Saturday, 18 July 2015

Half Ironman Racing, Race Directing and Coaching - Keeping Me Active


Yes, it has been quite a while since my last blog post, but with having a break from ultra-trail racing there are no race reports to write, well not any trail racing reports.  As mentioned back in my 2014 review post, my break from ultra-trail racing is partly due to building up for the 2016 Lanzarote Ironman that takes place on the 21st May next year.  Having raced in the very first Lanzarote Ironman way back in May 1992, where there were only 116 finishers, next year's race being the 25th Anniversary race, with big celebrations planned, the idea of heading back out to the Canary Islands to race my first Ironman in  over 20 years was quite appealing.  Therefore upon receiving an invitation from Race Director Kenneth Gasque, (the same race director as back in 1992), to race the 2016, with my entry fee and accomodation at Club La Santa set at 1992 prices, it was with huge excitement that I entered the race a couple of weeks ago, at the much discounted price of 114 Euros, equivalent to 19,000 pesetas (pre-Euro days!)  So if you know anyone who raced the 1992 Lanzarote Ironman, please guide them to this linked facebook page for mega discounted entry and accommodation.

So, having got my 1992 racing bike down from the loft, this year has consisted of getting out on the road bike a wee bit, and a tiny bit of swimming, in addition to 'ticking over' with my running in preparation for the Grafman Half Ironman that took place at the end of June.  The Half Ironman consisted of the usual 1900 metres swim, 90km bike and 21.1 km run.  Being the English Middle Distance Championships, it was a particularly strong field, well it sure seemed quicker than back in the ninties.

Lining up at the edge of Grafham Water, I found that I wasn't at all nervous or anxious.  I guess partly due to the fact that I hadn't placed any big expectations upon myself like I had for my trail racing over the last 7-8 years.  I was quite excited, but more intrigued into seeing how I would get on after such a long break from triathlon racing.  Although I did complete a half ironman while back in New Zealand in 2013, as I hadn't carried out any cycle or swim training at all prior to that event, in essence this felt like my first triathlon race since the 1990s.

In There Somewhere!

My swim went pretty well as expected, with a time of 33:36, which was 157th quickest overall from the 434 finishers.  My swimming was never anything special, as I tended to be a one paced steady swimmer..  So with an Ironman swim PB of 59 minutes, being only around 4 - 5 minutes slower that 20 years ago, it was a good start.

Spot the Difference! - 2015 Grafman Half Ironman / 1991 Ironbridge Ironman (My first Ironman)

After a very slow transition I mount my 1992 carbon fibre bike with 1990 Scott Triathlon bars, although with new racing wheels, and amazingly racing the bike somehow just comes instantly back to me!  I had a really super bike ride, grinning the entire 90 kilometres, enjoying every minute, even though at times there was heavy rain and what seemed always being a head wind.  My cycle time was 2:31:00, which was 66th fastest bike time overall.

More Spot the Difference!  Grafman 2015 vs Ironbridge 1991

It was then run time, and as I get off the bike I am thinking great, time to move through the field like I always used to, back in the early nineties.  Alas, the running just didn't happen.  Although I hadn't carried out any quick specific running training I still expected to be able to run around a 1;27 - 1:28 half marathon, simply because 'at the core' I am a runner!  Only problem being that seven years of ultra-trail racing, specifically focusing on the one hundred mile races where I prioritised the non-physical training and very seldom carried out any quick key sessions (even though I include these as an integral part of the training I prescribe to the trail runners I coach), was not the ideal preparation for a flat 13 mile run course!  I leave transition going at a good pace, but within a minute or two I find that I am battling/fighting to try to maintain the quick pace.

Trying to Relax Whilst Maintaining Pace on the Run

I try to relax the mind and body, to maintain smoothness, whilst at the same time concentrating to keep the pace quick, but I find that I end up in ultra-running mode, and the pace slows.  As I try to up the pace, I am attacked with arguments from the 'devil on my shoulder' strongly telling me, that I am now an ultra runner, no longer a quick running triathlete and I should accept running slowly, and without much of a battle I accept being overtaken on the run.  The really disappointing aspect was that after trying a few times to up the pace, which resulted in a struggle, a battle, I took the easy option and decided that the devil's argument was correct and so accepted the inevitability of running slowly.

Currently reading Michael Hutchinson's book titled "Faster - The obsession, science, and luck behind the World's fastest cyclists", my running simply felt as if I was running 'badly', definitely not the characteristics he describes for a "hard (training) session done well", which I would often experience when racing well.  From page 19; "I think what distinguishes a hard session done well from a hard session done badly, is the degree of control. When you've grown good at it, you can push to the limits of what you can do while staying so relaxed that you can wriggle your toes.  There's no trace of a wild attack on the effort.  You can feel what you're doing, and judge the effort level, even while your heart rate is at its maximum and your blood lactate levels are heading for the roof.  There is a detachment.  You're not just piling everything on and hoping for the best".  Yes, being able to race at the high intensity as required for the 21km run definitely requires specific TOTAL training to develop the 'harmony' between the body and mind, to develop the ability to race fast, whilst not battling/fighting!

I complete the half marathon with a run time of 1:32:18, being 54th fastest run time overall, and finish the race in 61st place overall, which was also 5th place in the over 50s age category. Yes indeed, there are some amazingly awesomely quick fifty year old triathletes out there!  Although. I was a little disappointed with my run performance, overall I am really pleased with how the day went.  I am now even more looking forward to my second and final triathlon for 2015, the Vitruvian Half Ironman that takes place at the end of August.  With some non-physical preparation including "What do I want?  Why do I want it? How much do I want it?", combined with some quick key running sessions, the Ironman triathlete from the early nineties should be back!

All set for the 1992 Lanzarote Ironman

Apart from focusing on preparing for triathlons, sporting wise I have also been kept pretty busy being a race director and a running coach.  Back in May I was race director for the second edition of the Weald Challenge Trail Races, consisting of a half marathon, marathon and 50km ultra.  Being very well received in 2014, we had to close entries to the Weald Challenge this year at 529 entries, four weeks prior to race day.  Come race day, the event was another huge success, but this year with there being one or two issues including a runner falling through a rotten wooden footbridge and some direction arrows being deliberately removed (not by a runner), I found the stress levels and energy required to be race director seemed to pretty well match the levels required to race a 100 mile ultra trail race. Overall though there was a rewarding sense of satisfaction in putting my bit back into the trail running community,

Weald Challenge May 2015

Even though I found being race director was at times quiet stressful, I am race director again for a second trail event this year, and I am currently getting things all in place for the inaugural running of the High Weald Challenge 50km Ultra Trail race, that takes place in East Sussex at the end of September.  The route is equally as scenic and challenging as the Weald Challenge, and takes in the spectacular views of the Ashdown Forest, as well as passing over the iconic Winnie the Pooh bridge.  If you are looking for a trail race around the end of September, check out the race website: I may be a little bit biased as race director, but it is an awesome route, and will be an excellent well organised friendly event, complete with bespoke High Weald Challenge finisher hand made coffee mugs and medals.

