Preparing for the biggest challenge of my life

Having signed up for one of the UK’s toughest ultra marathons following a running hiatus and with only seven months to train, I decided I needed to pull out all the stops and do everything in my power to get in shape for the event.  The first thing was to understand what kind of condition my body was currently in.

I’m an average guy who’s done a fair bit of running for charity and for fun, but nothing near the endurance athlete I’ll need to become in order to take on the 82 miles of trail running that make up Brutal Event’s “The Oner”.  I know my training, diet, sleep, all need to be optimum if I want to be among the 50% of entrants who actually complete the race within the strict 24 hour time limit. Oh and I just turned 40.

As you might imagine, I was intrigued to find out a bit more about what’s going on under the bonnet, and how this could help me to change my lifestyle and get the best from my training. 

After looking through the tests that Forth offers, I decided that the Performance Measures test best suited my needs.  I have a tendency to throw myself into training quite hard and can overdo it early in a training plan. Before the test I was suffering with fatigue and this was affecting the quality of my runs and to some extent, my performance in life (I’m a busy professional and a single parent). I was especially keen to learn if the test could tell me anything about the specific cause of my recent fatigue.

The results were interesting. As I scrolled through in order…

Blood. I guessed if there were issues with my blood carrying oxygen around the body, then this could be the issue, but Iron and Haemoglobin were both right in the middle of the normal range.

Cardiovascular. c-reactive protein (hs-crp) shows as above the normal range. This can indicate issues with cardiovascular health. I have an admission here – I’ve only recently quit smoking. I’ve also quit alcohol for the duration of my training, so it will be interesting to see the impact of these lifestyle changes on this area of my health over time. 

Metabolic. Production of testosterone and thyroid stimulating hormone are both right in the middle of the normal range.

Muscle. My levels of Creatine Kinase enzyme are also healthy – high levels here can be an indication of muscle stress and I expected this to be the case. Quite encouraging to see that my aging muscles are coping well with my increased demands. 

VitaminsB12 is important to support the production of health red blood cells – all fine here. Now I get to Vitamin D – and my levels are really low. through the floor. Google tells me that deficiency in vitamin D can be associated with a range of health issues including, muscle & bone strength, fatigue and low mood. I think we may have found the culprit.

Lifestyle changes: 

Obviously the main concern here should be the warning over my cardiovascular health and having made some long overdue lifestyle adjustments a little while before the test – I’ve mentioned my abstinence from tobacco and alcohol, but I’ve also spoken to my GP and started taking a small daily dose of aspirin. I’ll be monitoring this area of my health pretty closely in future. 

Vitamin D is absorbed via sunlight (sadly in short supply between now and the big race), but also found in some meat, fish and dairy products. I’ll be looking at nutrition quite carefully over the next few months. I’ve started taking a vitamin D supplement and am making an effort to train more during daylight hours, and in a couple of weeks have already felt my energy levels increase.

Taking this test has been really useful for me in giving me confidence around my general condition, giving me a shot across the bows, and pinpointing a specific issue which for me has been a quick win and almost immediately improved the quality of my training. 

Now I’m really fascinated to see how the markers change as I progress with my training for this hugely challenging event.

This guest blog was written by Alex Tucker (@tuckera), Training and raising money for an ultra marathon.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Alex-Tucker3

Thank you for Brutal Events (@Brutaleventsuk) for supplying the main photograph. 

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