentioned before, I learned a valuable lesson about swallowing my pride and quitting on my last attempt, it felt good knowing that I was going achieve it next time around.  It gave more focus and more incentive.  I have to say, it was a great experience, coming back from failure.  

A question I get asked (and I still ask myself), is why do it in the first place?  No-one challenged me.  I made no money from it. I raised no money.  No one was there to see me finish.  The world wasn’t changed and I didn't make a difference, or add value to anyone's life.  So why the fuck?  

It's simple for me, to prove to myself  that I can.  I did it completely for me.  I now have a multitude of experience of pushing myself through physical pain, through mental doubt and coming back from failure and I did all of that out of choice.  This is mental conditioning for me.  David Goggins refers to this as 'calusing the mind', effectively, making yourself mentally tougher.

I love this endurance stuff, it's time alone going through hardship.  You ask and answer a lot of your own questions and I feel, you can learn a lot about yourself from ultra endurance events. Some might say this is another method of distraction, or procrastination; a way of avoiding something that actually needs to be done.  Yeah possibly,  but fuck it-why not?  

Keep it real guys.

If you have a challenge you want to overcome, or you need to find some motivation, reach out and let's have a chat.


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