High Weald Challenge 50km Ultra Trail - 27th September 2015

When I decided to take a break from trail racing this year, I thought that I would miss the racing, and perhaps regret the decision.  However, what has been a pleasant surprise is that I haven't missed the racing at all.  Yes, having two Half Ironman races this year has satisfied a bit of my competitive instinct, however, I think my run coaching, working with currently eight athletes to assist them to improve their running performances, has also played a large part in being quite content.  Yes, at times I find that I am getting as equally as excited about their upcoming races as they are.  And when their races go well, and for some of them this year, the races have gone extremely well, it is very rewarding.  But there is also the disappointment when sometimes things don't quite go as planned, but all part of the learning process, which sometimes can actually increase the rate of improvement.

With the Montane Lakeland 100/50 now just one week away, even though for the first time in five years I will not be there in Coniston, I am still really looking forward to the event.  In terms of overall race experiences, the Montane Lakeland 100/50 is right up there at the top of my list.  Yes, there is the very challenging race route and the awesome scenery, but I think what really makes it such a special event is the tremendous friendly race community. Anyway, I am 'itching' to tell you to look out for one of my athletes in the 100 mile race, as his preparation has gone really well, including his first ultra-trail race win recently,  but I don't think naming him would really aid his preparation, with the additional pressure from being watched by all of the UltraStu blog readers.  So, I will just have to keep to myself my race tip for a podium finish!

Looking at the 100 mile field, it looks as strong as usual with a few names jumping out at me including reigning champion Marco Consani, but also Paul Tierney with a 2nd and 3rd place finish from 2012 and 2011 respectively, as well as father and son Kevin (4th 2013) and Chris Perry (6th 2014).  It would be great to see Kevin show the youngsters a thing or two!  There is also Ken Sutor who tends to go off really fast, even quicker than my often questioned quick starting pace, having led at checkpoint one in both 2012 and 2013.  But there are fifteen legs in the Laklenad 100, however, if he could maintain the pace for further into the race he could be in the mix.  No doubt, there will be one or two lesser known ultra-trail runners right up near the front as well to make the race even more exciting.  I sense that I won't be getting much sleep on Friday night next week as I stay glued to the computer screen with the checkpoint updates,  At least it isn't five days of screen watching as experienced last month with the Dragons Back race.  Now that event is tempting. maybe a target race for 2017 following my short venture back to Ironman racing.

Time to finish this posts with a couple of brief mentions.  To those of you that listen to the Talk Ultra podcast, no doubt you would have heard Karl Meltzer talk about speedgolf.  Well the British Speedgolf Championships for 2015 are taking place next month in East Sussex.  I received an e-mail from the British Speedgolf Association asking me if I knew of any trail runners that also play golf, as apparently over the last few years trail runners have performed quite well at speedgolf.  So if you are interested in competing at the British Championships then check out the Championship website.

I also received a message from ultra-trail runner Andy Nuttel last week letting me know about the new Ultra Running magazine coming out shortly simply titled ULTRA.  Check out the magazine's facebook page to find out more.  Whenever I see examples of this, where runners follow their passion and commit fully to a project like this, it really inspires me.  I wish Andy all the best with the magazine.

Well, time to sign off.  Sorry no signing off quote tonight as I'm a bit out of practise with this blog writing and no words of wisdom spring to mind!

All the best with whatever sporting venture you are engaging in to keep you active and alive, but most of all happy!


Thursday, 9 April 2015

ReSUltS - The Reality Slowdown UltraStu Marathon Formula


(To those of you that are a little bit short of time I have copied the link to the useful webpage that this blogpost is explaining immediately below.  The remainder of this blogpost helps to explain some rationale behind the webpage slowdown formula, but one can go straight to the webapage, and hopefully the data it provides will be reasonably clear.  If not come back to this blog post.)

How fast should I run at the start of the marathon?  This is where the following webpage is really useful.   Please note that this slowdown formula has been updated form the version one which I introduced on UltraStu April last year within the post A Helpful Marathon Pacing Calculator The two improvements are that version two of the slowdown formula takes into account the gender of the runner, as this seems to have a significant effect on the percentage slowdown for the same finishing time.  I have also removed those runners that in simple terms 'blow up', and therefore have a very high percentage slowdown. Further description on the formula are detailed below.

Back in May 2013 I wrote two blog posts on the fallacy of the negative split for road marathon running, which created 'a bit of a stir'.  Which was further 'stirred up' with two other posts during April last year:  A Helpful Marathon Pacing Calculator and Road Marathon Pacing - The Positive Split Pacing Strategy - My Final Comment   At the time I stated that those posts would be my final comment on the topic, however, with marathon season 'kicking off' with the Brighton and Worcester marathons this weekend, and then Manchester, London and others during the following two weeks, I felt that one final blogpost on the topic could be so beneficial to the thousands of runners who will be running a road marathon during the next few weeks.

By now with the bulk of the physical training completed, the focus of the preparation should be on the non-physical training.  By that I mean predominantly goal setting and visualisations.  In terms of goal setting many runners will have a target marathon finish time that they would like to achieve, so this can form one of your goals, i.e. a destination goal.  This is useful as having this target finish time goal can help you in providing a counter argument to the many messages you will get during the later stages of the marathon, strongly encouraging you to slow down.  In addition to a destination goal, it is also useful to establish some journey goals for you to evaluate along the way, just to check that you are on track, and running well.  These journey goals may be related to your emotions during the run.  Are you enjoying the experience, are you 'staying within the present moment', are your race focused. are you running at the ideal intensity, right on that threshold?  Yes, it is useful to establish some journey goals, and then include what you want to be achieving whilst running the event within your visualisations leading up to race day.  Anyway, enough about goal setting, lets get back to marathon pacing.

As mentioned above, many runners will have a target finish time that they would like to achieve.  The issue is, what pacing strategy is best to increase the likelihood of achieving ones target finish time.  Now as ideal as the even paced marathon pacing strategy sounds, and with the argument typically being that most of the World records are set with an even paced, or a negative split paced strategy, in reality around 93 - 95 percent of all marathon runners who finish the marathon quicker than four and a half hours run a positive split.  That is that they slow down during the second half of the marathon, so their second half marathon time from 13 - 26 miles, is slower than their first half marathon time from 0 - 13 miles.

