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  • Richard Cash

182. Mid-Life Tribulations

This weekend I turn 50. I pre-empted my landmark birthday in true-to-form style on a trail run 10 days ago, celebrating in spectacular fashion and wrecking my back. After being well warmed up and only 7km in, a simple treating of a blister resulted in me being laid up for the next 5 days. Brilliant. This last week has been a flurry of osteo appointments (which were horrible), hot water bottles (upon which I managed to scald myself twice by one bursting and the new one leaking) and having to crack out the 'Bastard Shakti Mat' (the veritable 'bed of nails') in order to recover from this as fast as possible. I have a 100k ultra in 8 weeks. My training since January has been a shambles of injuries, illness and inconsistency. I have 5 weeks remaining to get enough volume through my legs in order to survive a 100km walking, let alone running! Things aren't looking great, and safe to say no personal bests are likely to be achieved.

Is it Age? Is this what happens when you hit mid-life? Quite probably, but I don't subscribe to simply accepting a fate of constant decline!

It's not in my nature to simply give up without a fight. Why should I? There are many things I still need to learn about how to get more from this old body. Granted I have abused it for a long time now, but I am fixing many things along the way. I have improved my consistency (generally, and injuries aside), and I have cleaned up my diet. I work hard (and possibly at times still push too hard). I'm generally kinder to myself than where I was when I first started this journey. Motivation to keep stepping on the journey is high, despite setback after setback. I am certainly aerobically fitter than I have been since I was a young man. I have built a great aerobic engine the last 3 years. My legs are still strong and my easy run pace is the best it has been. It's not all bad!

I am dicing with the laws of physics tackling such long runs for my weight and build. There will forever be a heavy price to pay for being built like I am. I come back to the maths here comparing a 80kg runner who is 6ft 1, versus a 5ft 8 runner who is 105kg. Let's take the average ground reaction force of 3x bodyweight over 100km. 6'1 / 80Kg = 240kg force per step x 120,000 steps (100km longer stride) = 28.8million kg

5'8/ 105kg = 315kg force per step x 150,000 steps (100km shorter stride) = 47.2 million kg

It's pretty simple. Taller and lighter vs shorter and heavier puts almost 2/3rds more force through your body over the same distance. This is why I'm suffering with injuries and these challenges take such a heavy toll on my body compared to the average trail runner. I'd suggest this is one of the biggest factors I'm up against along with most heavy runners. Not necessarily my age.

I can't change my height. I can potentially change my weight (but, for the love of God, it is far from fucking easy for me). This is why it's been a focus. It has been incredibly difficult to balance eating little enough to lose weight, but enough to fuel training. No matter how many miles I do, it is so hard to come off, and I've been at this for the last 4 years!

So what do I do about it?

I've done plenty of calorie restriction, high protein, low carb, intermittent fasting, etc. I've eaten clean and I've improved gut health. Still no notable shift. It's really frustrating. I'm trying to find a sports nutritionist who actually knows how to deal with this stuff. I know more than most I've spoken to, and have already done what the typical go-to suggestions are (strength train, eat clean, drop 500 cal below my Daily Metabolic rate, balance my macros, etc, etc). I have all the right pieces, but I'm convinced I'm missing the right combinations and timing. I just need to find someone who really knows the right sequence for what I'm doing and how my life is set up to bring me something new to the table to work with. I'm turning 50. It will only get harder for me, but that's part of the adventure, I guess. I'll be now heading into 5 weeks of volume building in order to get enough time on my feet to give me any chance of simply finishing my July 100km. It won't be pretty and I have to be incredibly careful not to relapse and put my back out again between now and then. This is an ultra I'm resigned to letting go of any decent outcome for and simply going to use it to see how far I end up going. After that, it is all about the rebuild. 50 will be the beginning of my next step, not the end of my journey. Thanks for reading...

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