Now, this post isn't going to repeat my discussions on why I think this positive paced strategy is the ideal strategy.  You can go to my two posts from May 2013 if you want to read my rationale for my stand: The Negative Split - The Realisation that An Accepted Running Concept is Actually Flawed!    and The Negative Split Fallacy - Part 2 - The Explanation!   No this post is amount the reality of actually running the marathon, not opinions, theories and speculation!

So, the situation is that around 93 - 95 percent of marathon runners finishing a road marathon quicker than four and a half hours slow down during the second half of the marathon.  At last year's London Marathon within the non-elite field.  I think it is best to disregard what the elite marathon runners do, as their characteristics are quite different to the non-elite, 2:30 - 4:30 marathon runner.  Interestingly though, at last year's London Marathon only two elite men (2/18 = 11.1%) and two elite women (2/14 = 14.3%) achieved a negative split, so not that dissimilar to the 10.0 and 16.0 percent of non-elite runners in the quickest time band (see below for time band explanation).  Mo Farah also achieved a positive split of 3.30%, which is also not that dissimilar from the 3.88% for the quickest non-elite mens time band.)

     Sorry, I got distracted there!  So, the situation is that around 93 - 95 percent of marathon runners finishing a road marathon quicker than four and a half hours slow down during the second half of the marathon.  As I was going to say, at last years London Marathon 93.3% of finishers quicker than 4:18 ran a positive split.  The overall number of women runners from the first 4000 women finishers (4:18:15) that negative or even split their half marathon times totalled 292, which corresponds to a percentage of 7.3%. The overall number of men runners from the first 12000 men finishers (4:18:10) that negative or even split their half marathon times totalled 782, which corresponds to a percentage of 6.5%, which is a slightly lower percentage than for women.

So for 93 - 95 percent of marathon runners the big question is "How much time should I expect to slow down during the second half of the marathon"?  The vast majority of marathon runners aiming for a target finish time need to have an idea of the amount of slowing down that is most likely to occur, as they need to take this amount of slowing down into consideration, so even with this slowing down, which I consider IS A REALITY, NOT, I WILL REPEAT NOT AN INDICATION OF POOR RUNNING OR POOR PACING,  so that they will still achieve their target finish time.

Now I am NOT advocating for road marathons to start as fast as you can, to gain as much time as possible ahead of the even paced schedule.  No, this would be unwise.  This would be as foolish as trying to run at a constant pace for 26 miles.  No, what I am suggesting is to look at the statistics on how much slowing down occurs within the marathon, and I have used the data from 4000 women runners, and 12000 men runners from the 2014 London Marathon as the database.  And to base the calculation of how much slowdown one can expect to occur, on the AVERAGE of what happened for these sixteen thousand runners.  So quite a good sample size!

In order for the resulting percentage slowdown formula to not be influenced by those runners that absolutely 'blew up', I removed the ‘mega slowdown’ runner, those that slowed down more than two standard deviations from the mean slowdown percentage.

Those of you that are particularly observant may have noticed for the quicker runners the percentage of runners that even split or negative split the marathon was greater the quicker the finish time, with the quickest time bands being 10.0% (men) and 16.0% (women).  Yes, there does appear to be a gender difference.  The percentage slowing down, (which is calculated as the time one slows during the second half marathon, divided by the first half marathon time, multiplied by 100), is therefore slightly less for the quicker finishers.  therefore to accommodate theses characteristics of the 16000 finishers, different slowdown percentage were established for different finish time bands and for men and women runners.  The following table displays the AVERAGE percentage slowdown values for each time band, for men and women runners.

Now having these percentages in a table is interesting, but what does it actually mean for the runner.  How fast should I run at the start of the marathon?  This is where the following webpage is really useful. Please note that this slowdown formula has been updated form the version one which I introduced on UltraStu April last year within the post A Helpful Marathon Pacing Calculator As stated above the two improvements are that version two of the slowdown formula takes into account the gender of the runner, as this seems to have a significant effect on the percentage slowdown for the same finishing time.  I have also removed those runners that in simple terms 'blow up', and therefore have a very high percentage slowdown. Further description on the formula follows.  Opps, I also forgot the third improvement for version 2, in that the slowing down now doesn't start until the 16th mile, rather than the 14th mile.  I think this is more likely to be representative of what actually occurs.  As long as the runners have a realistic target finish time, maintaining a constant pace for 15 miles should be a problem.  It is during the last 11 miles when the effects of the previous miles run on the roads starts to have an impact and make the maintaining of the same constant pace a lot more difficult, hence the slowing down.

As an aside, if I recall at the time last year there was some confusion expressed regarding my perhaps wrong assumption that the accepted view at the time was that an even paced strategy pace was the standard approach, which would result in most runners not achieving their target finish time if adopting this approach.  Now I think that probably more people realise that the even paced pacing strategy doesn't work, so hopefully this year there will be less confusion.

Unfortunately the webpage calculations aren't exactly correct, due to either some mystery formatting error or simply the effect of rounding error, which we now think is the likely cause of the error.  We, actually, in reality it is good friend Tim, who is the brains behind the webpage, who has been working hard on looking to solve the problem.  Anyway it is nearly working perfect.

Just to quickly summarise.  The way the webpage ReSUltS -  The Reality Slowdown UltraStu Marathon Formula works is that you select male or female, then enter your target finish time, then click calculate.  I mentioned above that the webpage isn't working exactly right, but If you look at the minute mile pace the formula produces, the half way and 5mile, 10 mile and 15mile split times are all correct.  But when the percentage slowdown linear increase occurs at mile 16, there is a big slowdown for mile 17 and then back to a linear increase in minute mile pace until the finish.  It appears that this big slowdown at mile 17 is where the slight error occurs.  In terms of the summary table on the right the pace column is for the last mile of that 5 mile split, NOT the average pace for the last 5 miles. 

However, although the webpage isn’t exactly working, the key information, e.g. the percentage slowing down, which allows you to calculate your half marathon split time is correct.  Also the idea that one should be able to run at a consistent pace for every mile up to 15 miles is also correct.  The last 11 miles around 93 - 95% of marathon runners slow down, how they slowdown will be quite varied, but a gradual linear increase every mile from 16 miles onwards seems a reasonable guess, which the slowdown formula adopts.  Remember slowing down after 15 miles doesn’t mean that you are running poorly, or that you did the first 15 miles too fast.  Slowing down is reality. The webpage does produce a different minute mile pace for each mile from 16 miles through to the finish, however, I would recommend that you simply use the minute mile pace generated for the first 15 miles, which takes into account the average slowdown for that time band, and then from mile 16 onwards, simply run by feel.  If feeling great then reduce the rate at which you slow down.  If not feeling so great, then allow a slightly greater rate of slowing down and hope that the 'difficult patch' will pass, and that you may be able to get back 'on track' a few miles later.

Hopefully the above explanation of this ReSUltS -  The Reality Slowdown UltraStu Marathon Formula webpage makes some sense, and for those of you are able to take on the fact that 93 - 95% of marathon runners slow down during the second half of a road marathon, I hope that you find this webpage useful.  To those of you that aren't aiming for a target finish time, or are aiming for an even paced strategy, well then this webpage probably isn't relevant for you, so apologies if you have read this blogpost down to here!

To all of you running a road marathon during the next few weeks, I wish you all the best.

I will sign off with a few relevant quotes which may help during those 'challenging' moments between 16 and 26 miles.

"The way we perform is the result of the way we see ourselves.  To alter our performance we need to alter or change ourselves and it is that changing that's difficult."  Gary Elliot, New Zealand Coach to awesome NZ marathon runner Alison Roe (1983)

“A large amount of what we achieve is governed by our mental state and how we see ourselves. (It is) a lot about opening the mind to what might be possible when we throw away the self imposed limitations of our mind.” Tom Williams from MarathonTalk (2011)

“Remaining positive really is one of the most precious faculties for any athlete.  That, and an ability to stay focused and disciplined.  Develop a mind bank of positive images and thoughts – family, friends, previous successes, favourite places, a big plate of chips.  You need to build it up as you would any collection, but soon you will have a range of thoughts to flick through when next your body and soul are screaming out for relief”.Chrissie Wellington, Four times World Ironman champion,  from her book titled "A Life Without Limits".
Enjoy the journey,



Sunday, 1 March 2015

Review of 2014 - And a Bit More Reviewing!


Yes it has been a bit quiet on the UltraStu blogging front.  Best I post this 2014 review.

Right then 2014, first statistic: Total Mileage = 2147 miles. This consisted of 231 runs so an average of 9.3 miles per run, resulting with a weekly average of 41.3 miles. Comparing to the weekly mileage average for 2013 of 45.9 miles, I ran on average around four and a half miles less per week.  But with the miles per run being identical (9.3 vs 9.3), the decrease in weekly mileage appears to be mainly due to doing less runs, i.e. having more rest (or injury) days.  Although the yearly average of 41.3 miles per week probably doesn't really reflect what happened during the year, as for the first 8 months, up to the end of August coinciding with my final ultra-trail race, the weekly average was 48.2 miles per week, and for the last four months only 27.4 miles per week.

2014 - 231 runs, 134 rest days, total 2147 miles, average of 9.3 miles per run
2013 - 257 runs, 108 rest days, total 2389 miles, average of 9.3 miles per run
2012 - 229 runs, 137 rest days, total 2115 miles, average of 9.2 miles per run
2011 - 259 runs, 106 rest days, total 2217 miles, average of 8.6 miles per run
2010 - 260 runs, 105 rest days, total 2276 miles, average of 8.8 miles per run
2009 - 195 runs, 170 rest days, total 1783 miles, average of 9.1 miles per run
2008 - 199 runs, 167 rest days, total 1806 miles, average of 9.1 miles per run.

Interestingly, although my average miles per run has stayed pretty consistent over the last seven years, very seldom do I ever do a nine mile run. Typically it is around 5 - 8 miles, a regular 13 - 17 mile run each week, with a few occasional longer runs of 24+ miles.  And of course the seven races of marathon or ultra length.

This mileage of 2147 miles was 242 miles less than 2013, but was my 8th highest running mileage year from my 37 years of running, since I started training in 1978.  Looking at the graph below one can see that my last five years of running is probably my most consistent period of running, although not quite matching my highest mileage years from 1980 - 1984.  Actually I have just added up the mileage for each five year period and my last five years is more than the early eighties, at 11,144 versus 10981.

At the start of 2014 I mapped out my racing year, and as with each of my racing years since getting back into more frequent racing in 2007 I had planned for seven races.  Why seven?  Well it was a number I accidentally stumbled on during 2007, 2008 and 2009.  And since these years went really well I decided that I would stick with seven races each year.

For each of my races during 2014, (in fact every race since 2010) I have written a blog post reflecting on the race, what went well, what I learnt etc,  So rather than going into detail here, I will try to briefly summarise the year as a whole.

Interestingly when I planned my races for 2014 I knew that this would be my last year of ultra-trail racing before I take a two year break. (Explanation of why a two year break detailed below.)  I therefore wanted it to be a good year to finish on, and so set a pretty ambitious schedule, consisting of two target races, both of 100 miles, these being the Centurion Running South Downs Way 100 miler, and the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc.  Having started UTMB twice before, with a 22nd place in 2009, and a DNF in 2011, the idea of finishing this section of my endurance racing journey with such an awesome race was really appealing.  Unfortunately things don't always go to plan, and UTMB 2014 was another DNF.  Yes, very disappointing, but things happen for a reason, so I 'got over it' although watching the UTMB DVD the other month did reignite the frustration!

So in terms of my races in 2014, I ended up doing seven races.  Not the original seven races that were planned as I missed the South Downs Way 50 mile race in April due to a tumble I took whilst racing the Steyning Stinger Trail Marathon in March which for a few weeks caused a few problems.

Yes, my racing year didn't really start off well.  My first ever DNF in a trail marathon (from 31 starts) at the Steyning Stinger, then a Did Not Start at the SDW50, followed by a very 'below par' performance at the 61 mile Fellsman.  Following the Fellsman I needed to get things back on track, so I quickly slotted in the Stroud Trail Marathon in May and finally felt like I had run well for a close 2nd place.

Now the SDW100 was taking place in 'my backyard' of Sussex.  Strangely I therefore felt that I 'deserved' to win the event.  Now those of you that have read my blog will know that I have written quite a bit about getting ones race goal 'right' in order to perform well.  But here I was, in my 37th year of endurance running still making mistakes!  Anyway after a quickish start, I was soundly beaten by a really top class performance by winner Mark Perkins, and I ended up finishing in a disappointing 5th place.

I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my SDW100 performance and I concluded that if I could just sort out my mind then although I didn't feel that I would be competitive for a win at the British Ultra Trail Championships taking place in conjunction with the Montane Lakeland 50, I could produce a performance that I would be happy with, which could result in a top five finish.  Come race day, I did get my mind 'right' for the majority of the race, but still there was a sense of disappointment as I felt that I had let 3rd position slip away, as I dropped into 4th place at around the 42 mile mark.  Overall though, I was pleased with how I had run.

As mentioned above, my sixth race of the year was a DNF at UTMB.  Although I still had my local Beachy Head Marathon race eight weeks later, racing it for the 13th consecutive year, I was pretty well 'raced out' and so simply ran for the pure joy of running rather than for any specific training purpose, and in training, well not really training rather within the pleasure of running I actually didn't do any runs longer than 8 miles.  But with a massive running base I managed to run quite well and so I was pleased with my race, running quicker than my 2012 and 2013 Beachy Head Marathon times.

So, for a change the above is a rather brief review of the previous year.  Now I want to try to explain why I am having a two year break from ultra-trail racing.

During the five years existence of my UltraStu blog the incentive for writing the posts have all been about reflecting and learning, in order to improve for my next race.  With no races in the near future planned there isn't really a need to write a blog post.  However, I am aware that over the last five years I have attracted a reasonable following.  The counter I inserted on the blog page shows over 113,000 visits, although the official figures for my blog actually totals 236,834 page views.  So this blog post is I guess for those viewers who have followed me over the years.  Hopefully my explanation that follows will make some sense.

I first got into running way back in the seventies.  There is background on how I got into running in both my 1978 - 1982 Review post and my First Marathon post.  Although probably prior to starting recording my training on the 1st January 1978, which coincided with my 15th birthday, my venture into running probably started four years earlier, January 1974, watching Dick Tayler win the 10,000 metres at the 1974 Commonwealth Games, beating the Commonwealth's best runners, including current World record holder David Bedford.

Dick Tayler Winning Commonwealth Gold

Watching Dick Tayler win on our black and white TV, (Click HERE for a video clip on YouTube) being an 'underdog' and beating all of the favoured runners, initiated a dream of wanting to run for my country.  But not being 'talented' at sport, I think that pretty well from the moment of being inspired by Dick Tayler's amazing accomplishment, I accepted that running for New Zealand would more than likely just be a dream.  I felt that in reality it just wasn't possible for a small untalented boy from Naenae, my home village!

So as I got into my running, rather than dreaming about being a champion, I simply focused on what I could achieve.  So the aim was simply to run quicker than I had previously run.  Yes, setting PBs (Personal Best times) was the goal, and the great thing when you are young is that as you mature, you get stronger, faster, so each year the PBs kept coming, so overall there was satisfaction with the running.

At first glance the above approach looks good.  Focus on your own goals.  Control the controllables.  You can't alter how fast others run, so don't worry about them,  Challenge yourself against yourself.  All appears sound, except that ones running performance is SO MUCH AFFECTED BY ONES SELF BELIEF!  Aiming to only go that little bit better than your previous best can be very limiting, as the rate of improvement can be very slow, and your goals can be so much less than perhaps you are really capable of achieving.   But I didn't discover this until over 30 years later!  

So as I progressed through many years of endurance sport, mainly running but also including multisport (kayak triathlon), road cycling, triathlon and Ironman, although I really enjoyed the endurance training and racing, when it actually came to the race results, overall I guess I was pleased with my performances, as for many, many years I continued to improve, and thus set PBs.  But there was always the underlying disappointment of not really being very good!  But I always concluded that I couldn't really help that, as I just wasn't talented!

Talent?  Yes, the key ingredient to success.  But what is it?  What is talent?  Well I'm sure there are loads of books, and loads of clever people that have defined what it is, but over my last seven years of ultra-trail racing I have given the concept of talent considerable thought.  Maybe a coincidence, but probably not.  But as I developed a clearer understanding of what talent meant to me, my running performance significantly improved.  Which was quite unreal, considering I was at an age (45 years old) when in 2008 I started ultra-trail running, where it is well accepted that ones physical performance is well past it's prime.

I see being talented as possessing the THREE necessary components to be a CHAMPION!
  (i)  The Absolute Desire to be THE Best
  (ii) The Total Commitment to Prepare Fully
  (iii) The Unquestionable Belief in Oneself

All THREE are required in order to MAXIMISE PERFORMANCE.

So at the age of 45+ I finally realised that talent may in fact not be something that you are born with. It is more to do with how you think!   So I asked myself  "How many of the three necessary components did I possess?"

The answers:
(i)  I didn't really have the absolute desire.  Running wasn't the ONLY thing in my life.  It didn't mean EVERYTHING to me to perform to my absolute best!
(ii) I wasn't totally committed.  In fact I was the opposite, a lazy trainer!
(iii) My belief was set at a level at which I felt I had some chances of succeeding at.  I believed if everything went well I could achieve the level I set myself.  The only problem was that the level I set was limiting me!

In some ways I guess I was fortunate that back in 2008, the year I ventured into ultra-trail running, my understanding of talent was still heavily based on the 'born with it' concept.  And for as long as I could remember, the longer the duration of the race, the better I performed.  Hence I deduced that I must therefore have talent at ultra distance events.  So simply due to this raised self belief, I had raised expectations in how I would performed within an ultra race.  And with these raised expectations of finishing towards the front of the field, all of a sudden I started winning.

It felt good winning.  But not only that, I was winning easily, which further raised my belief that perhaps I was good at this ultra-trail racing.  So finally, I had one of the three necessary attributes.  What about the other two?  In terms of commitment, the fatigue I encountered during the latter part of ultra-trail races intrigued me.  It was different to the fatigue of marathon running or shorter distance races, i.e. which tended to be leg and lung dominated.  No this fatigue was different.  It was as if my mind was fatiguing, which resulted in being unable to maintain the 'drive' to run fast.  I therefore spent vast amounts of time considering what fatigue in ultra-trail running was, and how best to train to reduce this fatigue.  And fortunately, maybe influenced by my 'lazy trainer' trait, but I concluded that in order to further improve I needed to train my mind, not my body.  

So I decided that I would really commit to training, although I had already increased my commitment to training, i.e. increasing the amount of time committed to non-physical training with all of the reading and thinking I had been doing.  So although I was still only running around 40 miles per week, the amount of time I was spending, reading around aspects of fatigue, simply thinking about ultra-trail performance and it's determinants,  and with a massive increase in time fully preparing for ultra-trail races though appropriate goal setting and extensive visualisations, I considered myself more as a 100 mile per week runner.  I felt I was now as committed as other elite runner! Yes, I started to consider myself as an elite runner!  Probably the best post that discusses my non-physical training is my 2013 Montane Lakeland 100 race post.

What about the desire?  Now this is really interesting.  At first, although I had a raised expectation of finishing near the front of the field in ultra-trail races, I think one of the attractions of ultra-trail running was that I could continue to achieve with my racing, as every race was on a different course, so it wasn't possible to compare finish times.  This really appealed as my marathon PB of 2:29 set way back in 1995 was going to take a huge effort to beat, and something I wasn't really confident of achieving.  In trail running, the focus was more on the actual 'journey', i.e. the enjoyment of the experience of running the race, during the actual race, as a result of running fast, and of running over awesome trails, with amazing scenery.  I found this hugely more enjoyable than the road racing 'destination' focus, where the enjoyment is typically experienced following the race, as a consequence of ones finish time.  So I think to start with the desire was all about the journey enjoyment.

But then as I continued to improve, as a consequence of both my physical and non-physical training, I sensed that there was a real opportunity to come to terms with the underlying disappointment that had been been hiding away since probably 1974.  Could I actually be really good, a high quality runner, a champion, a winner!  I remember at the start of 2010, after two years of ultra-trail racing, which had included winning 5 out of the 7 UK ultra-trail races I had entered, and also finishing only 15 minutes behind the legend Scott Jurek at the 2009 UTMB, that I finally had the desire to win.  The goal for 2010 was to win the Runfurther National Series which attracted quite a bit of attention within the rapidly expanding ultra-trail running community.  In the past, having a goal of being a National Champion would have been totally impossible for me.  But now, not only did I have this as my goal, but I strongly believed that I was totally capable of achieving it.  And combined with the increased commitment of the equivalent of 100 miles a week, 36 years after watching Dick Tayler win, I had become talented!  Check out my Pumlumon post which really illustrates my desire to be a champion!

With this UltraStu blog commencing with blog post number one on the 25th March 2010, following my first race of 2010, my overall journey as a 'talented' ultra-trail runner can be followed as it is detailed to some length within the 137 posts to date (including this one)!  Interestingly I signed off my very first blog post with the following quote: 

"For years I had assumed that my failure to run better was down to a combination of injuries and not training hard enough; but I started to wonder if it was my own self-image that was holding me back."  Charlie Spedding (2010), page 75. From Last to First. CS Books: Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

During these five years of trail racing there have been many, many highs, as well as some disappointments.  And I guess it was reflecting upon the tremendous commitment it took to win the Montane Lakeland 100 in July 2013 for the second time, that I realised that I couldn't maintain this level of commitment for much longer.  In terms of the commitment, it wasn't the physical training that was 'draining', but it was the non-physical training.  Some people would probable refer to it as 'psyching up' for the competition, but it was much more than this.  Yes, it did involve getting ones race goals clearly and appropriately defined, but then it also involved extensive visualisations.  I haven't recently listened to the British Trail Running podcast where I was interviewed by Tim Bateson, but I do recall talking about my visualisations within the interview.  So if you want to discover more about my approach, click HERE and then open episode 8 (September 2013) and my interview starts at around one hour nine minutes into the podcast.

Over the last seven years, I have been interviewed on a number of occasions by different people.  I can't recall what I talked about in each interview, but the links are available below:

November 2009 - Interviewed by Julia Armstrong for The Bare Truth podcast, mainly about my 2009 UTMB run including the focus on enjoyment, click HERE and my interview is number 100.

April 2013 - Interviewed by John Kynaston for the West Highland Way podcast, click HERE and my interview is number 39.

August 2013 - Interviewed by Ian Corless for the Talk Ultra podcast, click HERE and my interview is episode 41.

August 2014 - Interviewed by Nicky Redl for her blog page, about my 2014 UTMB run, both before and after the race, click HERE.

As mentioned above I haven't listened to the British Trail Running podcast for quite a while, and the same is for the other podcasts.  But I do recall at the time I thought the interviews went quite well, with probably the Talk Ultra interview being the most 'tame', in that I don't really expand 'out of the box' that much.  With Nicky's (I met Nicky in Chamonix, she ran and finished the CCC event) interview being only ten minutes long, I have just re-listened to it, and it briefly touches on my reasons for my planned break from ultra-trail racing.

As I started to explain before my podcast detour, I was finding that I was having to really increase the non-physical training in order to compensate for the decline that was happening with my physiology.  And over the last two or three years, even though I was still improving as an ultra-trail runner, I knew that this was due to my continued learning and developing of the mental aspects.  My actual physiology was declining, and this was probably best illustrated with the slowing of my Beachy Head Marathon finish times.  Whereas between 2002 and 2007 I finished under three hours on four occasions.  My last three year's finish times were 3:10, 3:12, 3:09.  And as highlighted within Nicky's interview I was beginning to find it difficult to be happy with my race performances.  Even though I was still performing at a high level, it wasn't matching the heights that I had gained, with probably my 15th place finish at the 2011 IAU World Ultra-Trail Championships being the real pinnacle of my racing.

So towards the end of 2013 I made the decision that I would try to 'hang in there' for just one more year.  To try to continue with the massive commitment in order to still perform and try through increased learning to counter the declining physiology.  And as reviewed above, my 2014 racing didn't quite match previous years.  Illustrated not only by my lower finish places, but also in terms of how I felt I had performed, which often resulted in me concluding, a disappointing race!

I started this post with the statistic that I ran on 231 days during 2014.  Only 7 of these days were races.  So in reality, although I really enjoy the challenge of racing, of really trying to achieve my utmost best during the race, I actually get the MOST enjoyment from actually just running.  Just going out and running across the fields at a gentle relaxed pace, either on my own or with others.  This is what I am doing pretty well on the majority of the other 224 non race days.  So although I am not planning to race any ultra-trail races for two years, I still intend to continue running, and checking out my training, actually I should really call this running, as I'm not really training for anything at the moment, for the first two months of 2015, I have run a total of 309 miles, at an average of 38.6 miles per week.  So quite similar to my 2014 weekly average.  Yes, I have run close to 45,000 miles over the last 37 years because I simply love running, and with the racing just being an extra bonus.  At the end of the day I AM A RUNNER!

Within Nicky's interview I mention my planned return to Ironman.  Yes, this is still the case, with the plan to race the 2016 Lanzarote Ironman in May next year.  Which will be the 25th anniversary race.  Which will be quite special for me considering that I was one of only 116 finishers of the very first Lanzarote Ironman.  Last year there were over 2000 finishers!  And with the race still around 15 months away, there is no real urgency to specifically train for the race, hence why I don't feel I am actually training at the moment.

Although I have put on hold my own competitive goals, for the last 18 months I have been coaching around 10 athletes, and I am gaining great satisfaction is seeing my athletes improve and achieve their competitive goals.  Some are making HUGE gains, although for some others there improvement isn't so extreme.  But the most satisfying aspect is that I am able to share what I have discovered through my 37 years of endurance sport.  And so my coaching considers not just the physical preparation (which does involve more than just gentle relaxed running, and even has quick key sessions at the core of the physical training for my athletes), but as you would expect from my blog post emphasis, there is also an emphasis on the non-physical preparation.  

Probably the best illustration of how simply adjusting ones thought processes can change performance is with one of my athletes that I used to refer to within my notes (not expressed directly to him) as my Mr 50 percentile man!  Before we started working together, and for the first one or two races, no matter how many runners were in the race, he would finish pretty well exactly mid field. He had decided that this was his level.  He set this as his goal, he would in most races achieve this goal, so everything was good.  Job done, satisfied!  However, I guess perhaps just like me, deep down there was that underlying sense that perhaps he wasn't really achieving his best.  The level he set himself was perhaps too low.  But he didn't really know how to change things, hence he approached me.  After working with him for over a year now, it is very pleasing to see him now not only having changed his goal to the tenth percentile of the field, but he believes this goal is realistic, and not surprisingly, he is now achieving or only slightly missing this new mega enhanced performance level.  So although not racing myself, I am still getting plenty of enjoyment from following my athletes and their racing.

Finally to finish off this post, which could well be the last post for a wee while.  But you never know, I do have a Half Ironman planned for June, so look out for a triathlon related post around then.  However, in addition to my run coaching, I am also race director for the Weald Challenge Trail Races that take place in May, which were really well received last year, the first year they took place. And for 2015, I am also race director for a new event in September titled the High Weald Challenge Trail Races  Both events consist of a 50km ultra trail, a trail marathon, and a trail half marathon.  Entries for the Weald Challenge are already at over 300, so it is likely that the 500 entry limit will be reached, which is great to see, and really pleasing considering the massive time and effort it takes to put on the event.  Check out the race website for race details. 

So as I sign off, I wish you all the very best with your running.  Maybe I may see you out on the trails if you are running within East Sussex, or maybe down at one of my races.   If so, please say hello and let me know that you are an UltraStu blog reader.  It is nice to meet those of you out there who do read my 'mutterings'!  Until the next mutterings, "Enjoy the Running".


PS  I wanted to sign off with an awesome signing off quote but I thought maybe best to simply copy and paste many of the quotes from my five years of blogging.  

So first, signing off quotes from others in the order they appeared, so starting with 2010.

"You've got to believe in what it is you are trying to achieve. Without that belief you've little chance of accomplishing anything of worth." Steve Black, 2008. Page 29: Jonny Wilkinson, Tackling Life - Striving for Perfection. Headline Publishing: London.

"If you keep focusing on the problem, it will surely happen. My strategy is to look at the goal, and enhance the positive things that will lead to success." Steve Gurney (2008) p198 Lucky Legs - What I've Learned About Winning and Losing. Auckland: Random House.

"Change my vocabulary. Aim for perfection. Know what I want, why I want it, and how much I want it. Use my imagination. Try to feel fantastic, and think like a caterpillar."  Charlie Spedding (2010) p86.

"There was a time, not so long ago, when we really did know everything about human physiology. After all, it was all so very simple. ...... But the more compelling challenge for the traditional model (of fatigue) is that it simply cannot explain the obvious." Tim Noakes (2007) From the foreword for the book:Brain Training for Runners, by Matt Fitzgerald. 

"The way we perform is the result of the way we see ourselves.  To alter our performance we need to alter or change ourselves and it is that changing that's difficult."  Gary Elliot (1983).

"It's journeys that bring us happiness, not the destination."  Dan Millman, from the movie Peaceful Warrior.

"As anyone who has raced an endurance event knows, especially one as demanding as a mountain 100-miler, there is a very strong connection between the performance of the mind and the performance of the body. A huge part of being successful in completing these events is an understanding of what lies in front of you. Your mind prepares your body, and your body delivers an output that is sustainable for the mileage and elevation change that remains. If the mind is checked out, the body follows. ... When I finally did make it up to the pass .... I had lost the mental fortitude to keep my legs from seizing up and the decision to drop was an easy one." Nick Clark, 2011.

“The medals do not necessarily go to the fastest, strongest and fittest, but to the one with not only high emotional-mental intensity, but also the ability to focus it into performance.”
“The lead pack dwindled and swelled and dwindled again, as runners wrestled with their limitations and sorted themselves into the positions befitting of their mindsets.”  Lorraine Moller, New Zealand Marathon Runner, Bronze Medallist 1992 Barcelona Olympic Marathon, from her autobiography “On the Wings of Mercury – The Lorraine Moller Story”, Longacre Press, 2007. 
“A large amount of what we achieve is governed by our mental state and how we see ourselves. (It is) a lot about opening the mind to what might be possible when we throw away the self imposed limitations of our mind.” Tom Williams, 2011.

"The mind game that takes place before the starting gun ever fires is really the critical point of a race.  It's when you have that good angel on one shoulder and a bad angel on the other.  One is saying "You can do it, mate!"  The other is whispering, "Why are you here? You can't win!"  The angel you decide to listen to will determine whether you are competitive or an also-ran.  There's always a voice in everyone's head saying "You haven't done the work, mate.  You know that track session you missed? It's coming back to get you on this hill."  That's what holds you back.  Each race is a new war against the evil angel! Mastering your own self doubts is the battle!"  Chris McCormack - Awesome Australian Triathlete/Ironman - from his 2011 book titled "I'm Here to Win" 

“Remaining positive really is one of the most precious faculties for any athlete.  That, and an ability to stay focused and disciplined.  Develop a mind bank of positive images and thoughts – family, friends, previous successes, favourite places, a big plate of chips.  You need to build it up as you would any collection, but soon you will have a range of thoughts to flick through when next your body and soul are screaming out for relief”.Chrissie Wellington, from her book titled "A Life Without Limits".

"Pain is little more than a conversation between your body and your brain, this is another reason why a fit mind is so important.  The brain is programmed to protest us, and that can mean imposing limits on what it thinks we can or should do.  Constantly push at these limits, because the brain can be way too cautious."  Chrissy Wellington, (201), page 142, A Life Without Limits - A World Champions Journey.

"If there's a problem, there's a solution, and positive thinking is the only way to find it.  The trick is to think outside of the narrow, traditional wisdom of the sport and look for answers anywhere without prejudice." Page 212, I'm Here to Win, Chris McCormack, 2011.

"Training is just that, (the ability to tune in), and it is during this period you need to build your confidence and physical ability. This is the time to build mental strength and grow and in that respect I agree 100% with your model.  Once this is achieved you have the physical and mental tools to perform on race day but you also need to have these set to auto so that you can trust without thought. I see it like the auto neuro response that makes your heart beat - you don't give it thought you just trust it will happen.  The secret, in my view, is on race day to be able to forget everything (trust the heart will beat) but tuning into the environment that nature throws your way and flow with it and thus enjoy it (vital).
I believe we can all 'mentally horde' without realising it and maybe all this preparation is taking away from what matters. Maybe we can forget to trust and not separate training from the joy of racing.
Training = build the physical off the mental.
Race Day = Trust and enjoy."  A comment left on my blog by Tom back in September 2011 following my UTMB DNF:

"In ultras it's really more about the mental component than anything else"  Scott Jurek, 2013,speaking in the Lake District

When I am running and something does not quite go going according to plan - ...... - I just ask myself:  "What would a zebra do?"  James Adams, 2014 Like The Wind Magazine

"The naysayer's doubts were whispers compared to the screaming within my head.  Did you train too hard?  Did you train enough?  Can you really run 100 miles on just plants?  Did you go out too fast, too early?  Are you doomed?  But - and this is what I had learned - the screaming in my head could be reduced to faint hissing.  All I had to do was remember why I was here, what I wanted - how bad I had wanted it." Scott Jurek, 2012, Eat and Run, page 94.

"You can either live the safe route that many others have done and continue to do, or you can take that leap of faith: jump off the cliff that can send you into a World that is unpredictable, extremely challenging, and altogether unsupported by those who see risk as a negative.  Do that and you can truly live the life that you were put here to live".  Mark Allen, Six Times Hawaii Ironman Champion.  From the book titled I'm Here to Win, by Chris McCormack, 2011.

And now, signing off quotes from me, with the first that really kicked off my blogging!:

"Run as fast as you can, while you can!" Stuart Mills (2010)

 "Enjoy the experience of running, try to 'live in the now' as you run, as what you engage in while you run will be a lasting memory to re-live, to re-enjoy, and to provide an opportunity to get to know your true inner self, if you allow it". Stuart Mills (2010)

"Ultra Trail Running is significantly enhanced through maintaining a 'positive state of being' as one remains 'within the now', experiencing the overwhelming joy of running within the surrounding natural beauty". Stuart Mills, 2010.

"Ultra Trail Running is significantly enhanced through maintaining a 'positive state of being' as one remains 'within the now', experiencing the overwhelming joy of running within the surrounding natural beauty". Stuart Mills, 2010.

"Focus on enjoying every moment, staying confident in that your preparation has been sufficient for the realistic goal you have set yourself, and feel assured that the fast, but comfortable pace you have started at, is correct. Listen to your own 'deep and inner beliefs', and ignore the comments, views and actions of others if they are in conflict with your well thought out and planned strategies. "  Stuart Mills (2010)

"Never assume the majority view is correct. Always question, consider the evidence, and come to your own conclusions.  Don't be afraid to differ!" Stuart Mills, 2010.

"Remember race preparation should focus predominantly on the mental preparation leading up to race day.  Develop the confidence and self belief, to match your carefully planned goals for the race. Ensure the positivity is in abundance, and the success, however YOU define success, will eventuate."  Stuart Mills, 2010.

"Running means different things to different people.  Ensure you know what running means to you.  And as you run, knowing why you run, whether for the relaxation, the peacefulness, the scenery, the challenges, the friendships, the competitiveness, or in my case, for them all!, may you get much enjoyment and satisfaction as you run through your journey!"  Stuart Mills, (2010).

"The real improvements in ultra trail running performance occur not directly as a result from the physical preparation, but largely as a result from the overall preparation.  This overall preparation involves implementing the lessons learnt from the very thorough reflection of previous ultra trail races.  In order to effectively prepare, one has to effectively reflect!"  Stuart Mills, 2011

"Too often it is easy to accept that one's ability is lacking, and to be comfortable with what 'cards one has been dealt'.  However, 'the hand you end up with' is totally within one's own control, and is largely determined by the ability to question, to reflect, but most of all to persevere and to look deeply within at oneself, to develop the confidence, to possess the self belief, that more can be achieved, to extend oneself beyond the norm!"  Stuart Mills, 2011

“Often it is too easy to accept a less than satisfying performance due to an acceptance that physically you are not capable of better, however, as soon as there is the realisation that simply the way you think and respond to the challenges that you encounter during the race can alter one’s performance, one is capable of achieving so much more!”  Stuart Mills, 2011.

"Yes, within our minds, it is our self expectations that essentially determine the limits to what we are capable of achieving.  However, the mind does not have total control, and the secret of maximising performance is in enhancing the harmony between the body and mind." Stuart Mills, 2012

“One of the great joys of endurance running, specifically ultra trail running, is that one never stops learning. There is always the opportunity to experiment with different approaches to training, racing or nutrition, in order to continually challenge oneself.” Stuart Mills, 2013.

"One must always remain open to continued learning, even if it may mean that you have to accept that perhaps your ideas and beliefs require changing.  The process of learning is an enjoyable and never ending pathway, which simply requires thoughtful navigation."  Stuart Mills, 2013.

"The importance of race goals can not be underestimated.  A well constructed race goal can support you in your hour of need, whilst in the midst of a race, when you need that ammunition to fight back the slowing down arguments within your head.  Yes, a poorly formulated race goal, can play a major role in constructing a poor race performance.  Get the race goal right, and the performance you desire will more likely eventuate".  Stuart Mills, 2013.

"Enjoyment from racing can result from a pleasing performance, but perhaps the satisfaction gained is possibly largely a result of a greater understanding of what it is within ourselves that enables us to firstly to challenge ourselves, but then to raise up, as one strives to meet these demanding expectations."  Stuart Mills, 2013.

 "Everything tends to happen for a reason.  The key is to be open and questioning enough, with a positive outlook, to identify the purpose of what at first may be a disappointing outcome.  Or simply, search for the sunshine behind the cloud"!  Stuart Mills, 2014.

"Challenging oneself is the first important step.  The journey continues with the commitment in order to be fully prepared, and then the joy and excitement of the experience follows.  The sense of accomplishment is a totally personal issue, and only oneself can establish the measure of success in relation to one's own wants and needs."  Stuart Mills, 2014

"Enjoy the Running" Stuart Mills, 2015